The eco gender gap: why is saving the planet seen as women’s work?

From soap to reusable cutlery, green products are overwhelmingly marketed to and bought by women. Does this discourage men from taking responsibility?

It sometimes seems that women are getting more desperate about trying to solve problems created by men.’ Composite: Getty Images/Rex Features/Guardian imaging;

It was not long ago that, if you wanted to reduce the impact of your consumer choices on the environment, your only option was to use your own shopping bag. These days, the eco-minded shopper is overwhelmed with “green” choices. With the rise of reusable pads and menstrual cups, your period can now be plastic-free. Cosmetics increasingly come in glass and aluminium containers. Even hosiery brands are swapping nylon for more eco-friendly material.

Given the devastating toll of consumer waste on the health of the planet, you may find this visible drive towards sustainability on supermarket shelves cheering. But if you are a man, you may not have even noticed it: most eco-friendly products are marketed to women.

There is an obvious (and depressing) reason for this: women are not only more powerful consumers, but also disproportionately responsible, still, for the domestic sphere. The result of this is what the market research firm Mintel has termed an “eco gender gap”, where green branding might as well be pink.

In a 2018 report by Mintel on the subject, Jack Duckett, a senior consumer lifestyles analyst, said women “still tend to take charge of the running of the household”, with laundry, cleaning and recycling falling under that banner. But “with eco-friendly campaigns and product claims largely aimed at female audiences”, advertisers run the risk of communicating the message that sustainability is women’s work.

The idea is already insidious due to the persistent portrayal of women as caregivers – even of the planet. Janet K Swim, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University who has done extensive research into the social consequences of environmentally friendly behaviour, points to a political cartoon showing Theodore Roosevelt, the US president from 1901 to 1909, wearing an apron, “trying to mock him as feminine” for his conservation policies.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and Greta Thunberg
 The highest-profile climate campaigners are two young women: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and Greta Thunberg. Composite: Rex/Shutterstock; Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images Pinterest
While it is true that women are more likely than men to be green, in the past that gender gap has been attributed to personality differences. Research from the mid-90s to early 00s pointed to women’s greater tendency to be prosocial, altruistic and empathetic; to display a stronger ethic of care; and to assume a future-focused perspective. “Research suggests that women have higher levels of socialisation to care about others and be socially responsible, which then leads them to care about environmental problems and be willing to adopt environmental behaviours,” says Rachel Howell, a lecturer in sustainable development (a subject that is, she notes, studied overwhelmingly by women at undergraduate level) at the University of Edinburgh.

Whether women are born caring about the planet or learn to do so, there is evidence to suggest that femininity and “greenness” have come to be cognitively linked (by men and women) – and that this, as absurd as it may sound, is partly what puts off men from doing their bit.In a study published last year in the journal Sex Roles, Swim and her fellow researchers at Penn State found that men could be disinclined to carry a reusable shopping bag – or recycle, or any environmentally friendly activity that had been gendered as feminine – for fear of being perceived as gay or effeminate. (The same concern has been well established as a factor in men’s reluctance to adopt vegetarian or vegan diets.) 

Similarly, a 2016 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research found that “men may be motivated to avoid or even oppose green behaviours in order to safeguard their gender identity” and that their participation could be encouraged by weakening the association between femininity and sustainability, such as “by using masculine rather than conventional green branding”.

Plastic Freedom and Package Free Shop, two popular zero-waste online retailers, say they are careful to use gender-neutral marketing – but both say about 90% of their customers are women. Lauren Singer, the founder of Package Free Shop, which sells items such as bamboo cutlery and eco cleaning products, suggests that the imbalance presents women with an opportunity to lead. “Let’s be the ones that absorb the responsibility of being the stewards and educators of sustainability,” she says.

But with analysis in 2016 from the Office for National Statistics showing that women carry out an average of 60% more unpaid work than men, Howell’s suggestion may hold more appeal: to close the eco gender gap, close the associated gap “in terms of who does the laundry, who does the grocery shopping, who does the cleaning at home”. Also, get rid of “false ideas of what a sustainable product must look like”, she says, pointing out that men may carry a rucksack or reusable sports bottle without it being sold or perceived as green.

