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Wet’suwet’en Dispute: Be Careful What You Wish For

March 5, 2020

By @MsAmyMacPherson

 

I will begin this topic by declaring my conflict of interest, that in some ways facilitates my insight into the dispute about Indigenous hereditary chiefs, and in other ways may contribute to an unintentional bias. Due to that peril I submit this as an opinion-editorial, although facts will still be supported with hyperlinks throughout.

 

It’s been uncomfortable to watch the mob of Caucasian journalists attempting to cover this story when they know little-to-nothing about Indigenous affairs and are limited to the Crown’s point of view, whether sympathetic or indifferent. I didn’t want to be another ‘white’ person speaking above Indigenous voices, in an effort to frame their complaints in newspeak that ultimately silences them. Repeatedly I’ve stated that I don’t wish to pick sides and I’ve attempted to caution netizens against defining those sides, because it’s clear they’re unable to appreciate the full dynamics and destructive outcomes if their wishes are granted. But here we are and after much deliberation, I decided it was necessary to speak up before this situation devolves any further.

 

There is more at stake than anyone knows from their respective but insular silos, and that includes the Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, as well as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett. More than anyone, they need to grasp the legal landmines that await them and some of the hidden players who are interfering behind the scenes. This Coastal GasLink project in British Columbia will have severe ramifications for Ontario hydro but like all Indigenous affairs, this matter is also complicated. Please be patient as I explain something that is dear to my heart and has the potential to negatively impact all Canadians as well as First Nations. I’m taking a leap of faith that Miller’s personal experience with Mohawks and the Canadian Forces will enable him to see where I’m coming from and make the vitriolic blowback from all sides worth the risk to put my hand up (original / archive).

 

Full Disclosure

 

As for my disclosure, I was once engaged to a Mohawk hereditary chief’s grandson. It was nearly half my lifetime ago and our relationship began around the time of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw decision, that established Indigenous rights and title for the Wet’suwet’en people (original / archive). For the sake of respect and privacy, I will refer to my ex-partner as “EM”.

 

That relationship lasted for five years and prior to meeting EM, I had grown up in foster care with several Indigenous girls, who outnumbered Caucasian Crown Wards by at least two-to-one. I’m familiar with the most intimate details about their time in protective care and the way those situations are now portrayed by adults, advocates, newspapers, and much of government is utterly abhorrent. Over the past four decades I’ve seen the many ways our democratic system dehumanizes their struggles, to be little more than statistics and ones that only count after they are gone. But during those tender years in foster care together, there was no apparent racism to confront because we were all part of a sisterhood that bonded deeper than skin colour or either of our cultures. We were also too young to recognize the historic and societal racism that caused their family breakdowns.

 

Needless to say, my time with EM would be an incredible learning experience for both of us. Although EM barely escaped foster care in an extension of the Sixties Scoop (arguably it still happens today), he did suffer abuse that plagued his identity and led to numbing with substances on his journey to making peace with the past. I will not break confidence to describe his ordeal and my intent is not to shame anyone, but the polite terms for inter-generational trauma are a compounding factor in suffering from it.

 

As EM and I entered the adult world we both had to learn about racism. It was only then that I discovered the true identity of my country, in contrast to everything I was taught about Canada in school. In the left-leaning city of Hamilton, Ontario and seat of the provincial NDP leader, we were kicked out of restaurants for being a bi-racial couple, along with my toddler son. We were denied the ‘privilege’ of renting movies from certain convenience stores, and followed around in shopping malls that frequently ended with security guards wanting to search us for suspected theft. The majority of stores denied his ‘Indian’ status tax card and in one dispute about its legality, the police were called to have us removed from Sears. Once the police were called because I needed to use a bathroom at a sports complex and I wasn’t welcome to enter due to my ‘dirty Indian’ companion. The police always told us they agreed it wasn’t fair, but they had to enforce private business rules and we should take our complaints to the brick wall known as government.

 

Walking down the street together with a baby wagon in tow, we were regularly confronted with racist slurs from all manner of Canadians. I was the target as often as EM and attacks from foreign exchange students were particularly confounding. Racism was more common than acceptance, so when younger people with linguistic accents put us down it stuck out like a sore thumb. For years I wondered if relations were this volatile because of our close proximity to the Six Nations reserve, but a lifetime of experience that was enriched by the internet proved location had nothing to do with it.

 

EM knew this would happen in Hamilton, though he was unprepared for the racism we’d have to deal with on his reserve as well. His mother was incredibly supportive of us, but the same wasn’t true of nearly anyone else. When EM proposed to me at Six Nations on a visit for Christmas Eve, his family was disgruntled that a hereditary chief’s grandson would consider marrying a white woman. They felt the Mohawk warrior bloodline had to remain pure and they were incensed beyond belief that EM would give his mother’s ring to me. They further warned that I couldn’t live with him on the reserve and if he was making a choice to be with me, EM would have to abandon his Indigenous claim and basically become a Caucasian. On a couple of visits warning shots were fired in our general direction as a more forceful statement of disapproval. Thankfully I grew up with farming heritage so it didn’t scare the wits out of me.

 

Growth spurts can be painful and neither of us was comfortable, but as tragic love stories go, it was us against the world together. I consoled him, he consoled me, and the blindness of our youth caused us to believe that we could educate others about how to coexist. I enjoyed learning the details about his culture and the Two Row Wampum so much, that I encouraged EM to be heard in my Caucasian world by participating in venues such as elections and the long-form census. He gave crucial input for my letters to various authorities that explained the threats and consequences of our system to Indigenous relations. Little did I know how badly I was harming him by projecting my identity onto his, when his was in absolute crisis. Little could I appreciate the legal claims of the Two Row Wampum as an original treaty that purportedly granted sovereignty, over folktales and the way Caucasians approach Indigenous peoples as some sort of mystical entity (original / archive).

 

At the time of the Wet’suwet’en’s Delgamuukw case, the government still referred to “Indian Affairs”, but I knew from EM that “Indians are from India and Christopher Columbus was lost when he discovered the Americas”. It was funny to us then but more than twenty years later, his people are still governed by the Indian Act that hasn’t been updated to reflect our geography. I wasn’t even old enough to grasp that calling all brown people Indians was a racist slur against India in the same breath. Before the widespread use of internet, Gen X and Baby Boomers were confined to growing up myopically with whatever our televisions and governments told us.

 

I also knew from EM long ago about the division between First Nations band councils and their inherent incompatibility with the system of hereditary chiefs. After all, this was EM’s legacy to protect in a bloodline hierarchy that he nearly abandoned to be united with me. In a Caucasian nutshell, I was his Meghan and he was my Harry. (I mean no offence to Indigenous readers and I ask that they accept me as a white person, speaking to a predominantly white audience, in white terms they’ll find relatable. I might make small errors but my intentions and respect are genuine.)

 

EM never stopped complaining about Six Nations and Mohawk elected chiefs from a number of different angles that are paramount to resolving the rail blockades occurring today. I don’t claim to know all their grievances and this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s what I learned from EM that was exacerbated by the landmark Delgamuukw court decision at the beginning of our relationship.

 

Elected chiefs are an affront to most Indigenous tribes, or at least the families of clan leaders who became displaced by the imposition of colonial government over their way of life. Those who wish to remain true to their traditional ways call First Nations elected representatives “Indian agents” in the most derogatory sense. EM viewed band councils as sellouts who became an extension of the oppressive colonial government that’s lied to them for hundreds of years. For this reason it’s extraordinary that Jody Wilson-Raybould offered to mediate the current Wet’suwet’en dispute, because she was part of that illegitimate First Nations structure in the eyes of hereditary supporters who are now protesting across the country (original / archive).

 

I haven’t spoken with EM in more than a decade, but I’m positive that Jody Wilson-Raybould is one of the most inappropriate people to negotiate this situation. She may want to be the second coming of Joseph Brant for colonial history books, but the traditional narrative doesn’t favour Brant in the same way that Caucasians do.

 

Although the former attorney general claims to champion UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), Jody Wilson-Raybould abandoned her own effort to implement these measures within the Department of Justice upon exiting that position. It was her most important work that she never bothered to mention and neglected to defend when Michael Wernick made it an issue during the SNC Lavalin affair (original / archive).

 

Given the importance of understanding Mohawk and hereditary history to resolve the blockades, I strongly advise studying a basic background at the very least, to be able to gain one’s bearings. For that purpose I will link three Wikipedia entries that assist with an overview. I accept that Wikipedia is no authority and it’s subject to biased edits, but there is no comparable example of an overview on a single page with references. Readers are further encouraged to visit the copious reference links to original materials and mentally note all the times there is conflicting or absent information, due to the extermination of Indigenous languages and cultural history. Early and continuous efforts to force the assimilation of Indigenous tribes has a longstanding impact that undermines even their ability to legally defend their rights today. What’s clear through Wikipedia is the severity of that destruction and how it’s impeding the current reconciliation effort, but to its credit there is ample explanation of many of the points I will be touching on.

#1. Six Nations of the Grand River (original / archive)

#2. Iroquois/Haudenosaunee Confederacy (original / archive)

#3. Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (original / archive)

 

The next parts may offend my Indigenous friends and I apologize, but some of the Mohawks the government must negotiate with are direct relatives of EM. Therefore explaining EM’s point of view as cautiously as possible can illuminate some of the sticking points that Canadians don’t understand. All they see are court injunctions, either opposed or supported, and my colleagues in the Canadian media industry who keep pushing the government for an unreasonable and imaginary timeline to gripe about. Everyone wants publicity for their ‘hot take’ and this callous behaviour couldn’t be more damaging to sorting out one of the greatest problems facing our entire country (original / archive).

 

I warned about this during the federal election and despite my article going viral, it was quickly forgotten since the votes were tabulated. Now there’s more context and rail blockades to force everyone to do their homework, because failure to resolve the Wet’suwet’en dispute from a functional perspective will result in a domino effect that ripples across Ontario, Quebec, and the main artery of all Canadian energy, shipping, and transportation points. That means the business community will need to listen carefully too. This issue isn’t a simple matter of accommodating hereditary chiefs. Bullying won’t resolve this and neither will greasing anyone’s palms with a bit of extra cash or favours. The way business consults with Indigenous tribes is at stake and the ability of Canada to conduct business as a contiguous nation.

 

To drive the point home, here is a map of all 630+ Indigenous reserves in Canada. We can’t weave any national infrastructure around them and they can’t establish entirely sovereign services without going through colonial territory as well.

 

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Source: Government of Canada (original / archive)

 

Time with EM taught me there are deeper divisions between First Nations band councils and hereditary leadership beyond the legal legitimacy of either to govern their nations. When one sees the other as a traitor to the people, negative words and actions ensue that have now been compounding for several decades and generations.

 

In EM’s case a different family took the helm of elected band council and this resulted in discrimination against EM and much of his family. The elected first family had running water, a paved driveway, new vehicles, and a newly built house; whereas EM’s family didn’t receive funding for running water, sanitation, or insulation, let alone a new structure. When we visited the home of his hereditary chief grandfather (deceased, RIP) we had to urinate in a bucket and the disparity between homes was visibly apparent while driving through neighbourhood streets. Some families were evidently prosperous and others were treated like second class citizens, depending on their relationships with band council. Eventually as EM’s grandmother grew older, she was forced into a rental accommodation within the City of Brantford. She had to leave the reserve because it became too hard to do maintenance tasks, like emptying the feces bucket far enough away from the garden and children’s play area.

 

It was hard for me to comprehend at the time, but as the years passed there were ample photos on social media of Indigenous families from across the country who are wrestling with similar issues. I always ask permission to share their content when it crosses my path because I don’t want to objectify or exploit their struggles. But every time it touches me deeply and I’ve experienced this degradation as a firsthand witness. I’ve seen what we’ve done to them and how badly they must fight to keep their dignity intact. They don’t run to the news with their stories and photos because it would weaken their position with government. Canadians already treat Indigenous peoples like second class citizens and revealing the reality of a third class can be too demeaning to recover from.

 

If you need a glaring example then consider Attawapiskat and what becomes of those who challenge the third class phenomenon. It invites scrutiny and blame, the opposite of reconciliation. It can result in third-party fiscal management that revokes Indigenous authority over the First Nation in question. During eras of Conservative government there can be extensive campaigns to undermine and emotionally destroy Indigenous leaders. The political right-wing absolves itself of wrongdoing and twists the narrative to accuse Indigenous leaders of stealing or hoarding the tribe’s (non-existent) riches (original / archive).

 

In fact, the previous Harper government went so far as to delegitimize First Nations by pitting off-reserve Indigenous populations against the families that remained. That was the purpose in naming Patrick Brazeau to the senate, to elevate the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples above the Assembly of First Nations. That was also the alleged purpose behind the controversial Wobtegwa Métis Nation (bi-racial), that was accused of diluting the Indigenous population with colonizers and the threat of overlapping land claims with legitimate Mi’kmaq to oust them from the region (original / archive).

 

The Métis themselves will complain of being treated like third class citizens, in comparison to full-blooded tribes. A few years ago I was forced to witness Métis contributors being banned from Idle No More groups, by a small handful of overzealous social media administrators. In the minds of many, the Métis are to First Nations what the Muggles are to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. The original Métis peoples from the prairies further decry other Métis claims that arise in Eastern Canada as impostors.

 

These divisions represent a paradox that occurs frequently when any oppressed demographics are kept in poverty. They may wind up standing on each other as a means of getting out, when everyone is really fighting for the ability just to feed their own children. The Conservative Harper government thrived on exploiting that human condition and it wasn’t pretty.

 

But for as much as it hurt EM to see band council homes thriving, it’s not due to an excess of First Nation riches like right-wing colonials have tried to convince him. The unvarnished truth is there isn’t enough to go around because Indigenous trust funds, of their own money, are controlled by the government and released in dribbles as if all Indigenous peoples are foster kids in perpetuity. This is an illness that impairs the colonial mindset in all political parties, exacerbated by extensive misinformation that suggests First Nations operate with colonial taxpayer handouts (original / archive).

 

When families on the reserve have to be prioritized there are winners and losers. Naturally the most popular who are closest to the purse strings will benefit before their perceived enemies, and sometimes this dynamic develops between elected band council and hereditary leadership that has oftentimes opposed them. No elected leader of any population will ration a nation’s income equally among its citizens. Even Bernie Sanders wouldn’t propose this type of extreme socialism in a capitalist society, because it would obliterate the incentive to be successful. But this is one of the ways Canadians contribute to dividing tribes like the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk Nations, by keeping the leash so short that their people aren’t treated equally within the same reservation.

 

In my early twenties everything EM said was gospel because he was my only source of Indigenous political information. I fell into the trap of division that plagues First Nations and remains at the centre of the Wet’suwet’en dispute that has spilled across Canada with an ultimatum to take one side or the other. This same division is used to split the left and it does so with alarming speed and efficacy. The left says, “protest” and the right says, “lock them up”. The left says, “environment” and the right says, “jobs”. All the while each side points at the middle and blames the Liberals for attempting to find balance and coexistence in the present day. The outcome is usually silencing the moderates and completely losing sight of Indigenous equality. So long as they’re kept unequal to one another Canada can keep squabbling and release the government from its duty to make them whole again, which will take more time than money to readjust our relationship with 630+ nations. This situation will be further compounded by the views of new political party leaders, inexperienced or opportunistic members of parliament, and partisan changes in government.

 

That’s hardly the only source of division that confronts our Indigenous neighbours. I also learned from EM about the impact of religion. I can only speak to Mohawk history but it does appear relevant because they’re the ones engaged in rail blockades. For the most part everyone is respectful of Christianity and it’s not a battle that non-believers invite because it can split the Mohawk Nation as a whole and reach straight into their families.

 

Some of EM’s family is religious while some of it is loyal to traditional spirituality, and others do their best to incorporate both belief systems. But it does present another source of division that represents yet another historical injury, that persists with damaging inner relations to this day. This was plainly apparent in a Globe and Mail editorial about the Wet’suwet’en, that was penned by an idyllic and Christian Indigenous professor (original / archive). He was not at all careful about the arrival of religion and its forced implementation through tortuous brainwashing in the residential school system (original / archive). Some of them accepted, some of them rejected, and it will continue to cause a ruckus in some of their families with every passing Easter and Christmas.

 

The Mohawk Nation was caught first in the battle between Canada and the United States before our countries formally existed. Their natural home spanned both sides of the eventual border but famine, smallpox, and consistent wars for land acquisition eventually pushed them back from what became upstate New York. Then battles ensued within the early stages of pre-Canada between the British and French, in what became Ontario and Quebec. If you’re lucky you might have spent one week in elementary school grazing over the 1600 and 1700’s, when none of this information would have impressed upon you. Most Canadians have never been taught the actual history of Indigenous tribes in the formation of our country and immigrants are entirely in the dark about the gratitude owed to them.

 

The Mohawk Nation in particular was a roving warrior tribe and they were split between Quebec and Ontario. Each allied the respective French or British forces and mostly kept a pact not to war with their own people despite the colonizers’ expectations. They concerned themselves with defeating competing tribes to become the dominant merchant in the lucrative fur trade business. But with the French came Catholic Jesuits and with the British came Anglican (Protestant) missionaries. Both played a significant role in colonizing Indigenous peoples and one of only twelve Royal Chapels in the entire world was constructed on their Grand River reserve in Ontario. That Grand River reserve (known as Six Nations) also contained the oldest, continuously operated residential school in Canada.

 

So EM’s ancestors were split by location, split by religion, and split from their families as children, to be violently conditioned against their culture. EM’s mother had to run away with her baby to the City of Hamilton to protect him from being taken – and that was as the hereditary chief’s daughter. She was additionally ridiculed by members of her family for leaving and taking up residence in a white man’s Canada. As far as I can tell, she couldn’t win for losing no matter what she did and I respect her unreservedly for making those difficult choices. I was too young to fully appreciate the ramifications when I knew her and for that I extend my apology.

 

EM’s childhood was then spent between the reserve and the city. He grappled with identity issues upon becoming an adult, but no one knew who or what to blame exactly. She bore the brunt of it and so did his mind, whenever he’d relapse into substance abuse to kill the pain. I did my best to support and encourage him, but eventually the effects of inter-generational trauma can cripple the best intentions of most people and extinguish the trust needed for recovery. I cannot emphasize enough that “inter-generational trauma” is a nice phrase Caucasians use to whitewash the awful details that impact entire families, entire tribes, and entire nations. Although I never caused this harm, I’m still sorry that Canadian voters don’t know how to stop the excruciating oppression of Indigenous peoples.

 

Adding insult to injury, the Ontario-based branch of the Mohawk Nation is split between the Grand River (Six Nations) and the Bay of Quinte (Tyendinaga). This happened because they lost traditional lands throughout the American, British, and French wars and these two parcels were the replacements, granted by colonial masters for assisting in battle at the incredible cost of their homes and formerly large presence in New York. But even rewards were backhanded, in that the new locations had to be settled and they would need to learn subsistence farming in harsh conditions to survive.

 

Joseph Brant And The Haudenosaunee Confederacy

 

Joseph Brant, a celebrated Indigenous leader and Canadian folklore hero, further divided the Mohawks at the Six Nations reserve. I learned a little about Brant again in elementary school, but the greatest lessons were taught to me by EM and the hereditary leadership point of view (according to EM and a selection of Canadian historians).

 

Whereas Canadians generally respect Brant and many landmarks reference his influence in establishing Southern Ontario (the politically coveted 905 region), EM saw this Mohawk giant as a sellout who ultimately betrayed his people. Joseph Brant wasn’t an Indigenous chief, but he did become a ‘war chief’ and paid army captain for the British. He studied at a missionary school (willingly, in comfort, entirely different from the residential schools that befell the Mohawk Nation) and proudly supported the Church of England. Brant also dedicated part of his life’s work to translating Anglican scripture into the Mohawk language.

 

During luxurious trips to Britain he became a Freemason. Brant was also a master of the scorched earth tactic and he burned several villages to the ground, including some that belonged to his Indigenous allies in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (aka Iroquois Confederacy, Five Nations and/or Six Nations). When Joseph Brant was flexing his muscles he participated in what can be described as the genocide of fellow tribes, whether they were friend or foe. He did it for land when the Mohawks over-hunted beavers in their own territory and he did it for colonial wars. Brant even killed one of his sons and kept slaves to service his mansion, while benefiting from riches bestowed to him by the Crown that elevated him above hereditary chiefs in his own tribe. One of his wives was a prisoner of war who was forced to assimilate with the Iroquois, before she was gifted to Brant to bear children. Tyendinaga is named after him (Brant’s traditional name), where the Mohawk hereditary chiefs are currently engaged in protests.

 

Although I’m trying to form the basis of the Wet’suwet’en dispute, it’s quite important to grasp the history of Joseph Brant and why the Mohawks are intervening in that situation. What’s unfolding now is reminiscent of Brant and the tactics he employed are being somewhat emulated. It’s as if someone took a page from his legacy to breathe new life into an old mission, that could potentially see strategic lands along the Canada-US border acquired by a Republican faction by way of Aboriginal title, hereditary control, and a bit of manipulation. It sounds far fetched, but stay with me.

 

Joseph Brant is the immediate cause of a modern Canadian land claim dispute brought by the Mohawk Nation. The Tyendinaga reserve was granted to Brant, but it was done by the Crown purchasing that land from a different First Nation. There are questions if that tribe gave its free and informed consent. The Six Nations reserve on the Grand River was also granted to Brant, as thanks and payment for his service in the British army. It’s at the latter location that he kept African-American slaves (original / archive).

 

More important is the fact that Brant sold large parcels of the Six Nations reserve to colonial settlers from New York. He tried to recreate his childhood with German, Irish, Scottish, and British friends who were his neighbours in the United States, but lost their own properties during the American Revolution. It’s a sordid affair that deeply altered the treaty and cost the Haudenosaunee people much of their land, including what became the colonized Town of Brantford. Today the Mohawk want their land back or proper payment for it and this claim is complicated by a scandal that confirms they were defrauded for much of this asset by the British, prior to the establishment of Canada. It’s also not their traditional lands since time immemorial, but rather a replacement for them. As a result, modern Canada was left with perhaps the most complex and contentious land claim that remains unresolved (original / archive).

 

EM blamed the Crown for taking away his land, but history puts some onus on Joseph Brant for betraying their interests and scholars debate if the responsibility lies with Canada or Britain to repay the defrauded amount. Indigenous scholars also debate Brant’s legal authority, given that he wasn’t a hereditary chief with the capacity to enter into treaties or land sales within the traditional system at the time. This is particularly troublesome, in light of the same dispute happening today within the Wet’suwet’en Nation and others.

 

EM was also in his early twenties when he shared this oral history with me and I couldn’t know if his viewpoint became more informed over the next two decades. What I do know is that after the Crown tried to stop Joseph Brant from selling Indigenous land to colonial settlers, he tried to play Canadians against the Americans, as well as a plot to play Canadians (British) against the French, in an effort to benefit himself first and foremost. Brant attempted to upend peace treaties between major countries by agitating to reignite wars, and sell his allegiance to any foreign power that would add to his bank account more than pre-Canada had already done. This is after he acquired colonial-type mansions and turned his back on Indigenous peoples, refusing to assist them in tribal wars when they had previously assisted him.

 

People have a way of romanticizing the past, but the details about Joseph Brant’s legacy include treachery and even the murder of non-combatant civilians and children. He embraced colonial settlers and betrayed the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on more than one occasion. He was called “Monster Brant” by some, for his depraved tactics in war such as the scorched earth policy. As with any historical figure there are disputes about certain points and he did good things for the Mohawk Nation, by keeping them alive and prosperous in the course of his lifetime. No one is all good or all bad, but Canadians are woefully unfamiliar with the negative aspects because our school system doesn’t teach them.

 

As I continue to bring these issues to the present day, I strongly advise reading something about Brant’s history to be able to understand what Canada is faced with. I’m including a link to his Wikipedia page, again with caution that it’s not an authority and it’s subject to biased edits. But the reference section contains an abundance of links to original material from historians and war memorials, and skimming through this single page will prepare you better than skipping over it. Some of Joseph Brant’s history is in the process of being repeated because Canadians have neglected to study and resolve it (original / archive).

 

UNDRIP Based On Two Row Wampum

 

Few Canadians know the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is predicated on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Mohawk Nation (original / archive).

 

Before the United Nations existed there was the League of Nations, that Mohawks lobbied for membership and recognition as a sovereign nation. Tyendinaga and Six Nations asserted the Two Row Wampum as the original treaty between the Haudenosaunee, Britain, and subsequently Canada. They argued that governors and the Department of Indian Affairs couldn’t override that agreement, because it was a nation-to-nation contract that recognized the Haudenosaunee as an ally and not as British subjects.

 

From EM I learned the Two Row Wampum to mean something like ‘two boats travelling in the same river, with a vow not to steer each other’s ship’. In many ways it guided the way we approached our relationship, from respecting our different belief systems to splitting household chores as equals and paying common bills. I could get behind that ideology because it made so much sense and it treated me more fairly than any boyfriend that came before him. EM’s struggles with identity and substance abuse caused our union to be on-again-off-again, but he never lost sight of the Two Row Wampum and trying to get his boat in the parallel position. To us it was less of a treaty than a philosophical approach to life.

 

But the Two Row Wampum is a political instrument designed by the Haudenosaunee people and I don’t mean to take away from that. What I’m trying to say is this treaty represents an Indigenous law that the Mohawks have never abandoned. It is so ingrained throughout every generation that regardless of one’s path, they do not lose sight of it. It is the founding principle for their relationship to Canada that would become adopted by the United Nations as a matter of human rights. It’s a beautiful concept, at least until it’s subject to government consideration when the issue of sovereignty arises.

 

Therefore I was not surprised when the Mohawks of Tyendinaga asserted the Two Row Wampum amid the current standoffs at transportation junctions in Ontario and Quebec. I even note that descendants of Joseph Brant are speaking with media to inform Canadians about their Indigenous legal justification. Anyone adhering to the Two Row Wampum can’t accept court injunctions from Canada as having legal force on their lands. Nor can they abide by any colonial police force attempting to set foot on the reservation as a sovereign nation, in their long held opinions and interpretation (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive 3. original / archive).

 

A particular sticking point for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the history of UNDRIP and how today mirrors their thwarted application to the League of Nations almost identically. Back in the 1920’s there were political hijinks that tilted the process, along with interference by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to subdue their aspirations (original / archive).

 

The Mohawk people have never given up, nor will they. And not only is UNDRIP based on the Two Row Wampum, but so is the United States Constitution as acknowledged by the US senate (original / archive). The only problem is that both provide for human and political rights, but neither extend full sovereignty to Indigenous nations within state, provincial, and/or international borders. The original Two Row Wampum does.

 

Contrary to wisdom from the global conservative movement that demands complete assimilation of Indigenous peoples, implementing UNDRIP is the only way to avoid these head-to-head confrontations over ultimate sovereignty. Rest assured that work on Indigenous rights at the United Nations has as much to do with maintaining national security as it does with treating anyone with respect.

 

I encourage Indigenous readers to inspect my prior investigation into Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Indigenous Rights Framework (based on UNDRIP). It was opposed by Conservative lawyers within the Department of Justice, in addition to figureheads who come from the old INAC and balked at this reconciliation effort (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

I would suggest to everyone (Indigenous and colonial) that they’re unaware of their own blind spots and approaching this situation without a realistic long term goal and strategy could prove costly. These standoffs are not ad hoc dilemmas and there are no piecemeal magic solutions.

 

Moreover, revival of a push to assert sovereignty through the Mohawk’s Two Row Wampum and the Wet’suwet’en’s Delgamuukw case is being driven by Gen X, now in its prime and assuming positions of leadership. If there is an inability to repair the fractured relationship between Indigenous peoples and colonial governments at this time, the problem will rise again through Gen Y and Gen Z, just as it’s dogged every generation that kept us in this holding pattern since the late 1700’s. Colonials might not know their history, but Indigenous people sure do.

 

Reluctance and foot-dragging might have also been possible to avoid the hard lifting in earlier times, but procrastination can’t work in a digitally connected world that influences and organizes.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

That concludes the relevant background on the Tyendinaga and Six Nations Mohawks. I’m sure there are details missing because the establishment of Canada, the United States, and Indigenous reserves can’t possibly fit in one entry. I regret that portion had to be written from a personal perspective due to my conflict of interest, but I took the time to explain because those Indigenous protesters are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of anyone’s sentiments about the Wet’suwet’en crisis. I don’t know if EM is participating in a blockade but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was there, because he did attend Oka. Whether or not EM is present, his family is part of the negotiation process due to positions they hold. They also deserve to be humanized and any person engaging with them needs to be mindful of the serious damage caused by racism and betrayal that ever led us to this flash point.

 

In the end EM and I parted ways, due to massive historical wrongs and consistent clashes between our cultures. Eventually I came to see that love for love’s sake is not enough to heal either of our nations and that no two people can solve the deeply embedded divisions that dominate the entire ecosystem we found ourselves trying to navigate. This requires a concerted team effort on all sides that is committed to lasting peace.

 

As I learned from EM, you don’t have to be the person staring down the barrel of a gun to be harmed by the never-ending dissension. If you heard the slurs they have to put up with on a daily basis, it would change your entire opinion about Canada. I continue to wish him and his family well, regardless of how I may be cast by activists from all corners. For the record, EM was a professionally trained chef but due to racism that pervades all things, he was unable to get an apprenticeship to finish his red seal certification. Dejected and continuously injured by my colonial world, he then turned his focus to becoming a police officer to help Indigenous youths avoid the pitfalls that come with facing a Canada that confronts them with hatred every time they step off the reserve.

 

In the meantime, hereditary chiefs, First Nations, and Canadians will need to decide what UNDRIP and nation-to-nation means in this country. At some point all 630+ nations will need to be invited to the same table because the ‘divide and conquer’ approach is set to backfire spectacularly until we get this right.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

During The Federal Election

 

During the most recent federal election (Oct 2019), the Mohawk Nation came to my attention. I published an investigation about foreign interference from the fake news project led by the Buffalo Chronicle. Surprisingly it revealed connections to political trickster, Warren Kinsella, as well as American Republicans that include Roger Stone. But the most amazing development was that it connected to the hereditary chiefs that oversee Six Nations and Tyendinaga.

 

There were plenty of reports citing the Buffalo Chronicle for fake news attacks on Justin Trudeau. All of mainstream media attempted to warn audiences against believing anything published by that source. But they didn’t dig deep enough to investigate the publisher who has these contentious ties to political operatives. They also didn’t discover the Buffalo Chronicle was posting articles about hereditary chiefs for the same duration as their campaign against Justin Trudeau (pre-writ and throughout the writ, including voting day).

 

What it boils down to is an alt-right plot to exploit the legal void that was created by the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw decision, regarding the Wet’suwet’en’s confirmation of Aboriginal title (that neglected to define how the land title could be exercised, or by whom). The characters behind the Buffalo Chronicle published a detailed plan for what amounts to a hostile takeover of Six Nations’ land and resources, by asserting hereditary superiority over elected band council and claim to sovereign nationhood with respect to Aboriginal title.

 

It’s a re-imagined battle from the time of Joseph Brant, involving some descendants of the original rival clans. Except the modern version involves a plan to gain control of the transportation and energy corridor from Southern Ontario to Quebec (encompassing the entire interior Great Lakes region), and US President Donald Trump’s cronies with their fingerprints on this endeavour.

 

Cutting through the implausibility is the fact that a Buffalo Chronicle backer, who is loyal to Trump and best friends with Roger Stone, already gained control of Niagara Falls tourism on the Canadian side by exploiting our legal and political systems. The same people have their eye on manoeuvres to gain control of hydro-electric energy from the Niagara River. The propaganda they published about Six Nations and hereditary chiefs involves hostile manipulation of Indigenous band councils to get a piece of Hydro One as well.

 

My article about the Buffalo Chronicle went viral barely ahead of voting day.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

There are a few updates since that major investigation:

 

The Six Nations free press was firebombed immediately after the federal election and the plan for Indigenous land in Canada is flexing through the current standoffs, as it was similarly proposed by well-connected Republicans. I am not assigning blame or suggesting collusion, but my Indigenous friends will need to determine what’s happening. I hope no one wants to see Indigenous journalists harmed and this was a serious act of violence that could have easily resulted in death (original / archive).

 

The Mohawk warriors who are supporting hereditary chiefs are also being co-opted by a group of anarchists that appear to be based in the United States. Many interest groups are attempting to piggyback the Indigenous sovereignty cause, but this one is particularly organized, it operates anonymously, and it’s funded by untraceable Bitcoin. They’ve begun publishing about the Two Row Wampum as inspired colonials, in their efforts to spark a “revolution” in Canada. Our Indigenous friends will need to be cognizant and clear if the Mohawk Nation condones this association, because Canada and the United States may consider this element to be a threat to national security that has the potential to quash Indigenous aspirations should either country respond from a defence perspective as the right-wing has been urging (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

It came to my attention that Warren Kinsella was further employed by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (hereditary chiefs), adding another layer of curiosity to his relationship with the Buffalo Chronicle, the plot against Six Nations, and the current standoff at Tyendinaga (archive only, original is now password protected). It is therefore important to mention his potential conflict-of-interest, having worked for INAC (Indian Affairs) in a government capacity, as well as First Nations and Mohawk hereditary chiefs (original / archive). Even that detail is reminiscent of Joseph Brant’s legacy and the amount of parallels in this whole saga is truly remarkable.

 

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Source: Daisy Consulting Group (original / archive)

 

Untangling Truth About Wet’suwet’en

 

Regarding the Wet’suwet’en dispute and untangling the vast amounts of misinformation, we should start with how the Coastal GasLink agreement began to unravel.

 

In 2014 the Christy Clark government issued an environmental assessment certificate with approval for the project to proceed. This was after Indigenous consultations occurred, according to standards set by the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). It also took the Supreme Court of Canada decision for the Tsilhqot’in Nation into consideration, that was released before the EA assessment completed. For all intents and purposes, the government believes it performed proper due diligence and it was an early adopter of the carbon tax to mitigate emissions (original PDF).

 

As part of that process, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs submitted a 122-page rejection, that was in turn rejected by the BC government (original PDF).

 

The hereditary chiefs listed numerous reasons for declining the Coastal GasLink project that include:

 

A demand to resolve the Wet’suwet’en land claim before any environmental assessment could be performed

 

For those who are unfamiliar with the land claim terrain in British Columbia, there are several that overlap each another by different nations. Resolving one means resolving many and sorting out the boundaries of various nations. This can’t happen overnight, but arguably there should be more progress since the 1997 Delgamuukw decision that pertains to Aboriginal title.

 

A demand that the environmental assessment process formally include recognition of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ ownership and control of the Aboriginal title

 

This is an inappropriate venue to negotiate title claims and this appears to be an attempt at establishing a backdoor, to circumvent elected band council and tribal citizens from having any stake in the claim.

 

A claim that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are the rightful owners of the Aboriginal title because they were the moving parties in the Delgamuukw case

 

Although they were indeed the judicial applicants, I understood the Delgamuukw decision to apply to Indigenous nations and not individual people (evidence will be addressed in a subsequent section). The case was between the Wet’suwet’en and government, not the hereditary chiefs versus their citizens and band council.

 

A demand that hereditary control of Aboriginal title means the Wet’suwet’en chiefs have the right to complete sovereignty and veto of any projects

 

The reason given was a misinterpretation of the Delgamuukw decision, arguing that it established tribal sovereignty above and beyond Canadian law when it did no such thing. This was another attempt to nullify the elected band council as illegitimate in the Wet’suwet’en territory through the environmental assessment process and not a court of law (original / archive).

 

A demand that the BC government must challenge the hereditary chiefs legally to establish any constitutional authority over their land title

 

As far as I understand, Indigenous tribes possess Aboriginal title and unique rights within the constitution, but they still fall under the Crown’s jurisdiction with respect to land expropriation. Careful consideration and concessions must be made should the government need to infringe on those Section 35 rights afforded to Indigenous peoples.

 

A demand that the environmental assessment acknowledge the hereditary chiefs’ place in the governance structure

 

Several arguments are made to delegitimize the Wet’suwet’en band council as having no authority. This is another example, but it doesn’t hold with Indigenous experts that indicate it’s the hereditary chiefs who lack any recognized legal power (the Delgamuukw precedent is dissected in a subsequent section). Given the countless disputes about this very issue, it seems pertinent for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to release a statement addressing the Delgamuukw decision to resolve this impasse and misinformation that is wreaking havoc with Indigenous identities and leadership (original / archive).

 

A claim that all waterways passing through the Wet’suwet’en territory belong to the hereditary chiefs

 

This is an unrealistic demand because waterways also pass through colonial land and other Indigenous nations.

 

A claim that each of the 38 clans (Houses) within the Wet’suwet’en territory must receive individual environmental assessments specific to their exact locations in the same geographical area, followed by a claim that Indigenous consultation didn’t occur until that demand is met

 

If this rule was adopted, no environmental assessment process could be completed within decades. The goal seems to be gaining the ability for every family to veto an industrial project and/or for every family to be individually compensated in separate deals with any corporation that passes through the territory. Logistically this could make any development impossible due to individual holdouts and cost 38 times more for any business with Wet’suwet’en peoples. Don’t forget, the same rules would have to apply to the installation of solar farms and windmills.

 

A claim that Coastal GasLink must provide an inventory of every plant and tree used by the Wet’suwet’en people to fulfill a proper environmental assessment

 

There is no principle to back this up in any provincial, federal, or Wet’suwet’en law. Even environmental scientists can’t count every living thing in a region. This is a vexatious demand that can’t be met, likely concocted to deny the project.

 

A demand that Coastal GasLink must rehabilitate all waterways that carry fish consumed by the Wet’suwet’en people, including damage from past naturally occurring landslides and over-fishing by colonial canneries since the 1950’s

 

This is another unrealistic request that has nothing to do with the project, nor would it succeed in a legal challenge.

 

A demand that Coastal GasLink rehabilitate an old mine that belonged to an unrelated company because the Wet’suwet’en people weren’t compensated by the proper channels historically

 

Again, this has nothing to do with the project and TransCanada/TC Energy can’t be held responsible for corporations that operated in the area previously. It’s either an unflattering cash grab, or a reason to deny the project by making it impossible to meet their terms.

 

A demand that Coastal GasLink mitigate widespread climate change, including rock acidification, ocean quality, fish populations, forest fires, historical logging, floods, and earthquakes

 

No government in the world has been able to do all these things and no single corporation could afford them or be held liable.

 

A demand for assessment of the cumulative effects posed by Euro-Canadian settlers over the past 150 years, also for each season

 

The legal terminology for this is ‘frivolous and vexatious’. While I agree these studies need to be done as part of a reconciliation effort, that duty doesn’t belong to Coastal GasLink or as a condition to approve any industrial projects.

 

A demand that the environmental assessment for Coastal GasLink take into consideration the historical wrongs suffered by the Wet’suwet’en people, including disease brought by settlers, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, racism, and residential schools

 

My heart goes out to them and I feel crass trying to write about it. I’m not an insensitive person and I did walk in their shoes to experience the pain firsthand. It’s apparent that healing is needed. It’s just that an environmental process isn’t the place to find it and Coastal GasLink is an inappropriate respondent. That hereditary chiefs would include this in an EA tells me the province should offer several long term counsellors. Surely they’re speaking in grief, among many other emotions that are the result of colonialism.

 

A claim that any access roads are unacceptable in the pristine wilderness, with this view supported by the Tsayu clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation

 

A few days ago an open letter to the hereditary chiefs was written by the Tsayu clan and published in the Vancouver Sun. It appears they’ve reconsidered their support and they accuse the chiefs of profiting from the Delgamuukw case in relation to logging, as they use the same argument to prevent young people from earning a living now that they’re comfortably retired. The letter continues to accuse dissenting chiefs of breaking Indigenous laws to manipulate the Coastal GasLink outcome. Ultimately it’s a plea to stop the hypocrisy that calls on tribal members for assistance and an honest respect for Wet’suwet’en traditions (original / archive).

 

Finally, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs reject the Coastal GasLink project because the company didn’t accept their alternate route through the McDonnell Lake area in the environmental consultations

 

This argument has been asserted by left-wing partisans, as well as the mainstream media, and some members of parliament. On February 16, 2020, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Green MP Paul Manley, and NDP negotiator Nathan Cullen all hit the circuit hard to misinform the public. Nearly all media outlets neglected to fact check their statements, preferring instead to produce fake news that tarred and feathered TransCanada/TC Energy and the federal Liberal government.

 

The common refrain was that Coastal GasLink ignored and disrespected the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. They claim the alternate route was declined because it would have cost $800 million more and delayed the project by a year. Some sources insinuated it was due to the proximity of colonial towns as well. Global News carried this propaganda (original / archive). The Globe and Mail carried this propaganda (original / archive). Only CBC News got it partially right, but limited bits of the correct information were buried at the end after the article reinforced the same inappropriate arguments (original / archive).

 

It was never possible for the Coastal GasLink pipeline to take the McDonnell Lake route, regardless of who it inconvenienced or the whopping addition to a final price tag. That space was already committed to the Pacific Northern Gas Looping Pipeline. The company has residential gas service that supplies the surrounding communities and it’s transported in a 12 inch pipe. An upgrade is in the works to twin that line with a second pipeline that is twice the size, with a 24 inch diameter to cover 525 kilometres (original / archive).

 

The Coastal GasLink commercial pipeline is 48 inches in diameter and there is nothing anyone could do to make it safe to run the three lines together. This could even raise liability issues between the two companies that PNG wouldn’t consent to, but on drone the rumours that this had something to do with disrespecting the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en. Elizabeth May and Nathan Cullen really pulled a fast one, but all this posturing has to stop because it’s preventing the facts from getting to the people who need them most. I’m just so sick and tired of seeing all the ways colonials look at Indigenous people as some kind of weapon to exploit for their causes.

 

Pertaining to accusations that hereditary chiefs broke Wet’suwet’en law, there appears to be some validity. The Tsayu clan went public with allegations and a local website posted supporting documents that outline the nation’s rules. It’s a scathing indictment of four male hereditary chiefs who stand accused of misogyny and illegally stripping three female hereditary chiefs of their titles, as punishment for supporting the Coastal GasLink project. Male chiefs who supported the women were also stripped of their titles in what’s being dubbed a hostile takeover of the Wet’suwet’en Nation (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive).

 

Technically that means Minister Bennett is negotiating a pipeline agreement and Aboriginal title rights with alleged criminals who stole that authority by holding the Wet’suwet’en people administratively hostage, according to traditional governance law. It’s expedient for the government but rest assured it will divide the community more, because colonials interfered and without legal justification, the Crown chose who holds the power over others in the Wet’suwet’en Nation. This same problem keeps recurring since the point of first contact (original / archive).

 

The further anyone digs, the issue only gets worse. The whole fiasco was initiated by Warner Naziel and his wife, Freda Huson. He laid claim to a hereditary chief title that does not belong to his clan and she was the spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en people of the Dark House clan. Together they set up the first protest camp to prevent Coastal GasLink workers from attending the construction site.

 

It was part of the hostile takeover that broke Wet’suwet’en law, because the Naziel family was already represented by a hereditary chief for their House. No clan is allowed to interfere with another family’s leadership or usurp it from another House. The hereditary title must be passed down within the same bloodline, but Warner Naziel stole the position from Sun House as a member of the Owl House clan. He was a replacement for one of the female chiefs who was illegally stripped of her title for supporting the pipeline project. So not only is the government negotiating with alleged criminals – they’re also supporting this social violence against the rightful female leaders (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Warner Naziel and Dark House have tried everything to prevent the pipeline from being built, against the overwhelming majority of Wet’suwet’en people who support it. He’s used hostile administrative force against women and led an encampment to cut down trees as well as set fires (in a wildfire zone), in the effort to defy a court order that already took into consideration the dispute about powers between hereditary and elected leadership. He’s also getting a divorce from his wife and manipulating media to spin his story by misinforming reporters about his hereditary status and alleged dubious actions (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

Dark House recently made headlines for obtaining a 30-day pause in construction due to a recall by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to provide more information. Because media hasn’t done its homework to figure out what’s going on, the headlines were presented as if the Coastal GasLink project did something wrong. An article addressing this by CBC News was predominantly filled with misinformation (original / archive).

 

The truth of the matter is that Dark House refused to participate with Coastal GasLink’s Indigenous consultation and they thought they could delay the process by refusing to respond to invitations and correspondence that were needed to perform a government assessment. But part of the regulatory process required the company to keep track of all its attempts and responses, so Coastal GasLink was able to prove that it fulfilled the duty-to-consult. A formal record was submitted to the EAO and the project received environmental approval because they did everything asked of them by the regulator and no one could force the Dark House clan to participate (1. original PDF, 2. original PDF).

 

It was only during the height of rail blockades that Warner Naziel’s (ex)wife complained to the EAO that Dark House wasn’t consulted, as a means of buying more time to delay the project and exploit violence that was spreading across the country. In the spirit of goodwill and reconciliation, the EAO and Coastal GasLink agreed to try one more time and on February 19, 2020 the environmental process was paused for 30-days to provide time for that communication.

 

A letter was sent to Dark House by the BC government that outlined the many ways Coastal GasLink complied with the environmental assessment. In very kind words it was communicated that several of the complaints lodged by Dark House were properly addressed before the approval was granted. The mitigation efforts were shared in the letter, along with numerous encouragements for Dark House to communicate with GasLink representatives. All the technical aspects were already underway and the only part left was this extension for Dark House to contribute its traditional knowledge and concerns for the healing centre that Coastal GasLink was always prepared to accommodate (original PDF).

 

It’s unclear and discouraging how that letter could be flagrantly misrepresented by the mainstream news. It was framed as hope the project could be stopped in the environmental process and that Coastal GasLink had run afoul with the regulator. Media deliberately concealed the letter from the article and took extreme liberties to portray it as some sort of private document that was obtained by an intrepid reporter. It was always available on the BC government website but that misinterpretation spread across all of social media like a virus intent to dis-inform the public, as well as negotiators and legislators (original / archive).

 

The hack jobs surrounding every facet of the Indigenous protests should become mandatory study material in journalism courses across Canada. It doesn’t matter which side or political persuasion, every last part of these Wet’suwet’en disputes have been severely misrepresented.

 

Still on a mission to set the record straight, Warner Naziel and his uncle filed a lawsuit against the federal government (based on the authority of stolen/fraudulent hereditary credentials). These two rogue chiefs are now being portrayed as the popular opinion in the Wet’suwet’en Nation. They won’t challenge the Coastal GasLink project in a proper legal venue. They won’t challenge the band council in a proper legal venue to test if the elected body can be declared illegitimate. They won’t pursue the Supreme Court for a decision to clarify who controls the Aboriginal title. But they did ante up to sue the feds for failing to meet targets within the non-binding Paris Agreement as a matter of constitutional obligation. It’s another frivolous claim that is guaranteed to fail and the only purpose is stalling the pipeline long enough to make the project too expensive to be viable. They’re also seeking to have energy projects cancelled across Canada retroactively (original / archive).

 

This disingenuous narrative is bolstered by a former BC treaty negotiator. The news is running with the word of Brian Domney, as if it’s gospel and he has any knowledge about sovereignty or constitutional law. The Wet’suwet’en Nation has been negotiating a land claim with British Columbia since 1997 and Domney worked on the file for the last seven years before retirement.

 

In articles that have gone viral with the misinformed left-wing, he claims the government knew it was hereditary chiefs who control the Aboriginal title all along. This is absolutely false and the Supreme Court of Canada decision will be dissected further on. Domney misrepresents that situation and accuses the provincial government of ‘shopping for Indians’, with racist implications that are meant to impugn them. He also reinforces the misconception that band councils lack the authority to sign agreements with industry (original / archive).

 

Opposing these few men who’ve taken the Wet’suwet’en Nation hostage are a greater number of women that include hereditary chiefs who claim the men are abusing their traditional tribal law. It caused them great pain to step forward and air the problems in their community, but things are so far out of control they felt obligated to correct the record (1. original / archive – Wet’suwet’en, 2. original / archive – Wet’suwet’en, 3. original / archive – Haisla, 4. original only – Skin Tyee, 5. original / archive – Witset).

