All eyes on Wet’suwet’en

If one believes in serendipity, one would think it was no mistake that this profound writing was first on my screen today on my early morning check ins. Today facebook memories are flooded with images and videos taken a year ago, the first time RCMP breached the peaceful Gidumt’en Checkpoint. https://unistoten.camp/arrests-at-gidumten-checkpoint-rcmp-raid-anticipated-at-unistoten-camp/

After the BCSC granted Coastal Gaslink an injunction on New Years Eve, hereditary chiefs evicted Coastal Gaslink workers from their unceded traditional territory.  

Last night, the enforcement order for the interlocutory injunction granted to Coastal Gaslink on New Years Eve, was signed. Once CGL posts it on their website the RCMP have 72 hours to mobilize their forces again.

At the heart of the matter lies the difference between how hereditary leadership and law, and the elected band leadership, are treated and acknowledged by the provincial and federal governments.

On this project, several hereditary leaders say no, but the elected band leaders have said yes and signed agreements with CGL.

Unist’ot’en has explained their governance and responsibilities here https://unistoten.camp/about/governance-structure/ 

Angela Sterritt did an excellent piece here explaining the differences and I strongly urge you to read it, as it explains clearly the challenges. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/when-a-pipeline-wants-to-build-whose-in-charge-1.4971597

An important point is missed in most coverage that needs to be emphasized here.

While many media outlets are framing the women, men, elders and children there as ‘fringe protesters’, in fact they are not. It is their traditional unceded territory and land. They did not sign a treaty. The Unist’ot’en checkpoint has been there since 2009. There is a cabin, a healing lodge, pithouse and bunkhouse for visitors. The camp is used year-round for healing retreats, culture camps and living and they have a long record of protecting and inhabiting this land. I wrote about a first eviction in 2012 with the Pacific Trails pipeline crew.

Here is an excerpt from an easy to understand information post from just after last year’s police intrusion, that explains a bit more about why this matters – particularly now that the BC government has formally adopted UNDRIP, and the federal government has committed to repairing the relationship with Indigenous people in Canada:

How does the hereditary governance system of the Wet’suwet’en people function?

The Wet’suwet’en peoples have occupied their territory for thousands of years and have a complex and sophisticated governance system. Just as Canadian law takes years of study and learn, so too does Wet’suwet’en law.

Indigenous legal scholar John Borrows has provided the following overview, “For millennia, their histories have recorded their organization into Houses and Clans, in which hereditary chiefs have been responsible for the allocation, administration and control of their traditional lands.  Within these Houses, chiefs pass on important histories, songs, crests, lands, ranks and properties from one generation to the next. The passage of these legal, political, social and economic entitlements is witnessed through Feasts. These Feasts substantiate the territories’ relationships.  A hosting House serves food, distributes gifts, announces the House’s successors to the names of deceased chiefs, describes the territory, raises totem poles and tells the oral history of the House. Chiefs from other Houses witness the actions of the Feast and at the end of the proceedings they validate the decisions and declarations of the Host House.” [1]

All of the hereditary leaders from all of the five clans have withheld consent for new pipeline construction across Wet’suwet’en territories.

What is the formal relationship of the hereditary governance system of the Wet’suwet’en people to the elected band council system?

In a press conference yesterday, Premier John Horgan referred to the challenge of bringing together the “historic band councils” with the “emerging” hereditary systems of governance. In fact, the relationship is reversed. While the hereditary system has existed for millennia and precedes European arrival on the continent, the Band council system was introduced by the federal government in 1876 and imposed on Indigenous Nations through the Indian Act, as part of a post-Confederation assimilation policy.

As it is currently structured, each reserve community within a territory has an election for Chief and Council every few years. The elected Chief and Council under the Indian Act are primarily responsible for things that happen on reserves like water, housing, schools, infrastructure and other issues that affect membership. There are five elected band councils on Wet’suwet’en territory, four of whom have signed agreements with Coastal Gaslink. However, hereditary leaders say those agreements don’t apply to the territories off reserve.

The imposition of the Indian Act band council system over top of hereditary systems has created ongoing tensions in many communities.

The CBC’s Angela Sterritt has written an excellent piece on the differences between elected and hereditary leadership.

What is the relevance of the Delgamuukw decision in relation to the Wet’suwet’en?

Many Canadians have heard of the important 1997 Delgamuukw decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which recognized that Aboriginal title continues to exist over land and water where Indigenous nations have never signed a treaty with the Crown. The territory referred to in the court decision is Wet’suwet’en territory as well as neighboring Gitxsan territory.

The Delgamuukw case was framed around traditional hereditary leadership. Delgamuukw is a chief’s name in the Gitxsan Nation, passed down through generations, and Delgamuukw was one of dozens of plaintiffs in the case, composed of hereditary chiefs from both the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nations. Together those leaders forced the Canadian courts to affirm the legitimacy of their oral histories, traditional laws and continuing governance of their lands.

Peter Grant, the lawyer for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs has stated that hereditary chiefs need to give their free, prior and informed consent in order for the pipeline to be built: “We agree the rule of law has to apply, but doesn’t that mean that when there’s recognition of the proper title holder you deal with the proper title holder?”