The British men’s skincare company Bulldog stands out for making sustainability a cornerstone of its brand. Its plastic tubes are derived from sugar cane, not fossil fuel; it sells bamboo-handled razors and shower gel in cardboard packs; and its Original Moisturiser is certified carbon-neutral. “We’ve never thought that there’s really a gender perspective on the idea of sustainability,” says Simon Duffy, the brand’s founder. “It’s a crazy idea to me, that that is considered more feminine than masculine. Everybody should be focused on this.”

Eco-friendly products from Plastic Freedom
 Eco-friendly products from Plastic Freedom. Pinterest

For female beauty brands, sustainability may well be a way of standing out in a crowded market, says Duffy (for male beauty, “the challenge is getting men to use these types of products at all”) – but commitment should not be only skin deep. “We’re trying to make it inherent to everything we do,” he says, “because it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t have to be a marketing story. Companies that try to use that as a tactic to sell more products are missing the point.”

It is a reminder that, for a company to be truly green, its attention to sustainability should extend to every level of its business – not just the one that draws consumers. Areeba Hamid, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace, says the impact of individual choices – even giving up meat or air travel on a large scale – is negligible: “If the corporations keep drilling for oil and gas, that is not going to amount to anything.”

Howell says: “While individual action is important, the individualisation of responsibility can go too far. We have got to look at the whole and try to do something at a societal level.”

Even arguments about meaningful action on the climate crisis are are split down gender lines. Another study by Swim, published in the journal Global Environmental Change last year, showed that men preferred arguments that centred on science and business and tended to “attribute negative feminine traits” to men who argued on the basis of ethics and environmental justice – as women typically did.

Women tend to have less trust in institutions, Howell says, which may mean they have less faith in the ability of science, technology and the government to address the issues that face us. Men, however, having been historically well served by the status quo, “are much more inclined to believe that, if they accept there is a problem, then somebody or some technology will sort it all out – that we don’t need to change our lifestyle”.

Misogyny has been shown to be a factor in climate denial. A 2014 paper in the International Journal for Masculinity Studies found that: “For climate sceptics, it was not the environment that was threatened; it was a certain kind of modern industrial society built and dominated by their form of masculinity.” As Martin Gelin wrote last year in the New Republic, the highest-profile climate campaigners in the world today are two young women: Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Those shouting them down are primarily older conservative men.

Adidas’s Parley shoes, made from upcycled ocean plastic
 Adidas’s Parley shoes are made from upcycled ocean plastic. Photograph: Adidas

“Occasionally, I feel quite angry,” says Howell, “because a lot of the problems have historically been created more by men, because they have more power, but it sometimes seems that women are getting more desperate about trying to solve them – and maybe have less power to do it.”

But the world is changing. Millennials and Generation Z (those born between the early 80s and the mid-00s) have been shown to align broadly on the climate crisis, according to recent data compiled in the US by the Pew Research Center; even young Republicans are more likely to say that governments need to do more. “If you look at the youth climate movement, and Greta, there are a lot of young men as well as women,” says Hamid. “I think this is generational.”

Duffy says that brands are changing, too. More than two-thirds (68%) of Europeans rate being environmentally friendly as more important to them than it was five years ago, according to a European Consumer Packaging Perceptions survey from 2018. For 19- to 29-year-olds, it was 80%.

While some companies will change their ways only when forced, Duffy looks to Adidas’s range of trainers made from upcycled ocean plastic, and the footwear company Allbirds, as examples of those with “sustainable stories”, irrespective of the gender of their target market. “It’s certainly seeping in,” he says. “If you’re a man and you’re not picking up that this is important, something is wrong.”


Welcome to the Canadian Rebellion of 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan

Three of the Wet'suwet'en women arrested today at the Unist'ot'en camp—Freda Huson, Brenda Michell, and Victoria Redsun—have been freed from custody.