 

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It’s a sorry reflection of Canada when matriarchs ask for help and everyone ignores them because the angry din of a few rogue men is preferable to honest women. The layers of exploitation against these fearless leaders are many, and they culminate with federal and provincial governments negotiating a deal with their oppressors in a desperate bid to keep colonial partisans and politicians happy.

 

This is not what reconciliation looks like and I’m stunned that Minister Bennett would capitulate to the men, after everything she absorbed during the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These matriarchs are just as capable of entering an agreement and nothing should have been negotiated in their illegally forced absence. The NDP and Green Party will also need to examine how they turned their backs on the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s legitimate hereditary chiefs who are women. Perhaps someone can explain to them how this arrangement meshes with UNDRIP.

 

Right-Wing Escalations

 

It’s hard to tell if Conservative parties across Canada are aware of the full implications of their adversarial behaviour in the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk disputes, or if they can only see in terms of an electoral cycle. In any event, their severely divisive and escalatory agendas should disqualify them from participating in negotiations about or between Indigenous and colonial governments, at least until they can get with the program (original / archive).

 

Although this is a highly partisan statement, it is not motivated by a partisan interest on my part. I’m speaking strictly to the futility of brutal assimilation policies that continue to be promoted by right-wing proponents, frequently resulting in the encouragement of systemic and vigilante violence.

 

Of all the measures needed, warfare is not one of them. Subjecting Indigenous residents to altercations, gun threats, and calls for vehicular manslaughter when they’ve already survived torture in residential school electric chairs is simply beyond the pale – so depraved that the only comparison is dictatorships in the Middle East.

 

Conservative parties used to be in lockstep with the Canadian business community, but their blatant racism toward the Indigenous plight has caused them to become tone deaf to that traditional base. Companies and even states are divesting from our economy due to the rise of technocracy that requires social license to operate. Partisans can bang their fists on the table however hard they please, but it can’t change the fact that larger corporations with the ability to invest also have entire departments dedicated to reputation management that are risk averse to blatant racism and violence.

 

Conservatives of every ilk can also deny this with a litany of excuses, but the proof is in the pudding that kept them out of government in the last federal election. It was theirs to lose and that’s exactly what they did, because CEO’s beyond the oil patch aren’t beholden to political masters at any cost. The pivot to hardcore social conservatism has come at an extreme cost to fiscal conservatism and nowadays there are few companies that would stand beside a Conservative leader to bear the brunt of this partisan-branded hatred. This behaviour can’t be justified to shareholders and that’s the bottom line.

 

It behooves right-wing partisans to take a look at what they’re selling and how that message is packaged, if they ever expect to be stably employed. The lack of a plan for climate change isn’t the only reason they had to campaign without traditional, high-powered endorsements in the last federal election. The following examples will serve as a mirror to demonstrate how they’re perceived by others.

 

Outgoing leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer, believes the small group of American-led anarchists is responsible for denying Canadian prosperity. He blames Indigenous nations on the Canadian side for their cause. No matter what colonials do it must be the red man’s fault, including the policies of provinces that generate higher unemployment rates for his fellow white man.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Peter MacKay, endorsed physical confrontation by constituents against Indigenous supporters. As a former justice minister, he encouraged the public to meddle with a court injunction by taking the law into their own hands. After great backlash he deleted the controversial tweet, but proceeded to fundraise in the same vein (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Peter MacKay’s campaign manager, Alex Nuttall, conflated his religion with opposing Indigenous protests, in addition to shooting guns (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

After public intervention, the church was forced to denounce Alex Nuttall’s insinuation (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Erin O’Toole, proposes federal legislation to criminalize public protest without a court injunction. He claims to support the right to protest, just not anywhere the public will see it by Indigenous peoples. He would also revoke charitable status for organizations that challenge his rules, as well as appoint RCMP officers to monitor Indigenous peoples specifically (original / archive).

 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (of the United Conservative Party) tabled the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to criminalize the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk protests in the spirit of O’Toole’s proposal. It remains to be seen if this legislation can withstand a constitutional challenge, for revoking the right to associate, the freedom of expression, and Indigenous rights, while circumventing the need for a court injunction.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, called for the head of the RCMP to be fired if she won’t abandon peaceful negotiations, order officers to use force against Indigenous peoples, and ignore their nation-to-nation claims based on UNDRIP (original / archive).

 

Québec Premier François Legault (of the Coalition Avenir Québec) suggested that Mohawks possess AK-47 machine guns at the Kahnawake blockade. Despite denials from the Mohawk police force (that is recognized by provincial and federal governments), he refused to retract the inflammatory rumour or apologize. Many interpret this as provoking a fabricated military response to Indigenous peoples on their territory (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Also in Québec, political strategist Luc Lavoie mused about shooting Indigenous protesters between the eyes with a .45 calibre handgun. The Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador are looking into filing a professional complaint, as this violent speech transpired during a mainstream media broadcast (original / archive).

 

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Source: Le Devoir (original / archive)

 

Due to the violent provocations in Québec, an emergency meeting was held among the Mohawks of Kahnawake. Schools were closed and Indigenous children were transported home on buses that had to conceal the Mohawk logo for their protection from right-wing vigilantes (original / archive).

 

Conservative member of parliament, Pierre Poilievre, characterized the Indigenous protests as a “war on working people” in the House of Commons, as if Indigenous people don’t work and they’re an irritant to the Caucasian population (original / archive).

 

Conservative celebrity investor, W. Brett Wilson, who backs the Buffalo Project, urged a civil war against the Tyendinaga Mohawks with military force (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Near Morris, Manitoba a transport truck was caught on video driving into Indigenous protesters. One person was allegedly hit and the driver was stopped by police, but immediately released to carry on with his or her journey (original / archive).

 

An Alberta man is selling decals that depict a train running over Indigenous protesters. He claims it’s only a joke, but the sticker also displays the “Alberta Strong” stamp that belongs to the alt-right movement (original / archive).

 

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Source: Toronto Star (original / archive)

 

At a bathroom somewhere in Canada, an Indigenous journalist’s family is taught step-by-step how to stop being ‘dirty Indians’ (original / archive). I experienced similar racism on a near daily basis with EM, so nothing has changed in the past twenty years.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

In Ontario, a bomb threat was issued against Casino Rama that resulted in a full evacuation. It’s billed as “Ontario’s only First Nations resort casino” and it’s located on the Chippewa reservation. All of mainstream media misreported the location as the adjacent colonial City of Orillia (original / archive).

 

International news organization Al Jazeera compiled a ‘mean tweets’ video that had Canada’s Indigenous people read a selection of racist tweets they’re forced to endure, to participate in social media amid the Wet’suwet’en dispute. The vast majority are implied death threats (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

In Vancouver, British Columbia an Indigenous man was sucker-punched out of the blue at an intersection. The assailant allegedly threatened him over the Coastal GasLink pipeline and fled the scene immediately. In the same city a mom and her son were attacked in their vehicle while dropping the boy off at school. On that occasion a man is alleged to issue a death threat and smash a child’s wagon on their car for several minutes while spewing obscenities. The only apparent motive is the mother and son’s indigeneity (original / archive).

 

Speaking to the Vancouver reports, even a well-intentioned director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network downplayed physical altercations and death threats as not posing an imminent risk. Despite wanting to help, his attitude is dismissive of all the missing and murdered Indigenous women that other agencies classify as cultural genocide, now compounded by the racist uprising in response to the protests regarding Indigenous rights.

 

A school in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta was recently placed on lockdown due to a group of teenage boys who recorded a video while allegedly drinking and driving as they threatened to harm Indigenous students (original / archive).

 

A second video was discovered of the same alleged boys threatening to “scalp” Indigenous peoples (original / archive). It’s unclear if they understood the term to represent a death threat and desecration to a dead body, but what is apparent is they learned this racism from their families and/or community. According to research at Harvard University, racism can be learned by the tender age of 3-years-old (original / archive). That means the path forward will take at least two generations to rectify this injustice and that’s if everyone is committed to reconciliation from this point forward.

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Meanwhile, if anyone wishes to harbour anti-Indigenous hatred and interfere with court injunctions, Ezra Levant and Rebel Media will provide them with a free attorney when his organization isn’t busy campaigning for the Conservatives (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

The last example that demonstrates how right-wing partisans appear to big business arises from Andrew Scheer and the threat of a non-confidence motion to throw Canada into a snap election. It was pointless and immature grandstanding to keep the public on edge, because the Conservative Party of Canada hasn’t chosen a new leader to even put a candidate on the ballot. It’s just more instability with the sole intention of stirring up more hatred toward First Nations, whether they agreed to a pipeline or not. I doubt executives overseeing the Coastal GasLink project appreciate endangering their allies in the Wet’suwet’en territory for little more purpose than indulging blatant racism (original / archive).

 

Left-Wing Escalations

 

Unfortunately left-wing leaders and partisans understand less about Indigenous rights than their political counterparts. As a result, their grandstanding on the backs of Indigenous tribes is trivial and selfish, in a way that ends up being communicated as misinformation to cloud the minds of voters.

 

Take for example the actions of Jagmeet Singh, as leader of the federal NDP. He has not been vocal against the swell of racist attacks, but he utilized them as a means of showboating against the prime minister for his own benefit. There are no calls for police to enforce criminal charges in response to the countless death threats and physical altercations that have become the norm against Indigenous peoples. Instead he produced a TikTok video that makes light of the situation, in what some described as a feeble attempt to become a social media celebrity (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Singh also misled the public about what was transpiring between the Wet’suwet’en and federal government. He claimed the Indigenous nation couldn’t get the ear of the prime minister, while ignoring the fact that the Coastal GasLink project is a purely provincial matter within British Columbia. The dispute only became a federal issue when NDP Premier John Horgan refused to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and NDP mediator, Nathan Cullen, failed to make progress as the province’s representative.

 

Instead of being honest about impending meetings between the chiefs and federal government ministers, Singh sought to hide shortcomings of the NDP that caused this dispute to spill across the country. Instead of being forthright he added to the public’s confusion about matters of jurisdiction and it’s only due to the NDP’s failures that federal government intervention became necessary (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

On the same day, NDP Premier John Horgan inflamed the situation by predetermining an outcome for the government meetings with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that he refused to attend himself. As the federal government dispatched Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett to mediate with disenfranchised tribal leaders, Horgan declared through mainstream media that the Coastal GasLink project is proceeding no matter what, undercutting her efforts to ease the tension (original / archive).

 

No honest broker can enter mediation with a fixed outcome that entirely denies one side of the equation and what’s missing from partisan propaganda is the inner contradictions faced by this party that are causing it to behave badly. On one hand, the NDP relies on support from environmentalists who’ve piggybacked their cause onto the Wet’suwet’en people. On the other hand, the NDP is founded on labour unions that have a close relationship with the party. Those unions in turn are funded by worker dues from the oil and gas industry that are funnelled to NDP causes in solidarity with getting them elected. Although there’s a new ban on direct union donations, they still run third-party issue-based campaigns that support the interests of the party.

 

Behind the curtain the NDP is firmly on the side of industry because labour can’t exist without capital. That isn’t a partisan insult – it’s merely the truth of a complicated relationship. There could be no grander dilemma for the party when it forms a provincial government and has to negotiate with Indigenous nations about issues that involve industry, rights, and the environment (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

These inner conflicts are what explain the awkward responses from Jagmeet Singh, that have now inspired calls for a new party leader by a growing number of dedicated partisans. They’re confused because the NDP can’t reconcile these ideological collisions between their own activists.

 

This Twitter thread speaks volumes about the exodus of disappointed supporters (original / archive).

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

In the absence of realistic leadership on the left, university students have conflated Indigenous rights with climate change and joined the protest in support of divestment. The extreme polarization of all issues in Canadian politics has deprived them of an education about Indigenous nations and the complex state of modern treaties, or how the people they think they’re campaigning for predominantly support themselves by facilitating oil, gas, and mining industries (original / archive).

 

I’m not saying the policy to link First Nations with fossil fuels as a primary path to prosperity is a sustainable choice, but so long as younger generations are kept in the dark they won’t brainstorm another way to help these tribes they claim to support.