On January 9, Unist’ot’en Camp released a statement on the emerging situation, saying “We paved the way with the Delgamuukw court case and the time has come for Delgamuukw II. We have never had the financial resources to challenge the colonial court system, due to the enormous price tag of an Aboriginal title case. Who will stand with us to make sure this pipeline does not go through?”

What is the relevance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to this conflict?

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) represents the basic principles and minimum standards that should guide states in their dealings with Indigenous peoples.[i] Canada became a full signatory (removing previous objections) to UNDRIP in 2016, and both the federal and BC provincial governments have committed to full implementation of UNDRIP. The Canadian government defines UNDRIP as a document that describes both individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples around the world.[ii]

A number of articles of UNDRIP are relevant to this conflict, in particular Article 10 which states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”[iii]

 

I have great respect for the rule of law in this country. But I also know that we are now living in a time when both our provincial and federal governments have acknowledged Indigenous rights and commit to doing the work to implement UNDRIP…  and yet here we are, not acknowledging hereditary leadership and traditional law and governance that was in place long before our law was imposed.

The rule of law must now reflect the changing dynamics of UNDRIP, which has been passed in BC. Particularly in a province where our premier shares these thoughts with pride : 

“UNDRIP acknowledges the human rights of all people,” said Premier John Horgan. “UNDRIP is a recognition of Indigenous people because its their land. Land and language equal culture. It’s time we stand together and work toward mutual prosperity. We need to be sharing instead of dominating.”

By passing this bill and ultimately turning it into an act, it upholds the rights of Indigenous people to practise their culture and protocols, and honour their teachings, which includes language and ceremony. It also provides space to develop and grow their economic developments and initiatives.

During my conversation with Horgan, he explained to me that every act has a section at the beginning titled “Definitions,” where all the key words are listed along with their definitions.

In the Declaration Act, the “Definitions” section has been replaced with an “Interpretations” section. This is the first time in B.C. history this has been done.

“For this act we can only interpret it, we are sharing the information as it’s been told to us through oral traditions and storytelling,” said Horgan.

Well said Premier Horgan, but I do not understand how oral traditions, storytelling and universal rights of Indigenous peoples are acknowledged and enshrined in the governments recent bill…. yet ignored now because the hereditary chiefs who are opposed, continue to say no to this pipeline in their territory.

In this aspect, the rule of law granting this injunction is not just. It does not recognize the rights enshrined now in UNDRIP by the provincial government.

You cannot just stand and recognize this as fact in our house of government, you are obligated to do more than just ceremony.

You are obligated to do more than say that 20 elected bands and leadership have signed agreements, so therefore it is ok to ignore this one hereditary group of chiefs. It is not, at least I don’t think so. It is hypocritical and insincere.

You cannot pick and choose which nations matter and which do not. You cannot choose to acknowledge their governance and then choose to pretend it is of no consequence.

Every party elected in the legislature voted for UNDRIP. Every MLA stood to applaud it. Yet now? Silence.

According to this, the hereditary chiefs are willing to meet with the decision makers: the province, the feds and the RCMP, not Coastal Gaslink.

This IS the moment for both Horgan and Trudeau to do the hard work on Indigenous rights they have committed to do.

The world is watching.

 

* updated:What a difference a couple of months and a horrific disaster makes

Keith Baldrey October 2019: ” Nothing could be further from the truth ” that hes against the oil and gas industry. 

 

Keith Baldrey January 2,  2020, as Australia burns, he calls out ExxonMobil + oil industry for major cause of climate change contributing to extreme fires. 

 

Amazing what a couple months will do to change perspectives hey?

https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5198311

“I think part of the problem is that journalists are being torn by two competing values right now. The first is our job to tell the truth. We are, over and above anything else, society’s professional truth-seekers and truth-tellers. But the second value that we think is important is appearing unbiased, because if we appear unbiased then people will believe that we are telling the truth. 

I think what’s happened here is that large swaths of society, including entire political parties and governments as well as voters, don’t believe in the truth. And so by telling the truth, to those individuals we appear to be biased. 

For my own part, I think that the truth is a higher value….”

**updated 3 pm Jan 3, 2020: Keith Baldrey deletes tweet staging oil and gas industry major cause of climate change.  That bit of conscience didn’t last long...🙄

Here is a shot of a response to his tweet he retweeted (?),showing his original tweet is unavailable

And this shows his tweet is gone.

I shouldn’t be surprised he deleted it. He likely took a lot of heat from the industry, and who knows who else. But in an era with so much uncertainty, and so many disasters related to or exacerbated by climate change around the world,  what exactly does he stand for, if not this?

I leave you with another excerpt from Sean Holmans interview link above:

“…at Postmedia they’re currently trying to get work with the Alberta government to help support their energy war room. That’s the war room that is designed to essentially suppress truthful information about climate change and the impact of the oil sands. A journalist working for Postmedia might think twice about going hard on that particular issue if their own company is trying to ally itself with people who don’t believe that climate change is an important issue.