Three of the Wet’suwet’en women arrested today at the Unist’ot’en camp—Freda Huson, Brenda Michell, and Victoria Redsun—have been freed from custody. UNIST’OT’EN CAMP

This evening, the RCMP issued yet another news release suggesting that the situation in northern B.C. is under control.

Seven people were arrested at the Unist’ot’en camp at the 66-kilometre point on the Morice West Forest Service Road.

In Metro Vancouver, another 57 people were arrested today following shutdowns at Port of Vancouver operations in Vancouver and Delta.

Meanwhile, a large group of demonstrators has gathered at the B.C. legislature in advance of tomorrow’s speech from the throne.

And another group blocked a railway in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood going into the Port of Vancouver.

Dani Aiello@dani_elaaiello

Main and Hastings is NOT our final destination. There are bigger plans in the works. Stay tuned.

Dani Aiello@dani_elaaiello

Now taking over the train tracks and Venables and Glen. Another economic disruption. No injunction here. Come join!

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Just don’t call them protesters. They prefer the term “land defenders”.

That’s because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan were so dim-witted as to think their governments could give the green light to a natural gas pipeline across unceded Wet’suwet’en traditional territory without triggering a popular rebellion.

The hereditary chiefs had already gone to the Supreme Court of Canada more than two decades ago to establish that their Aboriginal title existed. And they had kiboshed two other proposed pipelines across their territory.

Did Trudeau and Horgan seriously believe that the latest one by Coastal GasLink would be built to fuel their $40-billion LNG fossil-fueled pipedream?

Of course, mainstream media outlets aren’t using the term “Canadian Rebellion” yet.

But what other words can describe a movement that has shut down railways in different cities, closed the country’s biggest port for several days, and blocked traffic on highways and bridges, including the two crossings that connect Victoria with the suburb of Esquimalt?

Jess Housty@jesshousty

If you can’t show up in Bella Bella ro support everyone gathered here, find a local action, organize a local action, read the supporter toolkit, make a donation, make your mark. Haíɫzaqv women continue to hold it down for our Wet’suwet’en relatives. 

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“I am very satisfied that this operation was conducted safely and there were no injuries sustained by anyone,” RCMP senior commander David Attfield said in the news release. “This was a very challenging situation, and I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our members.”

It reminds me of former U.S. president George W. Bush’s flying onto an aircraft carrier early in the Iraq war on May 1, 2003, and delivering a boisterous speech to the troops under the banner “Mission Accomplished”.

That military conflict dragged on for several more years.

Dani Aiello@dani_elaaiello

Respect. ✊🏼✨🔥 

Jorge Barrera @JorgeBarrera

Mohawks prepare to enter 6th day of railway shutdown in support of Wet’suwet’en 

View image on Twitter
Similarly, the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline is far from over in Canada. And anyone who believes that major enforcement operations have ended in connection with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ grievances is kidding themselves.

For proof, all they have to do is watch what happens on Tuesday (February 11) when B.C. legislature begins its spring sitting.

Or when the Lions Gate Bridge and Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing are shut down.

We can all expect a fair amount of chaos for a while.

Trudeau and Horgan aren’t helping matters by their constant harping about their determination to address the climate crisis and their respect for Indigenous rights. That only enrages people even more every time these politicians’ actions say the opposite.

Today, Mounties arrested Unist’ot’en women deep on their unceded traditional territory as they were holding a ceremony honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The police action has turned Freda Huson, Karla Tait, Brenda Michell, Victoria Redsun, and Autumn Walken—along with ally Pocholo Alen Conception—into folk heroes for Indigenous people and other supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs across Canada.


The hashtag #WetsuwetenStrong now routinely appears alongside such hashtags as #AllEyesOnWetsuweten, #ReconciliationIsDead, and #thetimeisnow.

Most ominously for those who make their living on Bay Street, #WetsuwetenStrong is increasingly showing up alongside another hashtag: #ShutDownCanada.