 

Without realizing it, they’re victimizing Indigenous nations in an opposite but equal way to the Conservatives. The Wet’suwet’en people are torn straight through their families due to pressure tactics employed by the left-wing to abandon hope of middle class jobs if they infringe on climate issues. No one has a solution to ‘keep it in the ground’ that would offset lost income and replace one of Canada’s larger contributors to the economy. Nor do they have a solution to raise the billions of dollars needed to retrofit all homes and buildings with greener alternatives. Nor could they generate a charitable fund large enough to provide everyone with electric vehicles.

 

Canada and the world-at-large are in an incredible predicament. The middle of change is the most uncomfortable state of being, especially when the outcome remains undefined and unable to provide a specific goal to reach. The rampant dishonesty and hatred of opposing sides further clouds everyone’s vision, to the point that left and right persuasions had a conniption fit when the prime minister asked for patience.

 

What the country needs is for parties to work together to ensure a brighter future, but the parties would rather threaten to take down the government to keep Canada in limbo and avoid doing the hard lifting. Worst of all is that both sides exploit the Indigenous cause to use it as a proxy and dumping ground for colonial vitriol. First Nations already have enough problems to sort through the meaning of reconciliation, and rehabilitation from the centuries of abuse that we’ve already overburdened them with. It is therefore disheartening that we hold them up as human shields and tokens of colonial self-righteousness on matters of climate and economy. As much as people might hope, they’re not our saviours and they’re not responsible for presiding over Canadian disputes.

 

Ellis Ross is the MLA for Skeena in British Columbia. He’s the former chief councillor for the Haisla Nation and a respected Indigenous leader. His tribe signed the deal for a Kitmat LNG plant to be built on the reserve and he speaks to the damage caused by colonial proxy wars being fought through his people. Have a listen:

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

The left-wing isn’t as innocent as it likes to portray and there have been acts of violence attributed to the wholesome warriors as well. The public is aware of assaults during a protest at the BC legislature, but it’s not cognizant that colonials committed them by appropriating the Wet’suwet’en name (original / archive).

 

Racism on the left takes a more obscure form but if partisans were brave enough to inquire with First Nations, they would learn it’s just as dangerous as the blatant displays by Conservatives. This might have been the most valuable lesson I learned from my time with EM, that appears to be reconfirmed today by the Mohawk leadership in Kanesatake. As the full power of news media descended on the BC legislature it did not amass at the Indigenous reservation west of Montréal, where the grand chief was also locked out of his government building and threatened for his job. This confrontation ensued because he asked for peace and patience (original / archive).

 

Band councils across the country are being silenced by supporters of hereditary chiefs, climate activists, and even anarchists, who far outnumber Indigenous protesters that are already wrestling with the legitimacy of elected chiefs within their own nations. Colonials have split Indigenous tribes so starkly that some of them are turning against the concept of their own democracy.

 

To be clear, it is not my position to decide what’s best for them and this is only a recap of the events that are transpiring. But it’s appropriate to be concerned when colonial placards and anarchist flags blot out Indigenous regalia at protest sites that result in dramatic repercussions for the Mohawk and Wet’suwet’en people (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

The Wet’suwet’en Nation has also experienced left-wing violence that could have endangered lives, equally threatening as the gun threats by aggressive pro-oil activists. A bridge on the service road in their traditional territory had its support beams severed and bolts loosened, so the structure would collapse if any Coastal GasLink workers, Indigenous local vehicles, or RCMP tried to cross it. I believe it’s fair to say the proxy war is getting out of hand and none of the factions manipulating Indigenous nations on either side of the equation have their best interests at heart (original / archive).

 

Media Still Promotes Racism

 

A few years ago the media was confronted with a racist scandal. In a magazine issue that was supposed to promote Indigenous writers, a non-Indigenous editor contributed an editorial that turned the industry on its head for revealing how deep the racism runs in Canadian journalism. He suggested a ‘cultural appropriation prize’ to encourage more stories about Indigenous peoples by colonials. He didn’t see anything wrong with it and was surprised when the debate exploded (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Numerous reporters and editors weighed in on social media, making the controversy worse. Some of them offered to contribute their own money to the prize pool and they doubled-down on the right of colonials to steal Indigenous voices. It was a rowdy session around the proverbial water cooler that the public doesn’t normally witness, yet these entitled attitudes persist in every corner of the industry. Most of the degenerates who revelled in the chance to flaunt their racism in the mainstream press went on to be promoted and continue to dominate the political discourse across Canada (original / archive).

 

It could have been an important learning opportunity, but that concept was lost on a blue blood culture that hijacked the topic and re-framed it as an issue of free speech. Ojibwe journalist and advocate, Jesse Wente, made a prescient comment at the time. He said:

 

“The biggest challenge coming out of this for the Canadian media is going to be how you re-approach the Indigenous community after this.” (original / archive) 

 

It’s now three years later and instead of getting better, the anti-Indigenous racism is more overtly entrenched. This can be seen today in the devil-may-care approach to covering the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk protests and how little it matters to get the story right when portraying their history and concerns. I don’t think any colonial reporters have bothered to research their stories before submitting for publication. The Twitterverse is even reluctant to check with APTN to verify information with Indigenous sources.

 

As mentioned earlier, the entire cadre of Canadian journalists couldn’t bother to report correctly about a bomb threat involving Casino Rama. They mislabeled the location as Orillia, Ontario, unaware of the Chippewa tribe and Rama reservation with its own Indigenous police force. This includes the social justice champions at Toronto Star, the venerable Canadian Press, and CBC News that had promised to do better after the cultural appropriation issue. None of them ventured to make a connection with the racist uprising surrounding the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk protests either. The story was entirely whitewashed and focused on restoring colonials’ ability to gamble and have fun (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

At CTV News, a story aired about a train derailment during the time of Indigenous rail blockades and tense counter-protests. They said an anonymous source claimed it was a deliberate act of sabotage, but CN Rail would not confirm and the rumour couldn’t be substantiated. The story was printed anyway, with no justification for protecting a source that also couldn’t be corroborated. This amounts to a racist insinuation that was meant to scare the public, void of any journalistic integrity. There was also no mention of Canada’s crumbling rail infrastructure that is resulting in regular derailments across the country (original / archive).

 

No one at Postmedia was able to figure out that a cartoon depicting ‘drunk Indians’ was racist before it was published. It took a public uproar to force them to reconsider, after the fact (original / archive).

 

Canadian news media has observed an influx of racist and violent comments on stories related to the Wet’suwet’en dispute. They’ve reached a consensus about how to handle them and comment sections may be closed if lines are crossed. Those lines include specific death threats, talk of shooting up public protests, vehicular manslaughter, and genocide by gas chamber. When this happens on social media, a post can be reported for moderation and possible removal (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

But notice how no one is reporting these crimes to police, and how police are reluctant to lay charges when they become aware of this material. These are criminal acts of hate speech, uttering death threats, and stalking/harassment that are widely condoned by closing our eyes to them. Instead of being responsible citizens, the industry would rather spin the racist feedback into a clickbait story that will fetch profits. This behaviour represents an incredible psychopathy and it’s in charge of informing the entire public. Is there any wonder why the Indigenous population doesn’t trust colonials?

 

The police will however arrest Indigenous protesters and commit alleged acts of excessive force when cuffing journalists who are trying to cover their protest events (original / archive).

 

Canadian media is additionally guilty of fabricating the news in their efforts to steer public opinion. It’s such a widespread problem that major outlets have their own pollsters to concoct headlines that are nothing more than fake news. The problem is that not all polls are created equal and the ones used by media procure results from ‘online panels’ that are neither legitimate nor scientific, no matter what they say in the methodology. It’s not a case of the old school rejecting modern technology. It’s because of biases, dishonesty, and anonymity that can’t be controlled in a limited digital pool (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive, 4. original / archive, 5. original / archive).

 

For example, anyone can sign up and lie about their age, gender, income level, and location. Anyone can create multiple accounts with fake information as well. Hacking scripts can be written to interfere with online polls. It also depends where the person found a link to join the panel. If ads are placed on partisan pages, you can be guaranteed that responses will skew a certain way (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

One of these corrupt polls was done on behalf of Global News and it trended on social media. It reported that 61 percent of Canadians are opposed to blockades related to the Wet’suwet’en cause (original / archive).

 

It was conducted by Ipsos and to make a point, I joined the online panel from an American website that was soliciting participants who hated Justin Trudeau. As far as Ipsos is concerned, I’m a 55-year-old man with a $100,000 salary and I have four kids living at home. (That would really surprise my family and throw Mother’s Day a curve ball.) But I’ve received these ‘random’ invitations that would result in corrupting the Ipsos data and some American guy, who happens to be an accountant for Koch Industries, has offered to pay me $5 every time I do (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Disclaimer: I do not intend to interfere with Ipsos polling and this was only done for the sake of investigation, to test how easy it is to skew online polls.

 

Needless to say, we still don’t know how many Canadians support the Wet’suwet’en people but Global News took that propaganda to the bank when its story went viral. This is another form of racism and exploitation against Indigenous peoples.

 

The National Post did the same darn thing with DART & Maru/Blue. They fabricated a headline that also went viral, claiming 69 percent of Canadians think the country is broken under Justin Trudeau’s leadership. It was conducted recently during the rail blockades by polling an online panel (original / archive).

 

Surely this news discouraged the Mohawks in Tyendinaga and made them believe that most of Canada is deeply racist against them. It made the prime minister stop asking for patience and the police engage in arrests, when otherwise they were trying to pursue a peaceful resolution. That’s how powerful fake news can be and even our officials don’t know how to spot it.

 

News also forms the basis of many events in parliament. These polls were used to dupe the public into supporting a Conservative motion against the Indigenous protesters. Then it was repurposed to raise vast sums of money for the party, causing partisans to think that more Canadians were coming around to their way of thinking (original / archive).

 

The other side of the coin isn’t any better. Ricochet is a media organization run by left-wing partisans and it produced fake news that was designed to intimidate Indigenous supporters of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. It gave false hope to environmental activists that the project could be stopped and will no doubt be used to raise money for someone’s cause as well.

 

I’ve already addressed the issue of Dark House, Warner Naziel, and the BC Environmental Assessment Office, so I won’t go into too much detail. But Ricochet falsely framed Coastal GasLink as a delinquent company that didn’t fulfill its duty-to-consult or the EA requirements. They claimed this could delay the project by months! They implied Coastal GasLink treated Dark House and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs disrespectfully, except it’s not true and the 30-day extension was established to give Dark House a final chance to participate when it had previously boycotted the consultation process. I have to wonder if Ricochet read the EAO letters it reported on, or if they’ve never seen a technical process in writing before to understand what one looks like (1. original / archive, 2. original PDF, 3. original PDF).

 

The reason technical data is still needed for the area surrounding a healing centre is due to the blockade by Warner Naziel and his (ex)wife Freda Huson, popularly known as the Unist’ot’en Camp. Coastal GasLink has been respectful and not attempted to cross that barrier. They’ve kept track of all the times they attempted to receive traditional knowledge from Dark House about its interest in the centre. The accommodations for Dark House will be generated once they respond and suggest what those mitigation efforts should be. The environmental certificate has not been cancelled in the meantime. This is one component in a very large process and construction continues at other sites where blockades are not preventing entry.

 

If Dark House doesn’t participate at this point, Coastal GasLink will be allowed to proceed without their input and the court injunction will be enforced by the RCMP. They only have to show that reasonable attempts were made to satisfy the EAO. It is everyone’s hope that Minister Bennett will be able to negotiate a peaceful resolution so the RCMP doesn’t need to enforce the injunction. I’m not saying this is an ideal process for the holdouts, but it is the reality of the situation and work has already resumed (original / archive).

 

Even when the media is making its best effort to propose a path forward, it hearkens back to a plan from twenty years ago that warned the status quo is not sustainable. CBC News brought attention to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) that was spawned from collapse of the Meech Lake Accord. That implosion occurred partly because First Nations elected leaders were excluded from the process (original / archive).

