The blockade of Canada’s rail network continues in response to the black-hearted desire of politico-corporate ghouls to build a pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en land. By the end of last week, they were positively seething at the gall of these courageous, awesome heroes. Dripping with paternalism, Justin Trudeau, the public face of this repulsive conglomeration, informed his unruly subjects that
“The fact remains: the barricades must now come down. The injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld.”
“We are waiting for Indigenous leadership to show that it understands…The onus is on them.”
He also declared himself the expert arbiter of what does and does not constitute legitimate historical and contemporary grievances:
[Trudeau] made a point to draw a line between the Wet’suwet’en protesters and their allies — those upset at the long history of abuse perpetrated against Indigenous peoples in Canada — and others who “use or engage with Indigenous protests to call out a particular project with which they disagree.”
While these “other” protesters may be advancing a view that is deeply felt, their concerns are “not anchored in the deep wrongs that have been done in ignoring and marginalizing Indigenous leadership and Indigenous voices in this country,” Trudeau said.
He wants them, consciously or subconsciously, to accept that they are a dominated people. He wants them to shut the fuck and know their place: be grateful for meaningless platitudes of vague promises for sovereignty, reconciliation and justice. Pieces of trash like Trudeau likely believe himself to be enlightened because he might feel a little bad about settler colonialism, as opposed to assholes like Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer who disgustingly told land/water protectors to “check their privilege”. Nick Martin, one of the best journalists covering indigenous issues, sums it up far better than I:
Whereas Trudeau offered stylized nothingness in his speech, Andrew Scheer, the Conservative Party leader tasked with responding to the prime minister, was at least honest in his apathy about climate change and Indigenous rights.
This is the quintessence of what I’ve frequently described as liberalism being the friendlier of the two broad ideological wings of the West. From their point of view, peaceful, nonviolent protest is acceptable so long as it doesn’t stand in the way of Capital; so long as it doesn’t actually threaten state dominance.
And what of the Wet’suwet’en leadership? Pipeline proponents would have you believe that they actually want the pipeline, and so it must be done. Of course, this is something that demands far more nuance than biased earth destroyers would have you believe:
[H]ereditary chiefs oversee the management of traditional lands and their authority predates the imposed colonial law, which formed the elected band council.
While the [elected] band council is in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the hereditary chiefs are not.
[E]lected band councils — as the title suggests — are elected members of the community.
These councils were the result of the Indian Act, which was first established in 1876 and defined how the Canadian government interacts with Indigenous people. They were formed to impose a leadership structure that more resembled Canada’s system of governance [thinking face emoji].
“They don’t have the authority under the Indian Act to make decisions on traditional territory,” Pam Palmater, an Indigenous lawyer and the chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.
The councils are elected by people holding the title of “Indian status” under the Indian Act, which comes with a whole host of issues, Kim Stanton, [a lawyer who specializes in Aboriginal law] said, as the federal government can essentially determine who votes for council.
Stanton said it’s important to note that despite all 20 elected band councils agreeing to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a lot of the time these councils are forced into an agreement due to critical underfunding from the federal government.
It’s a familiar tale dating back to the first ruler who decided he wanted to rule foreign peoples. The conquering/colonizing power secures allegiance with collaborators which provide a tenuous legitimacy while the former use the latter as a cudgel for cowing the subjugated masses.
The Wet’suwet’en are not a nation divided, they are a nation with differing opinions on the best route to a better future after history of oppression. The band councils have sought opportunity, and funding, where they can find it. But based on Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law, it’s ultimately the hereditary chiefs who have jurisdiction to the territory, and they have been clear about their aim—to assert self-governance over their land and demand a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada. It’s a move that would benefit all Wet’suwet’en.
By lumping Indigenous people together and by funding pro-pipeline factions within the Wet’suwet’en nation, B.C.’s government and gas industry have caused confusion about who has say.
For shits and giggles, I decided to check and see if the only two U.S. candidates worth examining had anything to say about the crisis. Elizabeth Warren hasn’t said anything that I could locate – I’d imagine she doesn’t want to so much as mutter anything indigenous-related for fear of reminding the public of her comedy of errors. A search for Bernie also didn’t turn up anything, which is disappointing. I want to see Bernie stand up for indigenous sovereignty in the face of state violence north of the border (and, of course, within the borders of the so-called U.S.). The mass movement propelling Sanders inexorably toward the Democratic Party nomination (*knocks on wood*) need to hold his feet to the fire on issues like this.
Anyways, if you have a bit of disposable income, please consider donating to the Unist’ot’en Camp (the resistance camp built on unceded Wetʼsuwetʼen land adjacent to planned pipelines).
*****ETA: After I finished writing all this shit, news came out that stormtroopers have started to move in:
Several members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk nation were arrested on Monday when officers moved in to lift the blockade which had been erected in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia who are fighting a 416-mile pipeline through their traditional territory.
Ontario provincial police had warned the activists that they had until midnight Sunday to leave the area, or face arrest and charges.
Footage from Occupy Canada: