Rule of law, yes – but whose?
Battle lines are drawn, again, between First Nations and Canadians. On one side the police; on the other First Nations’ protesters. On one side politicians and outraged editorials in the papers; on the other, First Nations’ leaders trying to explain to reporters that ‘we have a different understanding.’
The thing about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is that it recognizes that some projects are too big or too dirty, or both, for Indigenous peoples to say ‘yes.’ And it sees that First Nations have a different set of rules for looking at what we like to call ‘development.’ Those rules are what the Saugeen Ojibway Nation listened to when their communities voted ‘no’ to Ontario Power Generation’s proposal to bury nuclear waste beside Lake Huron.
It would be a mistake to think First Nations’ laws are completely buried by history.
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer like to talk about ‘the rule of law.’ So do Mr. Kenney in Alberta and Mr. Horgan in B.C. and Mr. Ford in Ontario. But in all such disputes between First Nations and Canada you have to ask ‘whose law?’
Remember, First Nations have done a pretty good job obeying Canada’s laws over the years. They sent their children to our residential schools. They went off to our world wars and fought with a courage that was forgotten by most of us. They ceased their customary ceremonies and hid their sacred things when we declared them illegal. They gave up their traditional governments – except for some, like the Wet’suwet’en.
Those traditional, hereditary chiefs tried to play by our rules in discussions with Coastal GasLink over the route of the pipeline. They said avoid this area and that area, they are necessary for our way of life. But Coastal GasLink ignored them and offered money to the elected chiefs and councils to get their way. And who can blame those elected chiefs and councils for wanting money to better the lives of the people they represent?
And so the standoff in the bush at Unistoten. And now it has spread into the traditional territories of other First Nations. All of whom have been harmed, one way or another, by following Canada’s rule of law.
Racism against black people is mostly expressed by assertions of control over black bodies, as the number of police shootings and high incarceration rates show, especially in the U.S. Racism against First Nations people is expressed by control over land or water, as Oka and Ipperwash and Burnt Church and a hundred other standoffs, big and small, testify.
Maybe it’s time we just stopped our developing for a minute, and sat with First Nations, and learned what their rule of law has to say to us.
Who speaks for Wet’suwet’en?
Full disclosure: I am dead set against any expansion of pipelines, LNG ports, or any other infrastructure based on fossil fuels. If we’re going to successfully save ourselves from climate change, all of these need to become abandoned hulks by the end of the decade. So I sympathize with the protesters’ aims.
No, to me the real question here is: who speaks for the Wet’suwet’en nation? Like my nation, its citizens have elected a government to negotiate on their behalf with Coastal Gaslink, looking for a balance between the short-term need for jobs, and the long-term needs for sustainability. And, in their government’s wisdom, it has decided to approve the pipeline. It’s their decision to make, and I respect it.
This claim to represent the Wet’suwet’en nation is being challenged by a group of hereditary chiefs. To use a more Euro-centric example: It’s as if, after Boris Johnson’s duly elected government decided to leave the EU, the Royal Family and the House of Lords (Great Britain’s ‘hereditary chiefs’) rose up and began working to undermine that decision. Would we in Canada support Mr. Johnson, or Queen Elizabeth? It’s my guess that the democratically elected government’s position would be seen as the legitimate one.
Reconciliation starts with respect, and leads to negotiations and agreements based on a relationship built on that mutual respect. Both sides need to know that, upon reaching an agreement, it will be honoured. Much is made — justifiably so — about broken agreements by the government of Canada. Here we have a situation where two legitimate governments’ agreement is being undermined. Although I am not privy to Wet’suwet’en internal politics, I am suspicious that, if these hereditary chiefs represented the majority of their citizens, this deal with Coastal GaslLnk would not have been agreed to.
So back to my question: who speaks for the Wet’suwet’en nation?
Time for pipelines has passed
I am very concerned about the Coastal GasLink Pipeline in northern British Columbia.
All five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously rejected this pipeline and are peacefully defending their unceded land. The RCMP broke down their barricades last year and on Friday, Feb. 7 arrested land defenders at the barricade.
Coastal GasLink is a subsidiary of TC Energy which is the same company behind the project at the Meaford tank range. A direct quote from this company’s public relations material reads, “At TC Energy, we are committed to building and maintaining positive relationships with landowners. We are proud of the relationships we’ve built with thousands of landowners across North America and we believe that these relationships are critical to our success. Our approach to engagement with people and groups who may be affected by our activities is rooted in our core values of safety, responsibility, collaboration and integrity.” This is the same company that is trying to force the CGL pipeline through Wet’suwet’en land and using militarized RCMP to arrest the peaceful and rightful landowners who have repeatedly said no to their pipeline. Would you trust this company?
RCMP documents have been found and they use terms such as “lethal overwatch,” “use as much violence as necessary” and “sterilize the site”. Is this happening in Canada? It isn’t the Canada that I believe in! Our governments still have colonial attitudes when dealing with our aboriginal people. This is even after the BC government unanimously adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People(UNDRIP) last fall. Justin Trudeau also promised to have improved relationships with First Nations. Is this better?
The Wet’suwet’en people are standing strong in opposition to this detrimental pipeline. Across the country others are standing with them. At this point in time, when we are facing a climate emergency, we need to stop building pipelines. Stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en; discuss what is happening, donate to their legal fund, reduce your dependency on fossil fuels. The time to act is now! Add your voice to that of the Wet’suwet’en and send a strong message to our elected officials.
