Our future is what we make it in Kitimat

I do feel we can have our cake and eat it too.

By Tracey Hittel

Living in the north is something we deal with – in winter the sun rises and sets in a few hours, making only a small arc in the sky.

Despite this, after having spent a weekend in Vancouver, I’ll take the Kitimat winter over the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle any day.

Many of the active Kitimatians find things to do like fishing for local cutthroat trout, hiking, skiing and fishing winter chinook and king crab from the sea.

Yesterday we watched three humpbacks jumping in and out of the water in front of the Haisla village.

Many spectacles of nature, combined with the massive RTA aluminum smelter in the background, the lifeblood of the community for all of us – without RTA we would all be without a Christmas.

Which reminds me – there’s an old drawing I have at the lodge from the 1950s that came from the Kitimat museum, which is an awesome facility to visit.

The drawing has a heading that I ponder on each day – Hard Hats vs the Environment.

The words said it all, with a picture of the smelter and a power line to the Kemano powerhouse.

Whoever had the vision to take on this feat was probably told he was crazy, but people and government came together to turn that an idea into a reality, providing a livelihood for us all.

I do feel we can have our cake and eat it too.

Most of the guides and myself are unemployed in the winter, putting us under a lot of pressure.

Some of my guys have gone on to greener pastures, taking on a full-time job at RTA with full benefits to ensure the success of their families’ futures.

I moved to Kitimat in 1993 when I was only 22 following a company transfer, working for Methanex. My 16 year career with Methanex came to an end when the plant closed and I was forced to open a small business.

I had already been guiding on the side for six years, so I used my severance to buy Kitimat Lodge and guide full time.

Struggling like all of us do when starting up, the pressure was intense and sleep was virtually non-existent.

Having your wife quietly sob in bed next to you at night is something I’ll never forget, as the ‘grim reaper’ (the bank) came closer and closer to calling in its loans.

A glimmer of light arose when RTA/Alcan decided that spending $4 billion on a new smelter would be a financial benefit to the company and the community.

Then the massive LNG industry decided that Kitimat was a gateway to satisfy the growing demand for cleaner energy.

Having First Nation involvement made the relationships strong for all of us.

Now things have stalled and the U.S. builds more LNG facilities, we are suddenly clearing land and politicians are scrambling.

When you have environmental groups and organizations that are funded by the U.S. stalling our projects and risking our livelihoods, it’s time we all come together for the future of Kitimat.

It does not matter what political party you favour, as long as you are in favour Kitimat’s growth and are willing to fight against its demise.

I assume the founders of the community would want to see us grow and survive.

I’m personally an environmental watchdog as well an ambassador for our fisheries and for the rivers that flow into the blue waters of the North.

Can we coexist with tanker traffic and energy exports? I feel we can.

You decide what your future in Kitimat will be – stand up and be accountable.

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