[Written by Elizabeth May. To receive current blog posts by email, as soon as they are published, you can subscribe here.]
Good Sunday Morning!
This weekend of Valentine’s Day is also a time marking Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This year is the thirtieth annual series of events and marches.
On Wet’suwet’en Territory, The Hereditary chiefs and matriarchs were holding a ceremony to honour the memories of the missing and murdered indigenous women when they were arrested on February 10, 2020. The hanging of red dresses along fences posts and trees has been a powerful symbol of those missing mothers and aunties and sisters and daughters. No one image spoke so powerfully to me of the failings of our government to meet its obligations to indigenous people as those of RCMP officers removing the red dresses. I guess any reminder of murdered and missing women is a threat to Coastal Gas Link.
There is a connection. The Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reported its conclusion that large resource projects and labour camps pose a threat to vulnerable indigenous women and two-spirited people. Hitch-hiking is the only mode of transit for those without cars. Greyhound service is gone. And the camps – “man camps” as the MMIWG report labels them – create risks. Not that every construction worker is a threat to women, but some are. Violence and addiction increase in such settings.
This article in The Narwhal by Sarah Cox includes photos of the RCMP taking down red dresses. It also points out that John Horgan’s claim that the company has all the permits it needs is incorrect. https://thenarwhal.ca/rcmp-exclusion-zone-called-unlawful-as-police-arrest-matriarchs-at-unistoten-healing-camp/
This week’s massive response in solidarity actions across Canada have been inspiring – or horrific, depending on where you sit. This week I have heard friends say “we cannot have mob rule.” The news media wants to focus on what this costs our economy. All I can think is, with all the clear warning the BC and federal governments have had, what did they think would happen if the RCMP moved on to Wet’suwet’en territory to arrest Hereditary chiefs? We tried to tell them that full nation to nation consultation was required. Did they think that the resistance was down to a few individuals, who could be easily hauled away to enforce an injunction that turns our national police into private cops?
One of the strongest summaries of the “rule of law” argument came in this strong letter (slightly edited and published in the Globe and Mail) from one of my favourite constituents – Ronald Wright:
“As one who wrote about the Oka Crisis in my book Stolen Continents, I had a strong sense of foreboding when I heard BC Premier John Horgan invoke the “rule of law” to justify using force against the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protesters. Those same words were used often during the Oka Crisis by the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1990. Have we learned nothing in thirty years? Of many parallels, these stand out:
“1) Like the Mohawks, the Wet’suwet’en have never lost their ancient sovereignty as an independent people. Under international law there are two ways for a people to lose their sovereignty: by armed conquest, or by signing it away in a treaty. Neither is the case here.
“2) Like the Mohawks, the Wet’suwet’en have an ancient system of self-government that predates European occupation and is still alive. In the BC case, this is exercised by hereditary chiefs, who have consistently upheld their people’s rights since outsider encroachment began.
“3) The elected band councils set up under the Indian Act merely administer the small territories defined as reserves under the Indian Act. They have no jurisdiction over traditional territories beyond those boundaries, and no authority to make ‘agreements’ on what may be done there.
“With the Delgamuukw decision of 1997 and the Tsilqot’in decision of 2014, the Supreme Court has upheld aboriginal rights in BC and has said that the Wet’suwet’en unceded territory –in other words, land never transferred to Canada – may cover as much as 22,000 square kilometres. This means that neither the federal nor provincial government has any right to enforce its will there. It is British Columbia and the RCMP who are breaking the rule of law.”
We must continue to push back on those who refer to the “rule of law” as though those who respect indigenous rights – and s 35 of the Constitution, for that matter – are outside the law. The fact is that economic damage and inconvenience for many travelers are the cost of Canada continuing to pretend we won a war and can do whatever we want to this land’s first peoples and the land that is their territory. Reconciliation and UNDRIP talk are in the air, but the mind-set of our governments appears hard-wired to fossil fuel extraction.
Meanwhile, there was news from 10 Downing Street. COP26 now has a president, replacing Claire Perry O’Neil, UK’s former Energy minister, whom PM Boris Johnson fired two weeks ago. More senior UK Tories, David Cameron and William Hague refused the role. It falls now to former secretary of state for international development Alok Sharma to steer COP26 in Glasgow to a successful conclusion.
A great deal of the success or failure of COP negotiations rides on the skill of the president. To get a successful result in November at COP26, Sharma not only has to build a strong team serving his presidency, he has to start crisscrossing the globe to build relationships, test ideas and press for early commitments to much improved targets and plans. When I look back at the dozen climate sessions I have attended, the character of the president is a huge factor. Laurent Fabius who succeeded in Paris, Patricia Espinoza who rescued climate talks in Cancun in 2010 as well as Stephane Dion who led the COP11 talks in Montreal are all remembered as spectacular chairs. The disaster in Copenhagen in 2009 was largely the fault of Prime Minister Rasmussen who fired his Environment minister half-way through the talks and took over himself. Rasmussen relied on back-room dealing and bad faith negotiation. But to most people watching these cumbersome, lumbering formal sessions, among and between 194 countries, the idea that it can all come down to a handful of people and their own talents may seem far-fetched. The world is depending on someone I had never heard of until yesterday’s announcement. With every day bringing more and accelerating bad news – locusts, storm surges and the hottest January on record, we all need to hope that Alok Sharma is a miracle worker. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/13/january-hottest-earth-record-climate-crisis
Have a great long weekend. Paul and Jenica and I are back in Parliament starting
Love and thanks,
P.S. some friends asked me to attach links to some of my recent media and articles:
My interview with Evan Solomon on CTV where I try to explain the legal foundation of Wet’suwet’en land rights: https://podbay.fm/podcast/1039513210/e/1581551460
My article on the rising costs of the TMX (formerly Kinder Morgan pipeline): https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/02/12/opinion/elizabeth-may-asks-what-cost-canada
And lastly, friends have asked for a link to the wiki page leading to a Renaissance of Green Party vision and values. “GreensTogether”.