Well, all I can say, looking back 52 years to when I first looked into the lives of Canada’s indigenous people, is that although the publicity accorded them today is immensely greater than then (when they were hardly ever mentioned in the press) but that in many essential ways things have not changed that much.
In 1968 they were just emerging from many decades of deterioration. A few were going to high schools, a tiny handful made it to university: Their leaders, who had maintained a stubborn, heroic resistance during many decades of shabby treatment, needed education so that they could confront the huge organized power of the federal government. One of their problems was that their need for the Euro-eentred education clashed with their primary need, which was to re-discover pride in their indigenous heritage.
They have been working on that ever since, and that aim is largely achieved. But unfortunately their treatment by the Euro law administered by the Canadian government has not moved exponentially. Take a gander at this situation, described today by the Defenders of the Land, the Truth Campaign and the Idle No More networks:
In December 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada issued the Delgamuukw-Gisday’way decision, which recognized the authority of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs over Wet’suwet’en Territory. Despite that Supreme Court court decision the federal and B.C. governments have approved the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, a 670 km pipeline from Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada export terminal near Kitimat. It is a project of TC Energy based in Calgary…..As a consequence, today the Unist’ot’en face the possibility that the full violence of the Canadian state will be brought to bear against them.
Get that: “…the full violence of the Canadian state will be brought to bear against them.” .And they ain’t kiddin’.Later in their document the .Defenders write:
When they (the Wet’suwet’en people) enforced their own laws and required that industry seek Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for development on their lands, they faced a brutal display of militaristic police violence and an ongoing police occupation of their territories. We have all learned ….that RCMP… are prepared to kill unarmed Wet’suwet’en people if they continue to uphold their laws.
Already, our newly militarized police are being mobilized to uphold developments that ignore ancient rights and enforce injunctions airily granted by various courts. Already, bulldozers have smashed into unceded Wet’suwet’en lands, making an unholy mess of them.
The defenders, in their document issued today, say that people all over Turtle Island have begun to hold rallies in defense of the hereditary rights of people who have occupied these unceded lands since time immemorial, by protesting Canada’s illegal encroachment on Wet’suwet’en land. The message of the rally organizers is clear:
“Indigenous law is the law of the land on unceded territories, and traditional title-holders have the right to refuse access to their lands. Disregarding this ancient law in order to further expand fossil fuel production during a time of extreme climate crisis is irresponsible and unacceptable. Agents of the corporate state will face resistance if they continue to pursue resource colonialism during this climate emergency”.
I hope everyone in Canada takes notice of this warning from people who are unfortunately facing the full militarized might of the Canadian government violence machine. Let’s just repeat that warning:
Disregarding this ancient law in order to further expand fossil fuel production during a time of extreme climate crisis is irresponsible and unacceptable.
Somewhere or other our society seems to have got itself screwed up. Here we are with our many universities and civilized agencies, threatening, and not only threatening, but actually unleashing violence against unarmed people who are defending land that our Supreme Court has recognized as belonging to them, while our agents of destruction smash through their lands in bulldozers, to make way for pipelines to carry energy needed by our society for something or other. In this case, it appears it is needed beeause the owners want to sell it for a huge profit abroad.
Unfortunately the British Columbia government, having not long ago officially recognized the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and declared it part of the law of the land, a declaration that provides that industry must have “free, prior, and informed consent” for any development being proposed for indigenous lands, has nevertheless collaborated in the invasion of the Wet’suwet’en lands by the builders of the pipeline, and of the use of governmental violence used against the peaceful protesters.
This is an argument that is likely to be played out across Canada in future years: the need for “free, prior and informed consent” given by indigenous people who lie in the path of any development, seems likely to clash with the Euro laws under which most projects are built. Indigenous leaders have said that they do not take from the UNDRIP formula that it gives them a veto over all development. At best though, it does give them the right to be consulted in advance, and to have arrived at a conclusion, hopefully a conclusion agreed with the developers, as to he conditions on which any work is done, or on where such work may be done.
And remember this: even if it does mean that they have the right to refuse projects, this would be no more than a mild form of payback for the indignities that were imposed on their people as the Europeans invaded Canada, and pushed the native people aside brutally, because they stood in the way of cutting down their forests, digging up their lands, robbing them of their heritage, and finally gathering most of them into small plots of land known as reserves, most of them on land so poor that thousands of them starved for want of any meaningful way to make a living.
Anyone wishing to support the Wet’suwet’en fight can contact the following:
E-Mail Communications Contact: info@IdleNoMore.ca
Sylvia McAdam, Idle No More Organizer, Cell: (306) 281-8158
Kanahus Manuel, Defenders of the Land, Spokesperson, Cell: (250) 852-3924
Russ Diabo, Truth Campaign, Spokesperson, Cell: (613) 296-0110