[Marxism] Two statements re Wet’suwet’en struggle
knhiebert at shaw.ca
Fri Feb 21 18:11:14 MST 2020
From David Diamond
Some of you will know that I have strong connections with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nations that go back to the No` Xya` (Our Footprints) <https://theatreforliving.us16.list-manage.com/track/click?u=747cdb63f3884ec9b52015116&id=281d3c2fd7&e=da84da526e> production in 1987-90. The Delgamuuxw Court Case <https://theatreforliving.us16.list-manage.com/track/click?u=747cdb63f3884ec9b52015116&id=fc59cda193&e=da84da526e> (1997) gave the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en jurisdiction over many things, including development in their 58,000 sq. kilometers of ancestral lands in the NW of British Columbia.
Although the details of Delgamuuxw are currently being disputed in some sectors, it is clear to me that the Hereditary Chiefs have jurisdiction over their Territory. With all due respect, the elected, Federal Department of Indian Affairs Band Council Chiefs (an imposition of the Colonial Government) have jurisdiction on Reserves only. I support the Hereditary Chiefs in their insistence on the validity of the supreme court decision and therefore the validity of Wet’suwet’en law alongside Canadian law. Let’s understand this is only ‘necessary’ inside the imposition of colonialism.
The Wet’suwet’en have recently exercised their legal rights as a Nation inside Canada and have therefore been under attack by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, for their refusal to allow Coastal GasLink/TC Energy to push through a 670-kilometer fracked gas pipeline that would carry fracked gas through Wet’suwet’en Territory. The Chiefs suggested an alternate route which was refused by the energy company for financial reasons. This has mostly been ignored by the media. Wet’suwet’en blockades went up to protect their territory. The Government’s reaction was to use the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as a heavily armed (including snipers and helicopters) occupying force, removing the legal and peaceful blockades. As a reaction to this, solidarity demonstrations and blockades have sprung up across Canada and around the world, in support of the Wet’suwet’en. This has really disrupted rail and other services, having a huge effect on the economy.
While some believe this is about the pipeline, it seems clear to me that at core it is about respecting territorial jurisdiction and making Reconciliation a reality and not just lip service. For instance, Truedau campaigned on Reconciliation being real – meaning things like access to drinkable water (that has been poisoned by logging, mining, fossil fuel extraction, etc.), access to education, to health care, and numerous other things most Canadians take for granted. These promises have to date not been acted upon in meaningful ways.
Yesterday (Feb. 20) the RCMP offered to respect one of the Hereditary Chiefs’ requests and withdraw from the blockade area – something the Chiefs have insisted on before agreeing to speak to Canadian Government officials, having said they will not engage in dialogue with guns aimed at them. However, it is essential to understand, as a Representative for the Chiefs has said, this does not solve everything. It is the beginning of a possible solution. Prime Minister Trudeau has refused to meet personally with the Chiefs, a sign of disrespect, if we acknowledge these are, in fact, Nation to Nation conversations.
Today (Feb. 20) Trudeau addressed the media (and therefore the nation and the Hereditary Chiefs and other Indigenous Leaders) and, while saying the Government was committed to dialogue and Reconciliation, that he expected the RCMP withdrawal would mean the blockades would come down and if they don’t, they will need to be removed. I believe he was particularly referring to the Mohawk blockade of a train line that is stopping train movement that is critical to the Canadian economy. He insisted that the responsibility is now sitting with Indigenous Leaders and that ‘dialogue cannot be one-sided’. I know for a fact that attempts at dialogue have been one-sided through-out Canadian history and it is not Indigenous Leaders (for the most part) who have not been willing.
We are at a historical turning point in Canada. I have just read that Wet'suwet'en and Mohawk Leadership have issued a joint statement that the barricades will come down when the RCMP and Coastal GasLink/TC Energy leave Wet'suwet'en Territory and all gas line activities cease. Having been ignored and disrespected for too long, this is an understandable next step. Full information here:
What I fail to understand is, if there was true dialogue, why the Wet’suwet’en Chiefs’ suggestion of a different route for the pipeline, which would avoid sensitive areas of their Territory, was and continues to be ignored. Apparently, Coastal GasLink/TC Energy has said a route change would be too expense. If consultation would have been real and honourable, this would have been negotiated years ago, instead of the route being imposed now. And true and honourable Reconciliation has to mean things are done very, very differently than they have been done.
Obviously this is evolving moment to moment and I cannot possibly keep up or explain all the rest of the context in this newsletter. My sincere hope is for a resolution without physical or any other kind of violence, beyond what has already occurred.
If you are interested in knowing more, the Resources Section of this Toolkit is a great source of information:
And in connected news, Canadian Youth are planning a hunger strike in opposition to yet another oil sands development in the north. Details here:
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To: Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Hon. John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia
Hon. David Eby, Attorney-General of British Columbia
Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous Relations
Hon. Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations
Office of the Wet'suwet'en
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
S/Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, RCMP E Division
Health Professionals’ Open Letter On Wet’suwet’en
We are alarmed and concerned by events unfolding in northern British Columbia. Once again we have watched as RCMP officers armed with automatic weapons and equipped with dogs, drones, helicopters, and sound cannon and with the overwatch of RCMP snipers dismantled three peaceful Wet’suwet’en checkpoints.
