Over 20 years ago, we had a plan to repair the Crown-Indigenous relationship. What happened?

ANALYSIS: A glance back at the RCAP report offers a fascinating glimpse at the road not taken

Drummers share a moment during a rally in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Costal GasLink pipeline project in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

“The time seems opportune; indeed, the cracks in the existing relationship are coming starkly to the fore all across the country, and it should be apparent by now that trying to preserve the status quo is futile.”

Those words are almost a quarter-century old now. They could have been written yesterday.

That quote comes from the 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) which sought to examine Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples and offer some proposals for reform.

The commission itself was born at a time when many thought the wheels were coming off Confederation. Commissioned by then-prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1991, it began its work following the death of the Meech Lake Accord (which was rejected in part by First Nations because they were left out of the process) and the alarming 78-day standoff in Oka, Que., between Mohawk protestors, police and the army.

Rene Dussault, co-chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, talks to reporters at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, March 23, 1995, while co-chair and Aboriginal leader Georges Erasmus listens. The commission culminated in a final report of 4,000 pages, published in 1996. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)


By the time the commission’s 4,000-page final report was published, other conflicts had popped up — in Ipperwash, Ont. and Gustafson Lake, B.C.

The recent eruptions in the Crown-Indigenous relationship — over pipelines, territorial sovereignty and the use of rail blockades as a protest tactic — don’t mirror the situation that faced the commission back in the 1990s.

But at a time when many Canadians are wondering where a path forward for that relationship can be found, it’s worth remembering that we’ve been here before. And some of the proposals that have been gathering dust for 24 years are worth a second look.

‘A new beginning’

Over four years, the members of the commission visited 96 communities and held 178 days of public hearings to produce a massive document that outlined a strategy to build what the commission called a “new beginning with Indigenous peoples.”

“In just 20 years,” the report said, “the revitalization of many self-reliant Aboriginal nations can be accomplished, and the staggering human and financial cost of supporting communities unable to manage for themselves will end.”

That was over 20 years ago now. In the years since, little has changed for Indigenous people in Canada. Partly that was due to a lack of political will; partly it was due to a federal fiscal situation that put deficit-cutting at the top of the priority queue.

There were moments, over those two decades, when it seemed to some that a new Crown-Indigenous relationship was within reach. The Kelowna Accord, championed by then-prime minister Paul Martin in 2005, sought to close funding gaps and bring all parties to the table to negotiate new agreements. It died with Martin’s government in 2006; the accord itself was never supported by Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.

History being made: Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine, in headdress, watches as Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologizes for more than a century of abuse and cultural loss involving residential schools on June 11, 2008. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)


Another window opened in 2008 when Harper delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons for the residential school system. That apology, itself a direct response to the RCAP report, was followed by the establishment of a federal program for compensation of former residential school students and the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But RCAP was far more ambitious and comprehensive than any of that.

It called on Canada to build an entirely new framework to recognize Indigenous rights through the negotiation of modern treaties, treaty renewal, new agreements on independent or shared jurisdiction and new fiscal arrangements.

Still ‘relevant’

When asked about RCAP around the 20th anniversary of the report, one of the commission’s co-chairs, George Erasmus, said the “recommendations are still very, very useful” and still “relevant.”

The current Liberal government clearly agrees; it has said it’s using RCAP as a blueprint. Its attempt to legislate a Rights Recognition framework in 2018 was built on the report’s recommendations and on the notion that Indigenous rights should be recognized as a starting point for any negotiations. After some behind-the-scenes friction between then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and other cabinet members over timing, and complaints about a lack of Indigenous consultation, the legislative project was shelved.

Which brings us up to mid-February and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on the blockades. In it, Trudeau pointed out a painfully obvious fact: the dire state of the Crown-Indigenous relationship is the result of decades of government inertia and indifference.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on all sides in the rail blockade to sit down and talk, but says that “finding a solution will not be simple” during a statement in the House of Commons Tuesday. 9:56

“It is past time for this situation to be resolved,” he said. “However, what we are facing was not created overnight. It was not created because we have embarked upon a path of reconciliation recently in our history. It is because for too long in our history, for too many years, we failed to do so.”

The idea of rights recognition didn’t vanish entirely with the failure of the framework. Ottawa joined forces with British Columbia and First Nations to provide a space to talk about rights and self-determination. Right now, some 23 First Nations in B.C. are engaged in some sort of discussions about their future. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett has said she still believes those discussions could provide a template for other First Nations across the country.

But the RCAP report contains hundreds of detailed recommendations that could transform this country and the lives of Indigenous Peoples. None of it could happen quickly; much of the hard work is starting decades late. That’s something all sides likely would be willing to acknowledge.

The authors of RCAP knew what they were suggesting was ambitious, but possible. “What we propose is fundamental, sweeping and perhaps disturbing — but also exciting, liberating, ripe with possibilities,” they wrote.

The best time to start working on this was over 20 years ago. In the current fraught climate, getting started won’t be any easier now than it was back then. SOURCE

‘Enforcers of the colonizers’: Wet’suwet’en crisis casts spotlight on long, difficult history between RCMP and Indigenous peoples

The North West Mounted Police in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1885. The origins of the police force began as a paramilitary group that often treated Indigenous peoples violently.

They were the images that Terry Teegee did not want to see.

In the pre-dawn darkness of Feb. 6, Mounties descended on a snow-covered forest road in northern B.C. where supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline had set up camp.

As images of the raid and arrest of six people spread on social media, it triggered waves of protests and blockades across Canada and brought up memories from a year ago, when heavily armed RCMP stormed through a barricade and arrested 14 people in a similar raid that grabbed international attention.

Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says he got on the phone and asked senior RCMP officials to consider alternatives. “Do you really need to arrest people?”

While Teegee is grateful to have open communication with the Mounties, he admits he can’t help but feel an element of distrust and suspicion.

“There’s a very strained relationship with RCMP in Canada and Indigenous peoples,” he says.

Teegee, a member of the Takla Lake First Nation near Prince George, says Mounties are known in his community as nilhchuk-in, “those who take us away.”

It’s a reference to the Mounties’ historical role in removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in residential schools. “We describe them as these people who took our children, stole our children.”

