Fracking threatens Indigenous culture

Documentary premiere and discussion highlights structural injustice

On March 21, Cinema Politica Concordia, a group whose mission is “to promote, disseminate, exhibit, and promote the discussion of political cinema by independent artists,” premiered a documentary called Fractured Land. The film follows the path of Caleb Behn, a young Indigenous lawyer, as he fights for the land rights of his people in Northern British Columbia against the rapid expansion of liquid natural gas (LNG) extraction through fracking.

The film documents the sale of exploration and extraction rights of parcels of land in Northern BC to companies, the lack of real consultation with communities, and the lack of regulation and monitoring of operations. It also shows Behn’s whirlwind journey through law school as an activist in his community. Over the course of the film, Behn speaks at several high-profile events and journeys to New Zealand to meet Maori communities facing similar threats.

The movie includes an emotional scene in which Behn’s father speaks about his experience in a residential school, and others speak of high suicide rates in Indigenous communities and the pain of losing one’s culture.

Structural injustice, loss of Indigenous culture

Behn himself was at the event where he answered audience questions. As Behn was introduced, he squatted down to the ground explaining that, as a man, “[he is] very aware of body language.” Throughout the question period, he returned to squatting in a gesture of humility.

“My world is war.”

The discussion, much like the film itself, was about more than the struggle against unjust LNG extraction in Northern BC. Broader themes of structural injustice and loss of Indigenous culture and way of life were woven into the story of fracking for LNG. While watching the film, it was clear that LNG extraction is only part of the problem, and that there is more being fractured than just the land.

Behn spoke of his own struggle being away from the land and living in a highly adversarial environment instead. “My world is war,” he said.

“[The goal was] getting truth on the screen and making it open and free for everyone so they can take action.”

He said that while filming the movie, he nearly killed himself three times. However, his motivation for leaving the land to become a lawyer is clear; in the film, he explains to one of his peers that lawyers are the only people in this country to whom judges listen.

In an interview with The Daily, Diana Tapia Munguía, one of the coordinators of Cinema Politica, said the goal of the event was “getting truth on the screen and making it open and free for everyone so they can take action.”

Behn had some words of encouragement for those who want to take action: even small action matters, when it’s done in a way that “seeks to critique or understand.”

However, he emphasized the need to engage strategically to have an impact because “the systems of disempowerment are so well structured after 600 years.”

“The honesty that Caleb exhibits in the film and in his talk afterwards move me very deeply.”

The evening ended with a performance by the Raging Grannies, a group of grandmothers that draw attention to issues of peace, environment, and social justice through singing and street theatre.

Vivian Wiseman, a member of the Raging Grannies, said that “the honesty that Caleb exhibits in the film and in his talk afterwards move me very deeply. […] I am in awe of his self-understanding, and it gives me a lot of optimism for the future.”