Far from the province's coastal cities, there's a remote part of northeastern British Columbia that most city dwellers don't know is responsible for generating a significant portion of Metro Vancouver's power. It's near where Caleb Behn lives, and an area he's willing to fight for.
Behn, a young indigenous man from Eh Cho Dene territory in Fort Nelson, B.C., is featured in "Fractured Land," an upcoming B.C. documentary that explores the practice of fracking and the strain it has put on the province's First Nations communities and industry-government relations.
Behn's home is in an area of the province that has recently seen the most aggressive fracking development in the whole country. It's an energy production practice director Damien Gillis calls "an exercise of insanity."
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the industrial practice of retrieving natural gas by pushing a pressurized mix of fresh water and chemicals into wells to break apart sedimentary rock thousands of metres deep.
A third of the Lower Mainland's electricity and all of its gas comes from the province's northeast, Gillis told The Huffington Post B.C. from his Vancouver home. "That very much goes unnoticed."
When Gillis and co-director Fiona Rayher began the project two years ago, they didn't know what to expect or who they would meet.
"Fractured Land" focuses on Behn, the grandson of chiefs, the son of a residential school survivor and a law school graduate. He's smart and speaks with strong determination. Behn can transition seamlessly from hunting and traditionally preparing a moose head in Fort Nelson to slipping into a three-piece suit to article at a Vancouver law firm.
"It's really interesting to see the change in Caleb; like a big exhale expelling all the tension, stress from the contemporary world; reconnecting with his land, his people," Gillis described of filming Behn home in his ancestral territory.
"My whole world and existence is tied to the land," Behn said.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER SLIDESHOW
Fractured Land tells the story of a young Dene warrior from northeastern B.C., taking on Big Oil and Gas to protect his land and people from the ravages of neocolonialism – all the while learning to accept the role he was born for, as one of Canada’s next generation of leaders.
The filmmakers and subjects want to shake the audience awake. They're daring Canadians to not shy away from soaking in a portrait of a Canada trying to move forward with strained First Nations relations while precariously balancing the economic benefits of energy development, damning environmental reports and mounting domestic and international criticism.
"The biggest issue for me is water," Gillis explained. "The volumes of water contaminated with chemicals, taking that water out of the ecosystem is an exercise of insanity."
What's been happening in northeastern B.C. has been described as "some of the largest fracking operations anywhere on earth," reports ProPublica.
Behn and the elders in his community have noticed the difference. Receding water levels have affected Dene fisherman and hunters and the habits of the region's animals. The Dene's land is changing as is their existence in relation to it.
With Idle No More making noise across the country, Behn believes embracing indigenous laws are key to helping Ottawa carve out a more respectful, sustainable future.
"We live in an interesting time. It feels like there are changes afoot. We should do right for Mother Earth because the destructive potential is significant and global," Behn urged.
Behn will be called to the bar next year and has every intention to use the "colonizers' tool" to fight for what's right.
"If you're going to fight, fight to win," he said.
CLARIFICATION: Vancouver also uses electricity from the province's southern interior, Alberta and Washington state. Not all of the region's electricity is from northeast B.C., as was indicated in a quote by Gillis in a previous version of this story. This version has been updated.
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