A member of the Mohawk Tyendinaga nation walks past a sign as they block the CN tracks in Tyendinaga, Ont. earlier this month

Though RCMP have since relocated their base of operations and suspended patrols in Wet’suwet’en territory in an “act of good faith” to allow Indigenous leaders and federal and provincial government officials to try to resolve the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a tenuous backdrop remains.

“You see some positive movements in this relationship, but ultimately it’s very … what’s going on here is really testing that relationship,” Teegee says.

The RCMP’s history with Indigenous peoples dates back to the beginnings of the force itself.

Established in 1873 under Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, the police service was initially known as the North-West Mounted Police.

The force’s early relationship with Indigenous people has been the subject of “myth,” according to Steve Hewitt, a lecturer at Britain’s University of Birmingham who has written extensively on the RCMP.

“There’s the notion, increasingly challenged, that the Mounties played a protective role for Indigenous peoples, when in reality the Mounted Police were modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary colonial police force that the British used to control the Irish. In the Canadian case, the Mounted Police helped with the process of moving Indigenous peoples onto reserves to free up land for European settlers.”

In a recent online column, historian Sean Carleton, a professor at Mount Royal University, described a “long historical pattern of Canada using a “might is right” approach to suppress Indigenous resistance.” It’s an ugly history, he writes, that may be jarring to those Canadians who “cling to the mythology of the Mounties as red-coated riders who brought ‘law and order’ to the west.”


He cites many flashpoints over the decades.

There was the arrest in 1968 by RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police of a number of Mohawk citizens who had blocked a bridge near Cornwall, Ont., after the government decided to levy customs duties on goods brought back from the U.S.

In 1995, there was the deployment by RCMP of 400 tactical officers to Gustafsen Lake in B.C., where a group of First Nations Sun Dancers were locked in a dispute with a rancher over access to land.

And in 2013, there was the arrest by RCMP of some 40 Elsipogtog First Nation members in New Brunswick who blocked a road during a dispute over fracking activity in their territory.

It’s a far from exhaustive list.

While acknowledging that its relationship with Indigenous communities has at times been difficult, RCMP officials say they have been working to repair it.

In an email this week, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Caroline Duval outlined in detail many of the steps the force has taken to improve relations with Indigenous groups “based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership” and said the force was developing a Canada-wide “reconciliation strategy.”

“As we forge a new path towards change, mutual respect and trust, we cannot forget or minimize the errors of the past. This is the only way in which we can ensure we do not repeat past actions.”

Duval acknowledged that reconciliation efforts can be hampered “when our role as a law enforcement agency brings us into potential conflict with Indigenous peoples, land defenders and supporters.” But when a court injunction is issued, as happened with the blockades on Wet’suwet’en territory, the RCMP strives to take a measured approach, she said. The hope always is to reach a peaceful resolution, “without the need for police intervention.”

But one academic who has studied the policing of protest movements says he’s skeptical of these overtures given the RCMP’s “strong institutional culture” and failure to become a more demographically diverse force. (As of April 2019, the force consisted of 22 per cent women, 11.5 per cent visible minorities and 7.5 per cent Indigenous).

Jeffrey Monaghan, a criminology professor at Carleton University, said there’s a tendency for Indigenous demonstrators to receive more scrutiny and surveillance than non-Indigenous ones. It stems from a long-held policing bias — stretching back to colonial times — that views Indigenous communities as more prone to violence, aggressive and risky.

“Police culture is really hard to change. It’s highly ingrained,” he said. “These are really inbound, tight and fraternal organizations. The RCMP is at the forefront of that.”

Duval said the force has offered two official apologies for the role RCMP played in the Indian Residential School legacy. Last year, she noted, the RCMP announced a land swap with a private land owner in Regina to enable the transfer of a residential school cemetery — containing the graves of dozens of Indigenous children — to an Indigenous commemorative group.

Further, Indigenous committees have been set up nationally and regionally to advise senior RCMP leadership on the delivery of policing services in Indigenous communities. And all cadets at the training academy now participate in an interactive “blanket exercise” that teaches Indigenous history.

In what was described as a watershed moment in late 2015, Bob Paulson, then-commissioner of the RCMP, told a gathering of the Assembly of First Nations there were racists in his force and that he wanted to get rid of them. At the time, Indigenous leaders praised the top Mountie for his candour. The Star reported that AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde told the top Mountie his presence at the meeting was “starting to earn that trust and respect.”

In 2018, Brenda Lucki, Paulson’s successor, issued an apology to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at a national inquiry, saying “the RCMP could have done better.”

AFN Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras said Friday these are all positive steps and is hopeful relations will improve.

In the village of Fort Chipewyan where she grew up, she says, RCMP officers have done a much better job of integrating themselves in the community.

But like her counterpart in B.C., she says it’s hard to erase the darker moments from her memory.

“RCMP have always been enforcers of the colonizers,” she said, adding that high incarceration rates of Indigenous people remain a top concern. (Just last month, Canada’s corrections watchdog released a report saying that the number of Indigenous people in federal custody had risen to 30 per cent).

There’s no question communication between Indigenous communities and police has improved, Teegee said. But “even though there has been great efforts made, it certainly hasn’t changed enough to make it a good and functional relationship.”

The news this week that the RCMP in B.C. had agreed to stop police patrols in Wet’suwet’en territory to allow hereditary chiefs and government officials to negotiate an end to the pipeline dispute is a constructive step, Monaghan said. But why did this take so long?

“I think they’re going to be stuck with these very colonial images of super-militarized police storming a barricade in remote Indigenous territory … for a long time.”  SOURCE

Police removal of Tyendinaga Mohawk is a thumbnail in the violent mosaic of Canadian colonization


Mood optimistic as talks with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs resume in B.C.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks says 1st day laid groundwork for ‘heavy’ discussions

Hereditary chief Na’Moks, right, returns to meetings with federal and provincial ministers in Smithers, B.C., on Friday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

he mood seemed optimistic Friday as meetings between the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and senior ministers from Ottawa and B.C. resumed, with the groups working to break an impasse in a pipeline dispute that has sparked protests across the country.

“There’s progress. It’s slow but there’s progress,” hereditary chief Na’Moks said during a brief break from negotiations in Smithers, B.C., late Friday morning.