The question that we have to ask ourselves as journalists is how much do we go out of our way to cater to segments of our audience that don’t believe the truth.– Sean Holman

Make time. End quarrels.Gladden the heart of a stranger. Speak of love.

I have been absent for some time from this blog, busy with life. I think I’ve always tried to live in gratitude, but there are still many things I tòok for granted…until this summer, when one of my children  developed a serious condition and became partially paralyzed for a period of time. It was a long recovery but successful. I mention this only because things like this often change ones focus and perception drastically, even when you already live in gratitude.  To be able to speak, write, lift a fork or tie a shoe. Walking is a gift we don’t think of as a gift until we can’t, as is telling someone how much you value their presence in your life..until you cant make your mouth say the words.

We think we have so much time, until we don’t.

On that note, I want to say how much I have appreciated those of you who have graced the pages here with your comments, wisdoms, stories and insights, even though my words are few now.  Thank you, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Jolly Festivas to the rest of you! Don’t waste a second. Make memories. Take that leap. Take a risk. Feel, observe, taste and appreciate every moment…They really are precious. ❤

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While one hand applauds climate change accountability, the other continues the path of fossil fuel expansion

Some days, it is hard to reconcile the words being spoken by political leaders with the reality that we are actually in. Case in point is yesterdays announcement by Andrew Weaver and George Heyman on climate change accountability:

“People across this province, and especially young people, are demanding we take the climate crisis seriously and that we make sure everyone works together to secure a stronger, cleaner future,” Heyman said in a news release. “That’s why we will work with communities, people and industry to put in place targets for each sector. What’s more, we’re mandating that the steps we’re taking are reported to the public every year, by law.

 

This will likely anger some,  but how can we applaud this legislation which makes it look like the province is doing something *amazing* with respect to climate change accountability, at the very same time the reality is that:

All these LNG facilities mean a massive increase in tanker traffic through our coastal waters, right from Howe Sound, through Roberts Bank and from the north coast. And we only ever hear about oil tanker traffic…not all these damn LNG supertankers. 68 a year minimum out of the Fraser river alone, not counting Kitimat or Woodfibre – I’m not even going to go look and see what their capacity will be. And did I mention its always been heavily subsidized?

This is EXACTLY what Greta speaks about. Our talk, is not matching our actions.

We applaud leaders and governments for small things like this announcement…but when we look beyond the press conference, the smiles and platitudes about stepping up for the youth, this is what we actually see.

  • We see no community led solar projects being encouraged by government to take load off the grid and help smaller  communities become self sufficient and resilient in emergencies, especially in times of fire or storms. ( some communities on Van isle were without power for weeks last year after a major storm)
  • We see no efforts to legislate or create bylaws at municipal levels to include solar, which is when its cheapest to incorporate and makes minimal difference to home price ( and would be a big selling feature ) * This is where I would encourage the use of our own BC gas for stoves and high efficiency furnaces, as being without heat and the ability to cook in an off season power outage is crippling to famililes.
  • We see no solar powered townhome or condo developments where units buy back and forth with each other. God forbid we not by into the narrative by Hydro that we have abundant water resources ( remember the post I did on drought this summer, when some reservoirs were too low to produce electricity? Read this in depth look at impact glacier loss and lower snowfalls are likely to have) 

Hell we cant even get legislation on things that should be mandatory to any new industrial build, like green roofs to reduce heat retention and release in hot summers ( reduces median temps in urban areas), features like roof wind turbines in windy areas, and rain gardens ( to control runoff instead of going into our storm drains or flooding streets)

The possibilities are endless, and they do not need endless study to enact. Just do it. Where is the actual political will to stand up and say the damn truth? Why are average residents being forced to take up the slack so industry can profit and pollute?

None of these targets will mean a thing when the world passes us by as we quickly build new LNG facilities while the price drop of solar, wind and other tech has come down so much other countries are embracing it like no ones business.

We applaud Greta for speaking blunt truths, but what good is the applause when the truth is that while this legislation was brought forth in one hand, the other hand of government still carried on with a plan that relies on greenwashing  a heavily subsidized LNG industry and fracking. There are some serious climate change extremes happening globally.

Permafrost is thawing all over the Arctic, in Siberia its making roads buckle and infrastructure crumble and in the Yukon and Nunavet its damaging homes, roadways and making lakes implode and collapse.  ( Google images search term: ” permafrost melting damage” for an eye opener)

Here’s the thing. Extremes and weird weather events are increasing here in BC and across Canada. Polar vortex. Floods. Fire. Extreme drought and heat waves. Home insurance rates are increasing because of increased claims. Some underwriters aren’t covering certain types of damage anymore. Climate change doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, but its the poor and mid income victims that will bear the burden when these events hit.

Its our governments who will have to fork out emergency relief funds,house people who have lost homes and rebuild critical infrastructure. That’s why addressing climate change is also a social justice issue, so mitigating it and acting faster to enable resilient communities is a must. And yet we continue down the same path here in BC despite it all.

That’s why I will applaud nothing with respect to this latest announcement.

Not while 2km squared gravel well pads are being laid to frack gas, the Peace is being logged to mitigate methyl mercury when the valley is flooded, and Canada’s north is melting.