These blockades arose from the incursion of a fracking natural gas pipeline backed by Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Malaysian and Japanese multinationals into traditional Wet’suwet’en territories, without permission from the Wet’suwet’en leadership and over their strenuous objection.
The health risks from fracking are well known, including release of carcinogenic toxins such as benzene. Pregnant women in northeastern BC have serum benzene levels three times the normal level (1) and studies have shown this has an association with increased childhood leukemia rates (2). U.S. studies have shown increases in congenital heart disease, chronic pulmonary disorders and small birthweight babies in populations living in proximity to fracking operations. And as we all know, every pipeline leaks.
In addition, the CGL pipeline would feed the massive LNG project in Kitimat. The whole project is geared to shipping huge volumes of LNG to Asian markets and increasing fossil fuel emissions worldwide at a time when the looming devastation of climate change is literally setting countries on fire. Australia is burning, Antarctic temperatures just passed 20 degrees Celsius. The health risks presented by climate change should terrify everyone.
The American Journal of Public Health has pointed out that indigenous groups are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change – “warming temperatures have the potential to affect infectious diseases associated with the preparation of traditional foods (e.g. gastroenteritis, food-borne botulism), zoonotic diseases (e.g giardiasis) and traditional plants or remedies.” In addition, “high-intensity rainfall events could be particularly problematic, with waterborne disease outbreaks (e.g. typhoid, bacillary dysentery, Escherichia coli and cryptosporidiosis)”, not to mention the direct and indirect effects of wildfire outbreaks we have already seen in BC. (3)
Article 26.2, of the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous People states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.” This right has been enshrined in law by B.C.‘s Bill 41, as has the right of indigenous peoples not to be removed from their lands. But if the words of the provincial government uphold these rights, their actions do the complete opposite.
Despite the fact that the Wet’suwet’en have an established legal and moral right to govern their own territories, this inconvenient fact is being ignored by the provincial government the RCMP and even the courts. Once again unceded indigenous lands are being annexed by force and at the point of a gun. And this in turn has led to the polarization and division that has erupted across Canada.
For these reasons, we, the undersigned health care professionals, join our voices with Amnesty International to call for a halt to further work on the CGL pipeline until the free prior informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en people has been obtained and support the call of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for the RCMP to withdraw.
We also call on Premier John Horgan to place a moratorium on CGL construction permits and to return to the table with the Wet’suwet’en people.
Mary-Wynne Ashford, MD PhD
Juan Ayala retired patient escort
Sandy Bauer retired RN
Jessie Beauchamp RN BSN
Farideh Bozorg RN
Bridie Cain LPN
Krista Barclay RN MSN CNE
Ladan Bayani-Mehrabadi RN BsCN
Karin Bergen RMT
Katherine Bertram, MD, FCFP
Courtney Blake, HCA BScN Student
David Bowering MD, MHSc
(retired Chief Medical Health Officer, Northern Health)
Eleanor Cohen RN PhD
Lori Dupuis RN BSN
Freda Edgars RN
Steve Gray MD, CCFP
Mark Galloway RN
Louise Gilfoy RN
Laurie Halfpenny RN
Harriet D. Hall, RMT
April Hautalouma RN
Naseem Janmohamed, MD CCFP
Shawnna Karras RMT
Sabrina Lee Levac, RN
Alex Marshall BSc, BSN, RN
Sandra Marshall RN
Michelle Martinson Lowe RN BSN EMA GNC(C)
Gabor Maté MD CM
Jacqueline Miller RN
Joe Minifie RN
RD Nicoll MD
Will Offley RN
Penny Oyama retired RN
Sophie Pelletier RN
Carol Peters LPN
Sara Phillips BscPN
Jane Prince RN BScN
Lydia Pugh RN
Janet Ray BSc OT MD
Catherine Ryan RMT
Michael Scott Clinical Nurse Educator RN
Sharon Sharp RN
Lyla Smith retired RN
Matei Stoian MD
Christy Sutherland MD CCFP (AM) dABAM
Sharon Tamaro, MSc
Stephanie von Dehn MD CCFP
Josette Wier MD
Jennifer Whyte, MD, CCFP
Fariba Wilson RN
Ty Wright RN
1) https://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2017/11/13/exposure-to-benzene-during-pregnancy-a-pilot-study-raises-concerns-in-british-columbia/ <https://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2017/11/13/exposure-to-benzene-during-pregnancy-a-pilot-study-raises-concerns-in-british-columbia/> has been linked to increased rates of pediatric leukemia
2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6100118/ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6100118/>
3) James Ford, Indigenous Health and Climate Change, Am J Public Health, July 2012
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