Na’Moks is one of several hereditary chiefs who opposes the Coastal GasLink pipeline set to run through traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en. This week’s meetings are discussing the $6.6-billion pipeline project, as well as concern around Indigenous rights to land and title.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser seemed hopeful, saying everyone is committed to working through the “complex and difficult” issues at hand.

“It feels like a good day,” Fraser said Friday.

“The important thing is that we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and get to the complex and difficult issues, and we began that yesterday and we’re going to continue that today.”

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser speak to reporters ahead of meetings in Smithers, B.C., on Friday. (Philippe Leblanc/CBC Radio-Canada)

‘Heavy discussions’ ahead

Friday’s round of meetings went ahead after preliminary discussions on Thursday.

“This first day … lays out the groundwork. [On Friday] we’ll get into the heavy discussions,” Na’moks told CBC News.

“I expect these to be long days, because they’re getting here late in the game,” he added.

A previous statement from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan declined invitations to attend the meetings.

On Friday, Bennett said progress needs to be made before the senior politicians take part.

“We need to do some hard work. We would want any meeting with the prime minister and the premier to be a good meeting,” Bennett said.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks said Thursday’s talks laid the groundwork for heavier discussions on Friday. (Chris Corday/CBC)


B.C. Premier John Horgan said he has no plans to go to Smithers in the near future and he’s been advised that talks have been co-operative, cordial and respectful.

“I am hopeful, as I have always been, that there can be a peaceful resolution and a way forward, not just in Wet’suwet’en territory, not just in British Columbia, but indeed across the country.”

Discussions go beyond a pipeline

The first day of meetings wrapped up after about three hours. Fraser said the day was productive and the mood in the room was respectful. The B.C. minister declined to give specifics on progress, saying he didn’t want to “jeopardize anything.”

Na’moks left Wet’suwet’en offices without making a statement, but told CBC that the issues at the heart of the discussions go far beyond a single pipeline project.

“We’ve seen what’s happening across Canada and we have more than a willingness for that to cease, but there has to be some positive, progressive changes — and we’re talking about the relationship between all Indigenous people and Canada and British Columbia and each of the provinces themselves,” said Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale. “That’s the goal here.”

Construction work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road, near Smithers, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)


Both the RCMP and Coastal GasLink have agreed to conditions requested by the chiefs to allow the discussions to progress.

No RCMP patrols

Mounties ended patrols along the Morice River Service Road, a critical roadway, while negotiations unfold. The natural gas company agreed to a two-day pause on construction in the area in a similar vein.

The hereditary chiefs’ opposition to a natural gas pipeline cutting across their traditional territory, coupled with their efforts to limit police presence on their lands, have sparked shows of support across the country, which have halted rail service for the past three weeks.

The dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project began months ago, but tensions rose on Dec. 31, when the B.C. Supreme Court granted TC Energy an injunction calling for the removal of any obstructions from roads, bridges or work sites it has been authorized to use in Wet’suwet’en territory.

The RCMP moved in to enforce that injunction on Feb. 6. Hours later, protesters started holding up railway traffic outside of Belleville, Ont., in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, thwarting freight and passenger rail travel SOURCE.


Blair says RCMP best left to patrol Wet’suwet’en territory, not Kahnawake peacekeepers


Chris Hall: Can net-zero and the energy sector co-exist?

While federal and provincial governments cast blame, the business sector is running out of patience

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland insists that a climate strategy must make room for a healthy energy sector. But federal-provincial sniping over the Teck mine isn’t leaving much room for consensus. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Chrystia Freeland says there’s nothing inconsistent about the federal government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a thriving oil and gas sector on the Prairies.

The deputy prime minister admits there is no national concord yet on how to reconcile the two.

“I do not think that today in Canada that we have yet achieved a true national consensus on how we get to ambitious action on climate and have a strong robust economy,” she said in an interview on The House.

Freeland insists Canadians recognize that the two goals are compatible.

“And I truly believe we can do both.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reflects on how the government is preparing for the possibility of coronavirus becoming a global pandemic, and whether it’s possible to develop oil and gas projects when the government is also promising to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 11:13

The Liberals’ climate plan came under renewed scrutiny earlier in the week when Teck Resources abandoned its plan to build the  $20.6-billion Frontier mine in Alberta’s oilsands.

The project faced considerable economic challenges. But many observers focused on another factor raised by company CEO Don Lindsay in his letter announcing the decision.

More than a decade ago we endorsed carbon pricing. We’re not apologetic for it. We’re not reconsidering it. We believe in it.– Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada

“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible projects,” he wrote. “This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate over this issue has placed Frontier at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved.”

Lindsay didn’t assign blame. Politicians were more than happy to do it for him.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blamed the federal government. So did Conservartive MPs. Liberals insisted Kenney’s hardline stance in favour of the project — and his dire warnings about the likely effect of a rejection on public sentiment in favour of Alberta’s separation from Canada — were to blame.

Freeland was more nuanced in her interview with The House. She pointed out that companies in this country — including those in the energy sector — are already cutting their emissions, even as governments fight over a carbon tax.

“For Canada to have any hope of achieving our climate targets, we need the oil and gas sector to be involved,” she said. “We need our country’s leading emitters to be part of the solution.”

Canada is committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Teck committed to the same goal.

But there’s no political agreement over the federal price on carbon — the main policy vehicle chosen by Ottawa to reach that goal.

“Let’s just say there’s a hardening taking place on the left and the right,” Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said in a separate interview with The House.

“Something’s got to give. In the case of the business community, more than a decade ago we endorsed carbon pricing, We’re not apologetic for it. We’re not reconsidering it. We believe in it.”

But Hyder said Canadian industries can’t wait forever for a coherent plan to reach those goals. He said he believes this country has come to a defining moment as it looks to the future of its energy sector — a moment that calls for the same Team Canada approach that Freeland used in mobilizing support for the new NAFTA agreement.

“We need business. We need labour. We need provinces and the federal government to come together to figure out what we are going to do to protect our national interest here,” he said. “I think that exact same moment … has arrived on this question of how you square the circle between the economy and the environment.”

He added that any working climate plan that reduces emissions has to recognize the importance of the Canadian oil and gas sector, and the fact that it’s subject to some of the strictest regulations and standards in the world.