 

That same alienation is repeating now in the negotiations between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the government. One elected chief is already expressing frustration that nothing has changed since the Delgamuukw decision that encouraged both Indigenous governance structures to work together. It’s shaping up to be another obstacle that could result in at least one affected First Nation rescinding support for the Coastal GasLink project, as the hereditary chiefs are brought on board and put in charge of a possible land title agreement to the exclusion of band councils and fully democratic ratification (original / archive).

 

Part of the problem with trying to apply the royal commission report to the Wet’suwet’en dispute is that it’s stuck in old thinking, based on a racist concept that obligates First Nations to accept a power sharing agreement with Canada. The idea doesn’t release Indigenous trust funds (of their own money) to their care and control and still envisions Canada as Indigenous money managers with supreme authority. That’s not a nation-to-nation relationship as envisioned by UNDRIP.

 

In a nutshell, the grand vision from twenty years ago recommended what exists today. It called for a new Indigenous affairs ministry that is split between Crown relations and services, but fundamentally serves the same purpose as the old INAC. The only difference with the RCAP is the Crown expected to have First Nations introduce Indigenous taxation so colonials could keep a greater amount of resource revenue that’s derived from Indigenous land as the middleman (original / archive).

 

Suggesting that we reconsider implementing recommendations from the royal commission is offensive to Indigenous nations, the same as it was when it was first written. The report contains no magic wands and would lead to the same impasse that’s being challenged now. It also dictates a need for colonial-style government to be imposed on, or with, hereditary governance, that both the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk Nations are trying to resolve without much success. Colonial courts continue to be the arbiter between band councils and traditional leadership, as a byproduct of resource contracts and determining who has the authority to enter agreements.

 

If Canadian journalists don’t learn to research before publishing arguments and resolutions, we will ensure Indigenous peoples continue to distrust our agendas. That makes for an awful starting point in any negotiation.

 

Nisga’a Not A Panacea Either

 

Columnists and pundits have mentioned the Nisga’a First Nation as a possible template for Indigenous tribes moving forward. They were the first group to sign a modern treaty in British Columbia with fee simple, municipal-type ownership that adopted taxation and allowed for colonial residents on the Indigenous territory. In many ways it resembles Joseph Brant’s approach that seriously backfired on the Mohawk and Six Nations (original PDF).

 

At the time this treaty was established (in the year 2000), British Columbia was led by the NDP and Canada was led by the Liberal Party. Hereditary chiefs within the Nisga’a Nation were disenfranchised as a result of the agreement because it removed their powers from a legal perspective and gave full control to an elected band council. The treaty recognized hereditary chiefs, but only in their capacity to provide advice on cultural matters. The nation embraced full democracy with elections every five years (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Politics often make for strange bedfellows and a legal dispute ensued about the constitutionality of extinguishing traditional governance rights for the hereditary chiefs. It was partially instigated and funded by Ezra Levant, in his younger years at the Canadian Constitution Foundation (original / archive). Today Levant is offering to pay for lawyers on the opposite side of the equation, to stymie hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en Nation. This disparity can be explained entirely by partisan politics and Levant’s commitment to Conservative Party interests.

 

In 2011 the Nisga’a hereditary chiefs were unsuccessful at the Supreme Court of British Columbia (original / archive). In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the case and let the provincial decision stand as a precedent (original / archive).

 

That outcome could mean that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs wouldn’t be able to challenge the elected band council for legal authority over Aboriginal title matters, despite the social peacocking and emphatic claims by the political left-wing and environmental protesters. It also means if Minister Bennett negotiates an agreement with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in the absence of elected chiefs, the latter may have grounds to legally challenge it. The Wet’suwet’en aren’t operating within the confines of a treaty yet, but it stands to reason there can’t be extreme adversity between the constitutional rights of one First Nation over another.

 

Since band council won at the BC Supreme Court, the Nisga’a elected government has come under fire regarding accusations of nepotism and financial mismanagement. An IT worker photographed documents pertaining to alleged excess spending on consultants and lawyers. The tribal government denies wrongdoing and calls the allegations malicious. It then obtained a gag order, so the details remain unavailable to the community that began protesting for a forensic audit (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive).

 

Only twenty years into its treaty, it appears the Nisga’a Nation is still struggling to merge Canadian law with its culture. The whistleblower scandal has in turn led to allegations about the lack of a free press and press freedom issues with Indigenous governments in general (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Financial independence through a taxation system has also stumbled. Economic conditions were reportedly worse under the new treaty compared to the Indian Act, and the community had a difficult time with reduced services through the Indigenous government. The president of Nisga’a Nation rejected the study that resulted in these findings, however (original / archive).

 

I don’t proclaim to know which side is correct, nor am I attempting to vilify the Nisga’a government. My point in addressing the Nisga’a community is only to explain the legal precedent they set, how it may affect the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk situations, and to demonstrate how it’s a dog whistle whenever someone in the Canadian media points to this nation as the blueprint for a solution.

 

Federal Government Missteps

 

Proving that I haven’t written this analysis with any political bias, the federal Liberal government does not escape scrutiny either. Needless missteps have occurred because parliament is prone to knee-jerk reactions and the prime minister is best advised to steep himself in the Indigenous history, over taking direction from wayward or manipulative opposition parties. There is too much at stake to allow partisan hijinks to derail sober thought and if Indigenous nations lose any more confidence in the Crown’s commitment to reconciliation, Canada could be impeded from any national strategies for the foreseeable future.

 

Cabinet ministers must be reeled back in because some of them are casually fanning the flames without recognizing the harm it causes in a situation as delicate as this. Attorney General David Lametti didn’t need to insult Mohawk warriors by calling them ‘stupid’ for throwing debris at trains passing through their protest area. It was said in defence of the Mohawk Nation when the Conservative Party pushed to classify them as terrorists, but there were thousands of other respectful words to use that wouldn’t have added to the tension (original / archive).

 

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett will need to be informed of all the legal precedents that could interfere with her intentions. I’ve outlined cases that I’m aware of previously, but another decision arose from the BC Supreme Court regarding the Haisla Nation (also part of the Coastal GasLink project). It came in the form of a libel lawsuit that involved a dispute about the authority to represent, between elected band council and supporters of the hereditary system.

 

I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong, just that the Canadian justice system appears to come down firmly on the side of elected band council in most disputes that make it to court. Hereditary supporters will cite this as colonial oppression, but the Canadian government can only operate within the bounds of Canadian law and it won’t help anyone if her draft agreement with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs could be vulnerable to a legal challenge. A setback like that could cause immense delay that would backfire politically and deepen the wedge between Wet’suwet’en peoples that she’s trying to help overcome (original / archive).

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was correct when he sought patience pertaining to the enforcement of rail blockade injunctions. When he became hyper-sensitive to opposition criticism and caved to pressure in support of police intervention, it was an ill-considered mistake that comes with serious consequences (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive).

 

Here is how that decision appeared to Indigenous peoples, Canadian voters, and international media:

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

As an influential Indigenous person explained, he’s not sure if Canada realizes what it did:

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

That’s because of the tactical disaster that Canada inherited from the British. Early colonizers placed Indigenous nations all along the Canada – US border as a means of insulating settlers by using Indigenous peoples as a barrier. I know I’ve already used this picture for reference, but now it’s time to study it carefully to let the implications sink in.

 

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Source: Government of Canada (original / archive)

 

The Indigenous protest response was mild compared to what is possible and it still paralyzed the Canadian economy as well as transportation. A new protest closed the border between Ontario and New York. A new protest closed Route 344 and the Mercier Bridge on Montréal’s south shore. A new protest closed the border between Ontario and Michigan. And a new protest closed a busy intersection in the heart of Ottawa (1. original / archive, 2. original / archive, 3. original / archive)

 

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Source: Twitter (original / archive)

 

Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair also didn’t need to add insult to injury when Mohawk police offered support to help de-escalate the standoff in Wet’suwet’en territory. As a colonial police officer himself, Blair sought to bolster the image of the RCMP by rebuffing Indigenous officers who are trained and recognized the same as federal police. The minister said:

 

They’re [a] very good and competent police service and the people in that territory deserve the very best in police service that can be provided. And today that’s by the RCMP (original / archive). 

 

Colonials can be unaware of their demeanour and harsh insensitivity toward Indigenous peoples because that prejudice has been ingrained for the past few hundred years. If the Liberal government wishes to avoid accusations of racism, they will need to overcome those biases and stop being so abrasively careless.

 

Reconciliation isn’t only about treaties and rectifying the past. It involves correcting the present mindfully as well. I appreciate the pressure that everyone is under, but they all promised to lead to gain the confidence of voters and this is what the job entails. I’m not perfect and I may have slipped in the course of drafting this editorial, but the point is I’m trying hard to respectfully communicate these difficult issues.

 

The Rule Of Law – Unspun

 

All the opposition parties keep barking about the rule of law, yet all the people pushing this point have little awareness about the law’s intricate details. The best place to start is with the Two Row Wampum, because it’s one of the original tribal laws that influenced the foundation of Canada. Everyone wishes to forget this, but that pesky little detail is what motivates the Mohawk, as well as the majority of Indigenous nations that claim they have a right to sovereignty.

 

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy may be the only entity that could attempt to pursue a claim of Indigenous sovereignty, because the Supreme Court of Canada already decided that Aboriginal title does not confer this status. Still, it is likely the Two Row Wampum would fail because British documentation of the arrangement was a Crown instrument known as the Haldimand Grant, that is governed by Crown sovereignty and fiduciary duty over the Mohawk lands. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice, rather it is an educated opinion.)

 

Former Green Party leader, MP Elizabeth May, was once a trusted member of parliament who had an acute handle on legal matters. But that academic and congenial stance has gone out the window, for her chance to infect the Wet’suwet’en Nation with a dose of toxic partisanship. It appears that May has chosen her fight against the energy industry over Indigenous rights, because she hit the television circuit to spread a whack of misinformation (original only – video).

 

May wrongly informed media that the Delgamuukw case recognized Indigenous sovereignty existed on the Wet’suwet’en territory. It absolutely did not. Instead, the landmark Delgamuukw decision said the following:

 

“As a result of the flexibility and uncertainty of the customs and rules, McEachern C.J. rejected the appellants’ claim to jurisdiction or sovereignty over the territories, (original / archive)” 

 

As well as:

 

“Macfarlane J.A. essentially agreed with the trial judge with respect to his analysis of the jurisdiction, or sovereignty issue. He characterized the claim as the right to control and manage the use of lands and resources in the territory, as well as the right to govern the people within the territory… He stated that the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en peoples do not need a court declaration to permit internal self-regulation, if they consent to be governed. However, the rights of self-government encompassing a power to make general laws governing the land, resources, and people in the territory are legislative powers which cannot be awarded by the courts. Such jurisdiction is inconsistent with the Constitution Act, 1867 and its division of powers. When the Crown imposed English law on all the inhabitants of the colony and when British Columbia entered Confederation, the aboriginal people became subject to Canadian (and provincial) legislative authority. For this reason, the claim to jurisdiction [and Indigenous sovereignty] failed (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“The aboriginal rights recognized and affirmed by s. 35(1), including aboriginal title, are not absolute. Those rights may be infringed, both by the federal (e.g., Sparrow) and provincial (e.g., Côté) governments. However, s. 35(1) requires that those infringements satisfy the test of justification (original / archive).” 

 

Elizabeth May then falsely claimed that the province and RCMP are breaking the rule of law (by entering the Wet’suwet’en territory for the purpose of Crown enforcement and development). Again an actual reading of the Delgamuukw decision proves her to be absolutely wrong. It says:

 

“In other words, notwithstanding s. 91(24), provincial laws of general application apply proprio vigore to Indians and Indian lands. Thus, this Court has held that provincial labour relations legislation (Four B) and motor vehicle laws (R. v. Francis, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 1025), which purport to apply to all persons in the province, also apply to Indians living on reserves (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“In the context of the present case, I agree with the Chief Justice that the general economic development of the interior of British Columbia, through agriculture, mining, forestry, and hydroelectric power, as well as the related building of infrastructure and settlement of foreign populations are valid legislative objectives that, in principle, satisfy the first part of the justification analysis (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“Under the second part of the justification test, these legislative objectives are subject to accommodation of the aboriginal peoples’ interests. This accommodation must always be in accordance with the honour and good faith of the Crown. Moreover, when dealing with a generalized claim over vast tracts of land, accommodation is not a simple matter of asking whether licences have been fairly allocated in one industry, or whether conservation measures have been properly implemented for a specific resource. Rather, the question of accommodation of “aboriginal title” is much broader than this. Certainly, one aspect of accommodation in this context entails notifying and consulting aboriginal peoples with respect to the development of the affected territory. Another aspect of accommodation is fair compensation. More specifically, in a situation of expropriation, one asks whether fair compensation is available to the aboriginal peoples; see Sparrow, supra, at p. 1119. Indeed, the treatment of “aboriginal title” as a compensable right can be traced back to the Royal Proclamation, 1763 (original / archive).” 

