When Prime Minister Trudeau shared that no relationship was more important to him than the federal government's relationship with indigenous peoples, I don't think he assumed it was going to be easy to prioritize this relationship.
When the BC government, under the leadership of Premier John Horgan, became the first jurisdiction in Canada to enshrine the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into legislation, I also don't think he thought giving life to these principles in practice would always be easy.
The current RCMP enforcement of court injunctions to halt a blockade that impedes the construction of the Coastal Gas Link natural gas pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territory has led to a number of protests and blockades across Canada.
First, historically, I feel very lucky to live in a time in which governments are trying to work through these issues as opposed to simply enforcing a colonial system of governance. The RCMP enforcement in 1960 or 1970 or 1990 would have been, in my view, a lot more violent than it has been in 2020. In fact, in 2020, the RCMP and policing agencies across the country have been very careful (so far, successfully) in trying to avoid violence.
So many protests have unfolded unhindered, Cabinet ministers and high government officials have been active in trying to find solutions. Reconciliation in practice can be very challenging but it is alive and well.
Wet'suwet'en Hereditary chiefs challenge to the present routing of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline is especially difficult. The Hereditary chiefs have been recognized by the courts as having authority and standing in issues regarding Wet'suwet'en territory but the courts also did not decide specifically the extent and limits of this authority.
Almost all the Wet'suwet'en elected councils support the pipeline as so most of the other indigenous communities along the pipeline route. Many are hopeful for the job and economic development opportunities.
So, there's a division of opinion between indigenous communities involved. And this is a division that people within those communities are obviously best to solve.
Those of us non-indigenous folks protesting or supporting the construction of Coastal gas link should be thoughtful and restrained, given the division in opinion among indigenous peoples and the spectre that this conflict could get worse and have even greater negative impacts.
Of course, this current conflict could lead onto a pathway towards greater consensus and cooperation. Crises can often lead to greater opportunities.
Different experts and pundits express different opinions on the validity of different points here. It can be very complex and confusing. At a very human level, though, people are in conflict. And the only way this can be solved is by working with each other.
And, in order this to work, we need to see this not as a winners and losers situations but as an "all of society" conversation where we need to really listen to each other, respect each other, and commit to being in community together. I don't how seeing people with opposing views as enemies will practically get us anywhere productive. We will keep fighting and each "side" has enough power and weight to prevent any "winner" to emerge.
Let's instead seize an opportunity of this moment. To get off the metaphorical battlefields and sit in talking circles and meeting rooms. To do the hard work of reconciliation in action.
I am happy to see you viewing this conflict as a opportunity to define the changes that need to be made to embrace UNDRIP. I am holding my collective breath here waiting for our Federal government to get on board with the BC government to move this forward. I salute the Hereditary Chiefs in keeping a focused and calm approach to asking us (greater Canada) to move on solving this problem.
I am trusting that with our Prime Minister's words of we need to resolve this by dialogue and not policing that the RCMP may move off the direct enforcement of the court order and a break through can come. RCMP cannot be ordered to stand down but they may see the wisdom of taking a more relaxed approach.
Posted by: Dawn Koch | February 17, 2020 at 11:56 PM
To me it is more looking like the courts and govt have missed the mark on this Courts seem to be saying the present issue needs more law clarification. The protestors are not getting the whole story as Ellis Ross is saying here https://www.facebook.com/ellisb.ross.9/videos/804507163361879/
Posted by: Doug Wells | February 18, 2020 at 12:19 AM
excellent opinion piece,moderation and discussion are the key. One does hope that Canadians are not sacrificed on the altar of reconciliation. As part of the bigger picture, speak to Canadians, who are unable to send their products to market or the Canadians who are unable to go to work. Speak to the Canadians, who are starting to react. I know that we could go on and on about who is suffering on both sides, and my greatest fear is a backlash.
Posted by: Lawrence Beaton | February 18, 2020 at 03:43 AM
I appreciate this thoughtful reflection. This is an important moment in Canadian history. I hope it is a turning point in BC history towards the BC government’s recognition and respecting of Indigenous title of land and what that means. I hope that the BC government will reconsider how it does business and recognize that it cannot continue to issue permits to companies without sitting down with the hereditary chiefs concerned. It has come to light that CGL refused to consider the route through the Wet’suwet’en territory that the hereditary chiefs proposed. I hope in the future that the government of BC may find a better way to facilitate consultations.
Posted by: Barbara Liotscos | February 20, 2020 at 08:31 AM