“We’re speaking out much more aggressively today because we’re concerned by what we see, which is a hardening of positions, a use of the courts and other (tactics),” he said. “There’s an urgency here.”

Freeland also compares the current squabbles over climate strategy to the original debates over free trade with the United States — at a time when her mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, was running for the NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1988.

“And one of her main issues was opposition to free trade,” she said. “Fast forward to today, and we now have a strong national consensus across the country, and across parties, that trade is the right thing for our country. And it was every bit as divisive an issue.”

For now, Hyder and other business leaders just want politicians to get on with the work — because until they do, there’s little hope that future natural resource projects like Teck’s Frontier will fare any better. SOURCE


‘A desperate act’: Imperial Tobacco Canada under fire for ‘misinformation’ ad campaign

Health policy expert calls the campaign a ‘classic tobacco industry technique’

An Imperial Tobacco ad is seen in downtown Toronto on Feb. 20. Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, says the ads are implying that a news story about the harms of vaping is ‘misinformation.’ (CBC)

A major Canadian tobacco company has come under fire for a national advertising campaign that appears to downplay the risks of vaping and accuse the media and anti-tobacco groups of intentionally spreading false information.

Imperial Tobacco Canada, which sells the Vype brand of e-cigarette and is owned by the world’s second largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco, recently launched the campaign in major Canadian newspapers, and on billboards and websites across the country.

The Canadian Press reported earlier this month that the campaign was under investigation by Health Canada and health officials in Quebec to determine if it violated advertising rules.

A spokesperson for Health Canada said this week that it deemed no further action was necessary, while Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services says it has not yet made a decision on the advertisements.

The ads show headlines from news stories about vaping, with one of three slogans superimposed over them: “hypocrisy kills,” “quit the lies” and “the dangers of misinformation.”

The headlines used in the campaign are from media outlets largely in the U.S., including The Associated PressPolitico and The Hill, with none from Canada.

Local outlets were also targeted, including an NBC television station in Massachusetts that reported on a school district trying to combat a rise in youth vaping, and a newspaper in San Diego that wrote about county restrictions on vaping.

Ad campaign called a ‘Hail Mary’

Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta who studies health misinformation, calls the strategy used in the campaign a “classic tobacco industry technique.”

“They’re using the current conversation about misinformation, about fake news, in order to forward their agenda,” he said. “They are implying that a story about the harms of vaping is misinformation.”

Marketing expert Tony Chapman says he’s surprised the company moved forward with the campaign, calling it a “Hail Mary,” but says there is a deliberate strategy behind the move.

“The reason they’re taking the risk is vaping was their big play … and if vaping ends up in the same penalty box as smoking, you’re talking about billions of dollars of investment down the drain,” he said.

“So it’s a desperate act, and sometimes when you’re in danger of irrelevancy, risk is better than irrelevancy.”

In an interview with CBC News, a spokesperson for the company denied the ads were accusing the media of spreading misinformation, hypocrisy or lies and instead were “just a visual” aimed at regulators, adult consumers and anti-tobacco groups.

University of Waterloo researcher David Hammond says it’s ‘deeply ironic’ that Imperial Tobacco Canada would accuse others of spreading misinformation on the health risks of nicotine products. (CBC)

“We felt it was important to bring the other side of the story, so that both adult consumers and regulators can make informed decisions around vaping,” said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada.

“Health Canada continues to believe that vaping — if you’re a smoker, you’re better off vaping.”

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Health Canada said it advises Canadians to seek out information from sources that are independent and rely upon scientific evidence, such as a physician or local, provincial or federal government health officials.

“The department recognizes that vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking for adults who have a dependence on nicotine,” the statement says.

“However, it is important for Canadians to know that vaping does pose health risks and that the potential short- and long-term effects of vaping remain unknown.”

Some vaping-related illnesses tied to nicotine e-cigarettes

As of Feb. 18, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 2,807 hospitalizations related to vaping-related illness and 68 deaths.

There were 18 cases reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada as of Feb. 18. Six occurred in Quebec, four in Ontario, four in British Columbia, two in New Brunswick, one in Alberta and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Imperial Tobacco ad campaign also links to a “facts not fear” website that claims “impulsive regulations” by government and health groups “won’t do anything to reduce youth vaping” and “hysteria” in media coverage over vaping-related illness has “spilled over to Canada.”

Marketing expert Tony Chapman says the company took a risk with the ads because of huge investments in vaping products. (CBC)


It also says vaping-related illness has been linked to THC products and the harmful additive vitamin E acetate, which was identified as a “chemical of concern” by the CDC.

Yet in the U.S., 57 per cent of vaping-related illness cases reported using products that contain nicotine and 14 per cent reported exclusively using nicotine e-cigarettes. In Canada, 10 of the 18 cases reported using nicotine e-cigarette devices only.

The World Health Organization says e-cigarettes are “harmful to health and are not safe,” but it is “too early to provide a clear answer on the long-term impact of using them or being exposed to them.”

Researcher Timothy Caulfield says the goal of ad the campaign is to create doubt about the relevant science around vaping-associated harms, while exploiting the lack of long-term research on vaping.

“There is an international consensus that there are harms associated with vaping and there have been deaths associated with vaping,” he said.

“Their broad implication is more suggesting a fraudulent agenda behind the vaping research by using the term ‘misinformation.'”

Rise in youth vaping across Canada

University of Waterloo professor David Hammond, who researches youth vaping, found the number of Canadians aged 16 to 19 who reported vaping in the preceding 30 days rose from 8.4 per cent in 2017 to 14.6 per cent in 2018.

Rates of weekly use climbed from 5.2 per cent to 9.3 per cent over the same period. Hammond says his latest research is showing an even more dramatic increase.

“Most concerning, the prevalence of using e-cigarettes daily or near daily doubled between 2018 and 2019 alone,” he said.

“The increase in frequent use is consistent with the emergence of high nicotine salt-based products on the Canadian market.”

Imperial Tobacco Canada’s Vype e-cigarettes use nicotine salt technology to deliver high doses of the addictive drug to the user, much like those of popular U.S. company Juul.