 

As well as:

 

“In summary, in developing vast tracts of land, the government is expected to consider the economic well being of all Canadians. But the aboriginal peoples must not be forgotten in this equation. Their legal right to occupy and possess certain lands, as confirmed by s. 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, mandates basic fairness commensurate with the honour and good faith of the Crown (original / archive).” 

 

In the video interview, Elizabeth May also parrots the few rogue hereditary chiefs. She claims it’s acknowledged by law that elected band council oversees the reserve area (only) and hereditary chiefs oversee the larger traditional territory. But the Green Party is wrong again because the Delgamuukw decision said this:

 

“It does not matter, in my opinion, that the present case is concerned with the interest of an Indian Band in a reserve rather than with unrecognized aboriginal title in traditional tribal lands. The Indian interest in the land is the same in both cases (original / archive).” 

 

Additionally clarified by this:

 

A further dimension of aboriginal title is the fact that it is held communally. Aboriginal title cannot be held by individual aboriginal persons; it is a collective right to land held by all members of an aboriginal nation. Decisions with respect to that land are also made by that community. This is another feature of aboriginal title which is sui generis and distinguishes it from normal property interests (original / archive).”

 

The last paragraph seems intent to create problems for Minister Bennett, in that she had no business negotiating with the hereditary chiefs to the exclusion of elected band council. The following section further indicates that any land agreement with the Wet’suwet’en people must include the other First Nations that have an overlapping interest. No quick fix was appropriate for this situation and the resulting agreement, even if ratified by the Wet’suwet’en Nation, can still be challenged by other Indigenous tribes because the Delgamuukw decision said the following:

 

“I conclude with two observations. The first is that many aboriginal nations with territorial claims that overlap with those of the appellants did not intervene in this appeal, and do not appear to have done so at trial. This is unfortunate, because determinations of aboriginal title for the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en will undoubtedly affect their claims as well. This is particularly so because aboriginal title encompasses an exclusive right to the use and occupation of land, i.e., to the exclusion of both non-aboriginals and members of other aboriginal nations. It may, therefore, be advisable if those aboriginal nations intervened in any new litigation (original / archive).”

 

As well as this:

 

“Finally, this litigation has been both long and expensive, not only in economic but in human terms as well. By ordering a new trial, I do not necessarily encourage the parties to proceed to litigation and to settle their dispute through the courts… Those negotiations should also include other aboriginal nations which have a stake in the territory claimed. Moreover, the Crown is under a moral, if not a legal, duty to enter into and conduct those negotiations in good faith. Ultimately, it is through negotiated settlements, with good faith and give and take on all sides, reinforced by the judgments of this Court, that we will achieve what I stated in Van der Peet, supra, at para. 31, to be a basic purpose of s. 35(1) — “the reconciliation of the pre-existence of aboriginal societies with the sovereignty of the Crown”. Let us face it, we are all here to stay (original / archive).” 

 

In the video interview, Elizabeth May followed up by invoking the Tsilhqot’in decision as a modifier. But that case isn’t what she claimed it to be either. Here is a direct quote that corrects the Green Party position:

 

The Court is not able, in the context of these proceedings, to make a declaration of Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal Title. The Court offers the opinion that Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title does exist inside and outside the Claim Area.” (original PDF)

 

What’s been decided is that Aboriginal title does exist and it wasn’t relinquished (ceded) to the Crown, but these precedents didn’t go far enough to precisely determine who has legal control of the land title, or who within the Indigenous government has authority between elected and hereditary chiefs. Instead the court indicated that all Indigenous members share an equal interest.

 

A reading of these cases implies malicious misrepresentation by Elizabeth May, so egregious that she could be at risk of complaints to the BC Law Society. As a lawyer she should be ashamed of dis-informing the public and Wet’suwet’en Nation, for the sake of advancing her own cause that opposes their participation in the resource economy. It’s still possible to protest fracking without manipulating anyone and tampering with Indigenous rights to make a point.

 

Several articles in mainstream media are guilty of the same, that I have to wonder if any of them were vetted by libel lawyers before going to print, as used to be standard in the journalism industry. It could be argued that many of them libeled the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the Chief Justice. As a country we used to be better than this and I am severely disappointed. It shouldn’t be up to me to perform this fact checking service unpaid, but I felt compelled to do this because my Indigenous neighbours and friends are being sold a fake bill of goods and my government has become scatterbrained trying to please everyone in the opposition.

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

 

All in all it seems that Canada isn’t having the correct discussions about Indigenous rights and relations. The facts are being constantly derailed by anyone with an agenda and the fixers that have been dispatched to appease every faction are treating the symptoms instead of the infection. Nothing can be resolved if we can’t be honest with one another. It’s difficult, discomforting, and requires massive amounts of integrity, but it remains the only viable way forward.

 

We have no choice but to respect the law when sorting through the minutiae, but it also does no good to enter anyone’s venue with guns blazing and ultimatums. In addition to the legal facts there are tactical facts as well, that have polka-dotted the entire country forcing us to find a way to live together.

 

The Supreme Court has already ruled on Indigenous sovereignty, but let’s propose for a moment that it was possible. How many reservations could build their own infrastructure and staff their nation with only local tribal members? If Canada was transformed into 630+ sovereign nations, what would the import fees cost for mailing a package from one coast to the other? What would a train ride cost to pass through a few hundred countries to visit a relative? How would each nation afford things like medicine and health insurance? Would all the people living off-reserve accept being forced to come home? And could every one of those 630+ nations defend itself against American conquest?

 

Likewise, how would Canadians afford up to 630 tariffs on every product they purchased that wasn’t locally generated? How expensive would the commute to work become if we had to pay tolls every time we crossed an Indigenous piece of land? What would happen to all the mining, gas, and oil workers when the vast majority of deposits are found on Indigenous territory? Could our senior citizens survive if their pensions imploded because they were heavily invested in natural resources? How would the logging, construction, and real estate industries fare if we had to purchase our wood from Indigenous nations that didn’t like us very much? And what would be the damage to our GDP if we had to pass through Indigenous land to export to the United States? Could our country afford socialized health care anymore, or even the grain for a loaf of bread?

 

Very few people, regardless of race, would be able to turn the lights on or heat their homes if energy transmission lines had to account for Indigenous sovereignty. The same would be true for telephones and internet. Basically we would all get punted to the Dark Ages if we can’t learn to work with each other.

 

Tolerating racism is one of the biggest things that must change. The right-wing complains when injunctions aren’t enforced, yet we have hate speech law that isn’t being enforced either. Maybe if colonials didn’t take so many vicious liberties, the police would be in a better position to attend Indigenous land to peacefully and respectfully communicate.

 

Allowing this to spiral out of control comes at a great cost to everyone. Our country is predicated on immigration and we need foreign experts in many fields to fill important gaps that Canadians can’t cover alone. We are an extremely large country with a small population. But the current snapshot of Canada portrays an angry and violent culture that could cause anyone to rethink the upheaval of relocating here. I’ve seen just as many left-wing activists attack immigrants for asking questions about the Wet’suwet’en dispute, as there are right-wing activists who threaten to run over Indigenous women and children.

 

It defies all logic for those on the left to alienate other racial minorities, as they try to learn about our controversial history and oppression of every Indigenous tribe that was here before us. Any sentient being should want to understand how we can continue to harm the Indigenous fabric that underlies the entire country to the present day. It’s so bad that politicians can become heroes for promising to allow them access to clean drinking water, or curtail a few of their deaths in our wildly prejudicial criminal justice system. The Crown-Indigenous relationship is the most complex Pandora’s box that the majority of colonials born here are still unable to grasp. If the left continues behaving this way, all it will accomplish is ironically reinforcing Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Black, and anti-Asian racism.

 

Equally disturbing is the right’s inability to take responsibility for its own actions and the negative consequences that come along with them. They could re-record Led Zeppelin’s hit and call it Anybody’s Fault But Mine. The obsession with hating Justin Trudeau because his father was prime minister four decades ago for a whopping four years is super unhealthy. If your main engine is hate and your only plan for the future is threatening to kill Indigenous people along pipeline routes, then expect investors to abandon you like the plague. Planning to get elected based on inflaming Indigenous relations is a guaranteed losing strategy.

 

Voters told this government to work together. They didn’t say to blame the Wet’suwet’en or Mohawk and hold them hostage for climate change, nor did they say to punish them because your province may be landlocked. They’re already on the hook for a dying fossil fuel industry because it’s the only prosperity we would allow them. They’ve now reminded us of their mettle because they were pushed to the limit from every possible direction. Exploiting and dividing their families to fight for colonial causes is reprehensible.

 

Moreover, they shouldn’t be contemplating a draft agreement with any government until everyone, including nations with overlapping land claims, has independent legal counsel to advise them about their interests. The law already favours the Crown in these matters and that lopsidedness could constitute duress. The Assembly of First Nations also shouldn’t abandon the band councils in their greatest time of need. If activists on either side of argument truly wanted to help, they would establish a legal fund and donate to this Indigenous cause so they can be adequately informed about their rights and limitations.

 

I see you, Canada, and it’s your legislated duty to be honourable negotiators.

Rally For Respect In Toronto

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Rally for respect in Toronto

April 12, 2011 4:00 PM

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/rally-for-respect-in-toronto.html#igImgId_4171

Region: Ontario Topics:

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  Over the weekend I had an opportunity to attend the Rally for Respect at Dundas and Yonge Square in Toronto. It was organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, but countless individuals, organizations and community groups came out to voice their concerns and support one another.

I’ve been to a handful of peaceful gatherings but a few things really struck me this time.  Although the event began as a statement against public service cuts and privatization, the venue was quickly embraced by every voter longing to be heard. Their issues ranged all levels of government, but united was their plea for basic, human consideration over that of corporations. That particular take-away was shared by everyone.

It reminded me of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s This or That project almost immediately. The people are aware that government has choices and they’re holding them accountable to make the right ones. If you visit the site it will demonstrate a number of key tradeoffs in proposed budget plans and as voters we are tasked with guiding their decisions – not the other way around and perhaps in spite of what advertising tells us.

I’ve included a photo gallery to share some of their sentiments. You’ll see messages regarding employment, subsidized housing, food, women’s rights, isolation of immigrants and military withdrawal to name a few. One could say these echoed the same qualms expressed during the G20, but without police in riot gear there were no violent incidents to mention.  Instead they brought the beautiful horses out to mingle and smiled for the camera in good spirits.  It was a very positive event, from all perspectives.

Ten thousand people harmoniously stood shoulder to shoulder, waving their flags and chanting in unison.  The mantras were equal parts frustration with not being valued and a certain warm strength that bonds them together.  A sign reads, “We Are One” and that’s exactly how I would characterize the crowd.  Yet their ages ranged from toddlers to grandparents and every ethnicity was represented.  These weren’t just certain groups of people, they were all the people united in one voice:  Fight back!

Now don’t get me wrong, their idea of fighting was to fill out a postcard that would bombard government offices for now. They’ll even hand deliver so postal staff won’t be overwhelmed.  That’s the thing about underestimating though. These folks send their dissent in writing, make songs that are lyrically pleasing and because they’re so peaceful the government hasn’t been listening. Is it not ironic, their political fates will come down to what these people scribble on a paper ballot then?

They’ll be writing for healthcare instead of jet planes. Childcare instead of prisons. Pharmacare instead of corporate tax cuts. I think the popular theme is reminding Parliament Hill that Canadians care about we-the-people, contrary to their sacrifice for the pursuit of sheer capitalism. You might also be surprised by the amount of young voters with opinions on Afghanistan, so until next time, I leave you with their video clip.

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