It’s hard not to laugh about railways shutting down in response to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arresting the occupants of the Unist’ot’en camp, which opposed the British Columbia Coastal Gaslink export pipeline.
I find it ironic, and justified, to limit the capability of a country that has built its economy on crippling Indigenous Peoples.
‘Reconciliation is dead’
Upon being arrested, Freda Huson, founder of the Unist’ot’en camp of the Wet’suwet’en people, said, “Reconciliation is dead.”
A year ago, she spoke to the United Nations about the over-policing of her people by the British Columbian government.
But since then, the injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation has passed, restricting protestors from barring workers from entering to work on the Coast GasLink pipeline.
There is a problem in this country and it’s never been about Indigenous Peoples or jobs. It’s the blind power we give our government.
I feel this way even after trying over the last three years to understand this nation’s failure to be responsible.
I feel this after I froze to the bone keeping fire for two midwinter gatherings and learning about a tradition that was nearly eradicated by policy and policing.
I feel this after I heard Justin Brake defend his role as a journalist at Muskrat Falls. He faces charges for criminal mischief and disobeying a court order after the reporter followed protesters, or land protectors, as they broke a lock on a gate and entered Nalcor Energy property on Oct. 22, 2016. He also faced civil contempt proceedings in the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. He won the civil case while the criminal charges are pending.
I biked to Schubenacadie, Nova Scotia to possibly become an environmental extremist in the face of the Alton Gas Project because some grandmothers needed help.
I had sold every instrument I owned and some camera equipment at a pawn shop to make enough money to go to Wet’suwet’en territory and would be there right now if I didn’t think something was going to happen here.
All so I could see, hear, feel and know what is going on.
It has become my life, and I resent the world for that.
I would prefer to go through university uninterrupted by the ongoing destruction of the people in my country, but apparently that’s only a priority when it inconveniences people.
I wasn’t paid once in three years to do these stories. No one thinks they’re significant until guns are at the ready.
Authoritative figures aren’t the answer
Authorities either police or ignore Indigenous Peoples.
From Kevin Vickers, the incident commander of the Burnt Church crisis, to Roger Brown, the assistant commissioner at the time of the shale gas protests in Elsipogtog, RCMP are seen by some as heroes. Still, under their leadership, there were numerous arrests of Indigenous Peoples trying to exist outside of a system abusing them. For me personally there is great moments of sacrifice and responsibility for the RCMP in this country but being deployed wearing fatigues is not one of them.
New Brunswick’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart ignored the ongoing Wolastoqey land claims around Sisson Brooke and Mount Carleton during his speech at the Assembly of First Nations in 2019. As for Nova Scotia, the government and the court system is still dealing with the repercussions of former Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron stating in a case brief the Mi’kmaq people of the Sipekne’katik Band were a conquered people and didn’t have to be consulted. And you and I give them authority to pursue more privilege without any responsibility.
Indigenous Peoples owe Canadians nothing, not one red cent, as it were.
These conflicts are what the country was built on, and the endless final solution that has been pursued is assimilation and subjugation. So damn you if you think negotiation was actually considered before people were abused.
Before arrests on Wet’suwet’en territory, notes revealed from an RCMP strategy session for a militarized raid on the Wet’suwet’en land said, “lethal overwatch is req’d,” a term which means the police is prepared to use force and weapons. In a separate document, an RCMP officer said arrests would be necessary for “sterilizing the site,” according to a Guardian article.
No one official cared then, and very little has changed except for the RCMP’s release of multiple press releases that stated ongoing criminal investigations would be conducted. The reason? A bag was found along the road leading in with fuel-soaked rags as well as traps with gasoline, kindling and tires.
No firebombs were used during the siege of the camp and its occupants have maintained their peaceful resistance.
Time to take action
Reconciliation died the moment it was born of a committee trying to manage how reparations for genocide should be conducted by large bodies. Universities like our own invest in companies that destroy land. And University of New Brunswick for all its powwows hasn’t returned any land from here to Saint John to peoples they say they support.
You can’t effectively patriate away responsibility from individuals who must be accountable for their privilege. You can, however, dismantle the very measures that have made those structures successful.
One such measure of success is to not stand idle while human beings are losing land, life and liberty all of which are afforded to companies more so than people due to the discretion of politicians.
This isn’t about being white.
Colonization relied on white supremacy and assimilation, and continues to do so, but many status Natives and entire reserves benefit from being the token or go-to authority permitting projects like the Coastal Gaslink.
Some Indigenous Peoples agree with the pipeline. They are constricted to the economic desperation and have the same whimsical material desires as any company.
But this is beyond that. Any arrests are too many.
You can come from any corner of the world and become a tyrant.
Here we are on the vantage point of a federally funded university that grows its own wealth by funding corporations like TC Energy, which will push through Indigenous Peoples to support a healthy GDP. In this tower of wealth, potential and knowledge, you can look at the world around you and continue to ignore it, or you can step down away from authority to understand how you got there in the first place.
You got to St. Thomas University the same way Coastal GasLink got into the Unist’ot’en camp. You are supporting the Canadian economy even though it’s dispossessing Indigenous Peoples of their land. University endowments are grown by their investments and STU is funding TC Energy.
It shouldn’t be a committee or a politician that can be responsible for how you consider your privilege. It shouldn’t be a list of ministers all going by a party line instead of a publicly upheld mandate. Yet we keep electing people that do so.
This isn’t the last time, or first time, Canada should be shut down in order to play fair.
If there’s one important thing to consider while you’re reading this, it’s that your blindness to an issue is key in one’s profits and another’s suffering here in Canada, our home on some Native land. It’s fucked up and everyone is hurting, but we’re blaming victims instead of holding public offices accountable.
This kind of conflict is being developed all around you and your choices build it. Your parties aren’t being held to a higher standard.
So, shut up Peter McKay trying to say that dismantling protests is protecting your neighbours, and shut up Justin Trudeau for saying Canadians are hurting from railways shutting down.
I am Canadian and I am your neighbour and I am tired and hurting from the bullshit, but that doesn’t mean this is over. It’s over when the last person arrested, beaten, abducted or sterilized for being in the way of this Canadian dream is afforded justice.
This is about responsibility.