Rob Cunningham with the Canadian Cancer Society calls the ad campaign ‘entirely hypocritical.’ (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)


The maximum amount of nicotine content allowed in e-cigarettes in Canada is currently 66 milligrams per millilitre of vaping liquid, according to Health Canada. Vype products contain 57 milligrams per millilitre and Juul contains 59, while previous generations of e-cigarettes sold in Canada typically had upward of 20.

“It is deeply ironic that Imperial Tobacco would accuse others of spreading misinformation on the health risks of nicotine products,” Hammond said.

“I suspect that most people will regard this public relations campaign with the same level of credibility as the tobacco industry’s historical claims that nicotine isn’t addictive and smoking did not cause any serious diseases.”

Campaign is ‘standard tobacco industry doublespeak’

Gagnon, with Imperial Tobacco Canada, said health groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation “jumped on the opportunity” of the increase in youth vaping to push an “excessive regulatory agenda in Canada.”

“We have been wanting to meet with health officials across Canada. They do not want to meet with us. We would rather not do a campaign like that, if I’m honest with you,” he said.

“After looking at all the regulation that was coming up and what was being said and considered, we thought that we needed to get out and to try to balance the debate and influence a little bit what people believe around vaping.”

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, says the tobacco company has decades of experience in public relations strategies to “oppose effective regulation” and mislead the public.

He described the ad campaign as “entirely hypocritical.”

“Imperial Tobacco is laughing all the way to the bank with this whole new generation of young people addicted to e-cigarettes,” he said.

“This has been an incredible bonanza for them and they want to protect it. They’re in the business of protecting their sales. They have absolutely no credibility.”

Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada, says the company is trying to ‘balance the debate’ and ‘influence a little bit what people believe around vaping.’ (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)


Dr. Andrew Pipe, board chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and a smoking cessation physician in Ottawa, called the ad campaign “standard tobacco industry doublespeak.”

“It just speaks to the degree to which the tobacco industry swaggers around with almost complete impunity because of the timidity that public agencies have shown for decades in terms of dealing with this industry, which kills 47,000 Canadians a year,” he said.

“The hypocrisy and duplicity of this industry is unparalleled and it continues to be expressed in these kinds of activities.” SOURCE

Blockades Aren’t the Crisis. It’s the Crumbling Legitimacy of Canada’s Democracy

The Wet’suwet’en and their allies are responding to broken democratic institutions we need to fix.


“Cracking down on so-called ‘dissidents or radical activists’ with injunctions and police enforcement orders will not provide the legitimacy our institutions require.” Photo by Lars Hagberg, Canadian Press.

Our democratic institutions are in crisis. Their very legitimacy is in question, and Canada’s national leaders appear ill-equipped to respond.

The Indigenous re-occupation of Wet’suwet’en land and nationwide actions in support have sparked debate and deliberation about the causes, consequences, complications and solutions. The debate has been emotional and traumatic and, I fear, is defining — and threatening — Canada’s future.

People across the county had the chance to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address to the House of Commons and Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer’s response.

Neither one presented a path forward that would ease tensions and address the root causes of Indigenous peoples concerns. Neither made an authentic effort to bridge the deep divide rocking Canadian society. Rather Trudeau asked for patience, co-operation and deliberation, while Scheer demanded the immediate enforcement of the rule of law and the prioritization of our national economy.

Canada’s colonial history and democratic institutions are founded on this constructed divide between Indigenous peoples and the rest.

A legislated, judicially enforced hierarchical divide allowed the relocation of entire Indigenous communities and the narrow determination of which Indigenous rights are to be ignored, minimized or recognized. It allowed the imposition of colonial band governance systems and the delegitimization of Indigenous governance and laws. The divide underpinned the efforts to push us from territories and allow destructive industrial projects, to erase our Indigenous languages and culture and forcibly remove Indigenous children from families.

And it’s behind the mediocre effort to include Indigenous voices within the political, educational and democratic institutions of Canadian society.

This divide still exists today. It shows up most visibly when issues, projects or the interest of the status-quo come into conflict with the interests of Indigenous peoples. This story has played out time and time again, whether with the oil and gas industry (Kinder Morgan TMX, Enbridge, Coastal GasLink, Mackenzie Valley, Energy East, SWN Resources); mines (Teck Frontier, Mount Polley); dams (Site C, Muskrat Falls); forestry (Meares Island/Clayoquot Sound, Stein Valley, Gwaii Haanas, Great Bear Rainforest, boreal forest); or in conflicts around hunting, aquaculture or fisheries.

And it’s revealed in the justice system, whether the issue is Indigenous deaths in custody, murdered and missing Indigenous women, Gladue reports, mandatory minimum sentencing or the Ipperwash inquiry and the killing of Colten Boushie.

This divide is not absolute. Demonstrations in support of the Wet’suwet’en have seen non-Indigenous allies in great numbers supporting the voices of Indigenous leaders, youth and land defenders.

Yet in contrast to this support, we are also witnessing increasingly volatile levels of online vitriol, threats of violence, individuals expressing hatred and now incidents of vigilantism. These acts are aimed at Indigenous and non-Indigenous land defenders, Indigenous community members in their daily lives and even Indigenous children in their schools.

As a result of this societal divide, Indigenous peoples have been denied the right to determine what’s best for them and their communities. They have been denied their inherent and treaty rights.

Across the divide, many non-Indigenous people remain unaware of the extent and consequences of Canada’s colonial past and present, and the degree to which it continues to impact the lives of Indigenous peoples while supporting the Canadian status-quo. This lack of understanding leaves many unsympathetic to Indigenous calls for change.

Our democratic institutions were not designed to address these social schisms, nor were they ever intended to. Indigenous peoples have been denied the ability to participate in these institutions in a way that would allow their voices, rights and calls for justice and restitution to be fairly considered.

When good-faith negotiations stall or fail and the alternative is expensive litigation in an over-burdened justice system, we can see how confrontations with Indigenous peoples become inevitable.

The actions and protests we have seen both in recent years and throughout Canadian history are a direct result of this failure to address the foundational causes of these schisms. Because some voices are favoured over others, Indigenous peoples (land defenders) and their supporters no longer perceive our representative institutions as legitimate. They no longer have faith in these institutions’ ability to address the root causes of settler-colonialism or to represent the voices of Indigenous peoples when interests collide across this divide.