Time for city to lead on climate change
Try to follow this:
Dec. 2 Owen Sound City Council directs staff to prepare a report to address climate change.
Jan. 13 Staff report to deal with climate change recommends hiring a Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Co-ordinator (CAMC)
Jan. 27 Council passes budget to fund CAMC position
Feb. 10 Mayor casts deciding vote to delay the hiring of CAMC position, with no request for a staff report or a timeline to provide alternative options.
Comments at the Feb 10th council meeting:
Mayor Boddy “This is all so new for us…without rushing ahead too quickly, let’s step back” We’ve known about climate change for over 30 years, and had world leaders addressed this more quickly and not continued to step back, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing a global crisis.
Marion Koepke would like the new city manager and council to complete the official and strategic plans before giving a green light to hiring a specialist. I guess we wouldn’t want too much informed input into these plans that will guide city action (and inaction) for the next 5-20 years.
Many councillors spoke of hearing from people who thought that council was moving too quickly to hire this position. I wonder if those councillors have participated in the many climate action gatherings which have taken place in front of city hall over the past year. Have those councillors noticed the number of concerned citizens crossing all demographics who attend council meetings, ask questions, propose solutions, and organize community events to educate residents on climate change?
Many people who have taken practical action to address climate change think that council is moving too slowly. How does council make decisions? Which voices are heard? The ones that align with status quo thinking or those who are looking to help create a better future? Where is the statistical data to back up the deputy-mayor’s statement that far more people are opposed to hiring the CAMC than in favour? Often decisions seem to be based on random conversations and opinions. It’s time we listened to the science and the data.
Studies show attitudes toward climate change have altered dramatically over the past year. A Yale study, which also applies to Canadians, shows that over 30 per cent of people are now alarmed and actively taking climate action. This is up from 17 per cent only a few years ago. The percentage of deniers has dropped from 16 to 10 per cent. If you add the alarmed (31 per cent) and the concerned (26 per cent), that is a majority. The “concerned” agree with the science but haven’t taken action yet because they are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. This group is ready to act, but just needs local leadership and education to know what steps to take.
Richard Thomas stated that “for more than a century, Owen Sound has been waiting and has been following and it is not a strategy that has ever worked for this community.” Couldn’t agree more. We are looking to Owen Sound for leadership. Fortunately we live in a city where there are innovative entrepreneurs and creators of social enterprise, whose vision lives outside the box of limiting change that seems to prevail within Owen Sound city council.
Climate change action requires collective action and public education. There are dedicated and informed community members anxious to work with the city to address the urgent situation where we find ourselves. Instead of being threatened by the movement that is gaining momentum within our city, a forward thinking council would harness that energy and value the opportunity to work together, as have at least seven other municipalities in Grey/Bruce.
Mary Anne Alton
Address climate now, save in the end
I was at city council in Owen Sound the night they reneged on their commitment they made to young people to hire a climate change activist to help chart a course for the city. Four councillors against, four councillors in favour, the mayor made the deciding vote to put the position on hold. One had to notice there was no commitment to a timeline to revisit or a request to staff for a report on options. We are in limbo on the fastest growing crisis the world has ever faced.
What I found fascinating were the arguments as each councillor spoke. Those wishing to backtrack cited fiscal restraint, the lack of unanimity among the constituents they had been talking to, that council had been sort of “carried away” in the moment and that we are already doing our bit with an energy efficient rebuild of city hall. There was also an attempt at us and them, suggesting “outsiders” had infiltrated, that a majority of “real” Owen Sounders opposed – but presumably not enough to try and find a chair in the packed council chambers. This is a curious take while the mayor advocated for a regional approach. Climate change knows no borders and it should be no surprise that residents of the small municipalities that surround Owen Sound watch this council for leadership.
Those who opposed the motion to backtrack spoke with passion about what going on in the world, how other significant players in business and globally have made commitments, how we lack enough information to chart a clear course to make good decisions in the city’s environmental business, waste management, transportation, water infiltration at Kelso Beach.
It was Coun. [Scott] Greig who hit the nail on the head when he said (and I am paraphrasing) why do we in Owen Sound always step back from the leading edge of decision-making, waiting for the problem to become so obvious, that there can be unanimity, desperation almost, for solution. Stepping back is certainly one strategy to obtain consensus among constituents. Let the problems worsen and then no one can argue there needs to be a fix. It is not however good fiscal restraint; run away problems are always more expensive.
Why do we step back – and what would it take for one more member of council to see that on this issue we must step forward? Strong leadership is about stepping just ahead of the curve to mitigate harm for Owen Sound and help people to adapt to what is coming.
Finding those small change points early in a big change can save money save strife and sometimes open the way for new business opportunity. At a recent public discussion with Miller Waste on recycling there were a dozen ideas that would improve efficiency and increase the amount of waste recycled in the city. They were all simple ideas, as simple as updating the information on the city’s website – low or no cost solutions. Sometimes, tackling water infiltration in public parks is not about expensive hardscaping, walls to hold the water back. Sometimes it is about planting, restoring natural vegetation that buffers change in the water’s edge – and creates habitat for creatures. Low hanging fruit, we call that. But finding those shift points requires an environmental systems view and connection to community.
This is what a climate change coordinator with her/his eyes across the community could do. Not an add on to city business, but a way to do city business cost effectively in light of the changes that have already begun.
M. Struthers & Co