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"Notes" # 16


I know at this moment there is a huge elephant in all of our lives that is taking up so much space there is hardly room for other concerns, that being COVID-19. But I'd like to write about another topic in today's "Notes", one that is quite confusing to me. "I am confused!" This is one of my favourite comebacks when I want individuals to answer for their own behaviour. I do not want to be seen as accusing them of something, of blaming or dumping on them. In other words, I don't want to be using "You" language on them (You should... You have to... Why do you always...), so I act confused - emphasis on 'act'.

I had an experience several months back and I'm not sure what to believe anymore! I know I was upset when I was trapped in traffic because of the protest supporting the Wet'suwet'en First Nation and their disagreement with the Coastal GasLink project in British Columbia. When I think about their method of getting people to support their way of seeing this issue, that is, through protests that disrupt automobile and train traffic, I personally was turner off by their methods at that time. However, history might say that this may be the only way they will be heard. Recent polls show 75 per cent of Canadians support any action that will help Indigenous people (me too). However, 61 per cent oppose Wet'suwet'en when it comes to the Solidarity blockades (one of the papers).

In Winnipeg, it seemed that the supporters of this protest were local people who believed that a group of First Nation chiefs didn't want the pipeline to go through their territory and this was their way of bringing attention to that belief.

Then I read in the Sun newspaper an entirely different perspective of the issue.
 "These acts of civil disobedience are not supported by the majority of First Nations. In fact, they aren't even supported by the people at the centre of the storm."

"We are told that the British Columbia legislature is being blocked, that intersections are being blocked, and that train traffic in Ontario has been put on pause because of protests from the Wet'suwet'en First Nations and their objection to the Coastal GasLink project in B.C."

"That isn't true. The band councils within Wet'suwet'en support it and their broader membership voted to approve it. It is only some Hereditary chiefs- a position somewhat equivalent to a senator- who do not want it."

"But activists and some in the media are misrepresenting the narrative. Their default position is to assume First Nations oppose all pipelines. But they do not."

"The oil and gas sector has come a long way in recent years in consulting with First Nations and bringing them on board from the ground floor. In some cases, First Nations are the biggest defenders of these projects."

You can see why I'm confused! So just what is the truth?

Perhaps there needs to be more talking amongst themselves (Wet'suwet'en and First Nations) and less walking (and holding up trains and traffic)--if the newspaper article is accurate. (???)

Hold on. The May, 2020 edition of MacLean's magazine has more to say about this issue. I summarize the following information from the article written by Nadine Yousif and Marie-Danielle .

Hereditary (not Elected) chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline that will cross 670 km in northern BC, 190 km of traditional Wet'suwet'en territory.

The political system that has been established by the Wet'suwet'en peoples is one of 'Hereditary' chiefs,( who I suppose earned their position through wisdom, age and trust of the people- Elder status). The people elect the 'Elected' chiefs. Their system sets up an interesting question of who is really "in charge" and who should be sitting down at the negotiating table.

 The whole issue of the pipeline has unearthed three contentious issues: the pro-pipeline and environmental positions; the climate change people (and the federal government) and the resource development people (and the federal government); and the third issue about how does all this fighting between Indigenous people and government and business people affect the Reconciliation process?

The Wet'suwet'en are torn between protecting their land and the financial opportunities for their people.

I am not really clear on this issue but it seems that there is some territory not covered by the boundaries of the reserve that Elected chiefs are responsible for. It is on the basis of this land that the Hereditary chiefs feel they are responsible for and are exercising their right to be part of the process. Apparently, according to Wet'suwet'en traditional law, the Hereditary chiefs can deny entry to anyone who seeks to enter their land.

The Wet'suwet'en are made up of five Clans. There are 13 House groups under these clans, each with a Hereditary chief. Presently, 8 are opposed to the pipeline, 1 is for and there are 4 vacancies at this time. So, "Who is in charge?" is a good question.

It is the Hereditary chiefs who are asking people to set up roadblocks across access roads, railway lines and in my personal experience, Main Street and Broadway in Winnipeg.

Most Elected chiefs are in favour of the pipeline in that they see the economic benefits, but it is the Hereditary chiefs that are delaying the process.

The question that crosses my mind is, if these various clans of the same nation cannot resolve their internal differences, how can they expect any outside party, whether corporate or government, to undertake serious negotiations with them, including issues related to self-government?

The Hereditary chiefs are saying that they had not been consulted in the process of the pipeline! The Coastal GasLink people are saying that they have documented 120 in-person meetings with the Hereditary chiefs, and 1300 phone calls and emails over the last six years. Who can you believe?

Now on May 15, 2020, the headline reads, "Chiefs, ministers sign B.C. Wet'suwet'en deal". Here is Dirk Meissner's (Winnipeg Free Press) take on this issue:

Government representatives and the Hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLinks pipeline rolling across their traditional territories signed a memorandum of understanding that was negotiated amid countrywide blockades marches and encampments earlier this year. (Yep I know about that)

The memorandum does not address Wet'suwet'en opposition to the pipeline, which is part of a 40-billion liquefied natural gas export terminal project in Kitimat, on B.C.'s northern coast. But it states that the federal and B.C. governments recognize Wet'suwet'en rights and title held under their system of governance.

Negotiations will proceed with both Hereditary and Elected chiefs, neighbouring Indigenous nations, local governments and others with an interest in what happens. This agreement allows for concerns about Wet'suwet'en governance issues to be addressed. That is an internal Wet'suwet'en issue, about self-determination.

I don't believe the world is quite ready to do without gas and oil, so I hope our resources can reach markets in order to benefit those Canadians whose livelihood depends on a solution. I also hope our Canadian Indigenous populations are satisfied that their territory and homes are safe and they are well compensated for their generosity in allowing this project to come to fruition.

Feedback on this issue please! I stand to be corrected and to learn more about the issue.