When our governments are viewed as illegitimate, so are their processes, decisions and proposed projects. Cracking down on so-called “dissidents or radical activists” with injunctions and police enforcement orders will not provide the legitimacy our institutions require.

We can fix this crisis, but it will take considerable effort and a genuine commitment to reject the status quo and accept the challenge of building processes based on co-operation and consent.

Until that happens, convincing Indigenous peoples to participate in an illegitimate process will be a hard sell. Indigenous peoples are exhausted from seeing their words and input ignored by politicians and judges who continue to reinforce the status quo.

Canada must adopt fair, accountable and transparent processes that promote negotiations with Indigenous peoples, built upon the UN declaration’s principle of free, prior and informed consent. We must create a level playing field with renewed institutions designed for inclusivity, and disavow the status quo power structures fueling mistrust.

That’s not what Trudeau proposed. He proposed keeping the faith and hoping things would improve under the same broken system.

We need more than this. We need more than “respect and communication.” We need substantive systemic change.

In his House of Commons speech, Trudeau asserted that “the place for these debates is here in this House.” But if the legitimacy of that House is in question, how can it be the place?

Scheer was correct in one regard: our society is in crisis. But it is not primarily an economic crisis. The legitimacy of our representative institutions are in dire crisis, and it will take more than speeches in Parliament to repair them.  [Tyee] SOURCE

If We Plant Billions of Trees to Save Us, They Must Be Native Trees

Do it right, says Diana Beresford-Kroeger, who raised the idea 21 years ago. Last in a series flowing from our visit to her home.


‘We can’t plant trees everywhere higgledy-piggledy. That won’t work,’ says celebrated botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger, writer of To Speak for the Trees. Photo for The Tyee by Colin Rowe.

Morning light glows the windows and breakfast is on the table as Diana Beresford-Kroeger reflects on the recent excitement about an idea she proposed over two decades ago.She’s eager to start sharing important stories about the state of well-being in BC. Get to know her.

She has listened to a growing scientific debate about the merits of mass tree plantings to fight climate change with both an air of detachment and resignation.

Last year, one group of researchers claimed that growing a new forest over a global landscape the size of the United States (a 25 per cent increase in Earth’s forest cover) was “the best solution” to battling climate change while others argued that cutting fossil fuel consumption was the true way forward.

The famed botanist and celebrated author of The Global Forest shakes her head about the level of the controversy, and then notes that both sides had a point.

Both sides also ignored her own, unique global bioplan to fight climate change, which she first published in 1999. Her proposal skillfully avoids the pitfalls of commercial tree plantations as well as hubris about licking climate change in one fell swoop.

“Jesus,” adds the eminent Irish-born scientist in her County Cork accent. “We need to know what we are doing, and you can’t go all asswise about stuff.”

“We can’t plant trees everywhere higgledy-piggledy. That won’t work.”

Yet that is what the world has generally done to date, and it is what many governments plan to do more of in the name of fighting climate change.

“Asswise” efforts in Ireland, California, Japan, India and China — all involving non-native trees — have done more damage than good, and bear no resemblance to her own plan.

Take China, for example, which destroyed many of its great native forests during the Cultural Revolution. The nation now boasts that it is the world’s largest tree planter. But it has largely constructed unfriendly monocultures of Japanese cedar, bamboo or eucalyptus that burn at a low flashpoint of 48 degrees Celsius.

Yet science shows that indigenous wild forests do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to storing carbon.

One recent British study found that natural or native forests covering 350 million hectares of land could sequester 42 billion tonnes of carbon, while commercial plantations could only store one billion tonnes.

“There is a scandal here,” said Simon Lewis, a professor of Global Chance Science at the University College London and one of the study’s authors.

“To most people, forest restoration means bringing back natural forests, but policy makers are calling vast monocultures ‘forest restoration.’ And worse, the advertised climate benefits are absent.”

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In the botanist’s hands, awaiting planting, the winged seeds of the wafer ash, Ptelea trifoliate. Photo for The Tyee by Colin Rowe. 

In contrast, Beresford-Kroeger offers the real deal and a community-based plan to boot. She proposes each person plant one tree native to their community, every year for the next six years.

“Get them in and get them growing,” she says.

It won’t solve the climate crisis, she adds, but it will buy us valuable time by bringing down atmospheric concentrations of CO2 from 400 parts per million to 300 ppm.

It all started with a paper published in Science last July by a group of researchers at the Swiss Institute of Technology.

Using remote sensing and computer models with fancy algorithms, the scientists calculated that mass tree planting could sequester an astounding 205 gigatonnes of carbon equal to 20 times the current annual output from fossil fuels, but over a 200-year period.

But to do so would require planting trees on 0.9 billion hectares of land, including savannahs and grasslands in Africa and Latin America.

Jean Francois Bastin, the paper’s lead author, characterized his findings this way: “And this is a beautiful thing, just to think that in order to fight climate change what you have to do is to plant trees, and you can do that everywhere.”

As a result, the paper left the impression in global headlines that “global tree restoration” was probably the “most effective climate change solution to date.”

Then came a flurry of serious rebuttals.

Researchers called the paper’s claim that tree planting was the most effective solution to climate change both “scientifically incorrect” and “dangerously misleading.”

Moreover, they said that Swiss researcher’s calculations had grossly overstated the ability of trees to sequester carbon by nearly 100 gigatonnes.

They also argued that the most effective solution remained systematic reduction in fossil fuel consumption and that tree planting alone wasn’t sufficient.

Others said the model relied too heavily on destroying the valuable biodiversity of million-year-old grasslands, peat lands and savannas by converting them into tree plantations.

A group of indignant African scientists added that “planting trees in the wrong places can destroy ecosystems, increase wildfire intensity, and exacerbate global warming.”

Beresford-Kroeger, who has studied trees and their medicines intensively for decades, couldn’t agree more.

“Keep the prairies and savannahs the way they are,” she insists.

“They have been largely destroyed but replant the native grasses and legumes that make that soil. You have to study what you have and what was there and reinvent the forest and put it back. But no ecological archaeologists have gone back and looked at what was burnt and what happened here before. We need to have an archaeological framework, too.”

Trees on the grounds of Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s home. If greed is the enemy, a step against it, she says, is to ‘start with something as small as an acorn and nurture it into an oak, a master tree that we have grown and protect and are the steward of.’ Photo for The Tyee by Colin Rowe. 

Still, Beresford-Kroeger believes that planting the right of kind of native trees in their native homes can restore ecosystems, reduce wildfires and slow down climate warming. (Her app, Call of the Forest.ca, serves as a geopositioning tool to help people do just that.)

But few want to take the care or time to do it right, she explains.

Ireland, for example. In ancient times, rich oak and broad-leaf forests enriched 80 per cent of the island and Celtic lore exuded a wealth of tree knowledge.

(As a child, Beresford-Kroeger was not only taught that lore by Gaelic-speaking elders but entrusted with its keeping.)

But by the 1900s, greed had denuded the Irish landscape of trees and reduced forest cover to one per cent.

Population growth and British imperialism in the form of penal laws all played a role. The colonizers also chopped down native deciduous forests to make charcoal, glass and war ships. The destruction of forests also became a military priority because they shielded and hid rebels opposing British rule.

Forests now occupy 11 per cent of Ireland and the country is committed to reaching 18 per cent coverage by 2050 with the hopes of offsetting its growing carbon footprint from dairy farms, vehicles and fossil-fuel power plants.

But most private interests and foresters can’t be bothered to replant what was lost. To date, the vast majority of Ireland’s new tree plantations consist of conifers including Canadian lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) or Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). Why? Because they grow fast.

Yet industrial monocultures of lodgepole pines have acidified soils and waterways while plantations of Sitka spruce have crowded out native wildlife and created what rural residents describe as “load of crap forestry.”

“The Irish now know that the Pinas contorta are killing trout lakes and now they are taking the trees out,” added Beresford-Kroeger.

A rare mountain blue fir towers above Beresford-Kroeger’s home in the township of Loyalist, Ontario. Her former home of Ireland, once 80 per cent forested, aims for 18 per cent by 2050. Photo for The Tyee by Colin Rowe. 

The plain-speaking botanist also explains why the Irish didn’t plant native species like oak in the first place.
“Because there is more work involved in the planting of an oak tree than a pine. It is only laziness. That’s is all.”
She has observed the same convenient behavior in her own community in Ontario where native trees once flourished in poor soil.
“Our neighbours planted a jack pine, a tree from the arctic (Pinus banksiana). But they should have planted white cedar and hemlock. We are doing everything arse backwards and putting the cart before the horse.”

California has made the same modern mistake. It planted the alien eucalyptus because it grows rapidly.

The eucalyptus doesn’t shed its leaves but loses its bark which is full of resin and has a low flashpoint.

“It is like throwing petrol on a fire,” says Beresford-Kroeger. “They are a dangerous tree in California,” given the number of people throwing “beefers, reefers and all kind of cigarettes out the car window.”

In their native Australia, 900 species of eucalyptus trees are finely tuned to the landscape and at one time helped to ensure rainfall patterns now disrupted by the recent felling of 40 per cent of that continent’s native forest.

Instead of foreign trees, Californians should have planted more native redwoods and the giant sequoia, advised Beresford-Kroeger.

“They are tolerant of fires. Even with a quick flash fire, a redwood isn’t going to bat an eyeball. In fact a little ash around the tree will help make it more fertile. The redwood acts like a firewall and protects more open pastures and other trees in the area, not to mention houses.”

The redwood, which sports fire-resistant bark that can grow up to two feet thick, also plays another important role, says Beresford-Kroeger.

The giant redwoods gather moisture from the ocean. “They drink mist which is pure water and it saturates the trees,” explained the botanist. “They become condenser units. The trees make the whole area of California much safer from fire and fills the aquifers.”

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Diana Beresford-Kroeger on the trick to planting 48 billion trees: ‘Get them in and get them growing.’ Photo for The Tyee by Colin Rowe. 

Approximately 300 hundred million years ago, trees transformed a toxic cloud of CO2 in the global atmosphere into something that could sustain life by sequestering carbon and manufacturing molecular oxygen.

Beresfored-Kroeger thinks native trees planted in the right place can play a major role again in global history. Doing so is an answer to people who ask, what I can do?

“I think taking care of rare or native tree personalizes the response with hope. It puts the first boot on the ground.”

But she acknowledges that it is not the ultimate solution to climate change. Rather, “it is a means of reversing the damage done and of buying us time to find the solution, of stabilizing the climate long enough to address our destructive behaviours in earnest,” she writes in To Speak for the Trees.

Beresford-Kroeger believes that something as humble as planting hairy hickory in southern Ontario or an endangered Garry oak in southwestern British Columbia can seed a cultural revolution, too.

At the same time, she argues in a piece she’s written for The Tyee which runs today, the devastation of the world’s forests makes urgent using natural cloning and the creation of a “living bank of tree seeds” to “either mend or amend what remains of our global forests.”

My two-day visit with the brilliant botanist, and now friend, is winding down. Before it’s over, she again musters that liberation of the mind the Celts called saoirse in making the case why it is good and necessary for each of us to plant a native tree.

“If we start with something as small as an acorn and nurture it into an oak, a master tree that we have grown and protect and are the steward of, if we have that kind of thinking on a mass scale, then the planet is no longer in jeopardy from our greed.”

This ends our five-part series drawn from Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk’s two-day visit with botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger. Find the entire series here.



So should we just plant a bunch of trees everywhere, or what?

If Teck offered lessons, it’s not clear Alberta is learning them

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews insists the federal government is mainly to blame for the cancellation of the Teck Resources oilsands project.

By the time the Frontier mega-mine proposal died a swift and unexpected death last week, the proposal had taken on a national significance that dwarfed even the 29,000 acres of forest and wetland it sought to take over.

To Alberta’s United Conservative government, its approval would indicate whether Prime Minster Justin Trudeau really supported the oilsands. To environmentalists, it was a scourge.

But to Teck Resources, the Vancouver-based company behind it, it was a chance to balance oilsands development with environmental rigour, in a project they believe should have satisfied both sides. But, they argued in their letter to the federal environment minister, Canadian regulations have not caught up.

Global markets are changing fast, Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck, wrote in the letter last weekend.

“Investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change,” he said.

“This does not yet exist here today.”

But if it’s true that oilsands projects are now forever tangled up in the climate change debate, observers say Alberta isn’t learning that lesson.

Mike Holden, the vice-president of policy and chief economist of the Business Council of Alberta, said he was surprised that the provincial budget had lots of plans for what they hope is a coming upswing in the oil industry, but almost nothing to say about climate change.

“I think that there was an opportunity that the province could have taken to spell out a climate strategy that could have helped with investor confidence, that could have helped with sending a message to the federal government that it was serious about working in this area, and it didn’t do that,” he said.

“That’s not to say that it might not at some point down the road, but it was fairly silent.”

The budget has one reference to the global challenge that is climate change, and notes that Alberta’s “global leadership in clean energy and (greenhouse gas reducing) technologies is also key to investment attraction.”

It also includes their TIER, or Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction, program, which places a $30 per tonne tax on large emitters. According to the budget, it will put $969 million into climate technology and emission reduction over 3 years.

Despite Teck’s lengthy letter, Alberta government officials don’t believe that the Teck cited the real reason for cancelling the project.

When asked about Teck’s decision in advance of the budget being tabled Thursday, Finance Minister Travis Toews cast the blame east.

“We have a federal government who didn’t categorically affirm its support for a project that’s gone through in every environmental hurdle put in front of them,” Toews said.

“The fact that the goal posts were seemingly, potentially to be adjusted at the last minute has a profound effect.”

In this, Toews echoed Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has put the blame for the cancellation at the feet of rail blockade protesters across the country who have been affecting transportation for nearly three weeks, as well as federal inaction.

On Monday, Kenney said “there is absolutely no doubt” that the blame for the decision lies with the federal government and called for action from Ottawa to restore investor confidence in the province.

But Chris Severson-Baker, the Alberta regional director of the Pembina Institute, says sound climate policy is a major way to attract investors. It’s possible to pursue climate goals while still investing in oil development, he said, but there should be incentives for projects or types of development that are lower in carbon.

He said he was disappointed to see little talk of climate in the new budget, especially as the current federal government plans for Canada to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

He points to the oil industry leaders who have publicly supported a carbon tax. He says that many in the industry realize that many big oil projects now have to prove their green bonafides to get approval.

“Until this is resolved, it’s going to be a barrier to make further investments in Canada and in Alberta,” said Severson-Baker. SOURCE

Talks between Wet’suwet’en and Canadian state won’t produce a quick fix

Wet’suwet’en supporters in East Vancouver demanding the RCMP leave the nation’s traditional territory. February 19, 2020. Photograph by Jesse Winter

For the past three weeks, Indigenous-led demonstrations have blocked rail lines across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en pipeline opponents in British Columbia.

And for three weeks, authorities have played a cat-and-mouse game in response, pursuing blockaders with court injunctions and arrests as more demonstrations flared up across the country.

The first sign that the impasse could be resolved emerged Thursday, when key demands of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs were met and the chiefs agreed to meet with provincial and federal officials.

But a long history of similar conflicts between settlers and Indigenous people in Canada suggests tumult will likely persist until the country reckons with its colonial legacy, said Lee Maracle, a member of Sto:Loh Nation in B.C. and an Indigenous studies instructor at the University of Toronto.

“This is going to go on and on,” she said. “We have been asking for this conversation (on Indigenous rights) ever since the beginning of Canada.”

Solidarity demonstrations erupted across the country earlier this month after the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en camps on the nation’s traditional northern B.C. territory. Organizers have said they won’t stop until the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ demands ⁠— to have the RCMP and Coastal GasLink off their land ⁠— are met.

On Thursday, Coastal GasLink agreed to pause pre-construction work on Wet’suwet’en territory for two days to allow for talks, and the RCMP have agreed to stop patrols and pull out of a mobile detachment nearby. The hereditary chiefs met with federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett on Thursday, with plans to meet with her B.C. counterpart, Scott Fraser, on Friday.

In the longer run, however, a reconciliation between the two sides seems more difficult: the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ want a permanent halt to the pipeline, but the B.C. government has been unwilling to stop the project. And the federal government would like the solidarity blockades to end, something the hereditary chiefs have said they won’t ask other nations to do.

Though sparked by Coastal GasLink, the Wet’suwet’en solidarity movement has also tapped into an older anger that can be traced back to the founding of the Canadian state.

‘We’ve seen conflict after conflict transpire in a very predictable way’

Nearly every aspect of life as an Indigenous person in the country is regulated by either the colonial Indian Act or a piece of Canadian law that followed, a profoundly frustrating way to live, said Tara Williamson, an Anishinaabe/Nehayo scholar and research fellow with the Yellowhead Institute, a think-tank focused on Indigenous self-determination.

Experts say the Wet’suwet’en solidarity movement was predictable and will continue until Canada fundamentally changes its relationship with Indigenous people.

“It is so difficult to live as an Indigenous person in Canada,” she said. “It’s not a moment, it’s been a movement built upon lots of frustration.”

There are fundamental truths at play.

Canada’s foundation and continued existence relies on land stolen from Indigenous peoples. It relies on broken treaties that were supposed to create a nation-to-nation relationship⁠ and on the occupation of unceded territories where no agreement even exists. And it relies on the trauma inflicted by those processes, then and now.

People living on scores of First Nations reserves continue to live under boil-water advisories, despite election promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Youth suicides are a longstanding crisis in Indigenous communities, as are higher levels of poverty and violence.

Sean Carleton, an assistant professor at Mount Royal University who studies the history of Indigenous-settler relations, said the battle between the Wet’suwet’en and the backers and supporters ofCoastal GasLink is a repetition of an old pattern. It usually goes something like this, he said: Canada wants something. Indigenous people want to negotiate. Canada doesn’t like it and uses force to get its way.

If political leaders don’t want the same processes to play out again and again, they need to try something different and form real nation-to-nation relationships, he said.

“We’ve seen conflict after conflict transpire in a very predictable way,” he said. “Learn from it so that we don’t have to do this again.”

These truths must be recognized before Canada can truly move forward in reconciliation, Williamson said.

“I appreciate that it must be really difficult for the average Canadian to learn the truth about what’s happened,” she said.

“But nothing will change if they don’t.” SOURCE