This is what Trudeau and Horgan have created by failing to fully consider how much support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs could muster in their struggle to maintain their infrastructure—the land—that has nourished their people for thousands of years.

Now, Canadians are going to have to get used to regular disturbances to their infrastructure in the rest of Canada.

That’s Trudeau’s legacy. That’s Horgan’s legacy. That’s their rebellion.

Te Ara Whatu@TeAraWhatu

Yesturday Te Ara Whatu and allies stood in support of Wet’suwet’en outside the Canadian Consulate. We absolutely denounce all ongoing violence towards land protectors & send our prayers to those on the frontlines

Full press release here: 

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‘People are starting to wake up’: Pipeline protesters expect long-term change

A protester who was blocking an entrance to the port is arrested by police officers in Vancouver on Monday. The demonstration was held in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territories.

VANCOUVER — Opponents of a natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia say they believe protests across the country are sparking a growing awareness of Indigenous rights that will lead to long-term change.

Protesters blocked train traffic in east Vancouver on Monday afternoon to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The protest came hours after nearly 60 people were arrested for obstructing busy ports in the city and in nearby Delta.

Demonstrators gathered on the B.C. legislature steps in Victoria, where traffic was also tied up because of blockages on two bridges Monday evening.

Pipeline opponents also gathered at the office of the Crown-Indigenous relations minister in Toronto, the federal justice building in Ottawa, a commuter train line in Montreal and outside an event with the natural resources minister in St. John’s, N.L.

Jen Wickham, a spokeswoman for one of the five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en Nation, said she believes non-Indigenous Canadians are becoming more aware of First Nations rights.

“I think that people are starting to wake up to the fact that we have the right to our territory,” she said. “They’re upset and they’re taking to the streets. They’re occupying offices, they’re stopping traffic and they’re stopping trains. They’re saying, loud and clear, ‘This is not OK.’ “

The RCMP began enforcing a court injunction last week against people camped near a pipeline work site in Houston. Mounties said 14 people were arrested and expected to appear in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.

Mounties said in a statement late Monday they have concluded major operations to enforce the injunction, following the arrests of seven more people earlier in the day.

Wickham said members are defending their territory from construction of the pipeline, which is part of a $40 billion liquefied natural gas export project.

“We are the rightful title owners of our territory and we will continue to assert our sovereignty,” she said. “It’s not a question of protesting. It’s a question of their homes. They’re defending their homes.”

Protesters began disruptions at ports in Vancouver and nearby Delta on Friday. The ports obtained court injunctions and arrests were made Monday morning, when Delta police said emergency health services were called for one protester out of an abundance of caution.

“Everyone involved was treated respectfully and with dignity,” said Cris Leykauf, a Delta police spokeswoman.

Demonstrators regrouped and impeded a major rail thoroughfare that feeds into the port. Spokeswoman Natalie Knight said about 150 people were there on Monday afternoon.

“We want to send a clear signal in at least two different directions. We want to signal to ourselves that we are strong, that we are not afraid of the colonial legal courts, and that we stand with the Wet’suwet’en,” she said.

Vancouver police said it was monitoring the protest and no arrests had been made.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said it had not heard of any terminal delays due to demonstrations on the rail lines but it continued to monitor the situation.

Knight also said she has seen public opinion shift toward support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

In the years that followed, residential schools were closed and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was launched, Knight said.

“The ripple effects of these kinds of actions for Indigenous sovereignty are much bigger than we can predict or see in this current moment.”

In St. John’s, N.L., dozens of protesters gathered outside Memorial University, where Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan was set to speak.

“Natural resource development in this country, at a time when we’ve committed to net zero, when a majority of Canadians have voted with clear concern about climate change, there are going to be protests and people feel very strongly about it,” O’Regan said.

“I was more than happy to hear their concerns and I’m sure I’ll be hearing a number of others as I go across the country.”

About 30 people waited for six hours in the lobby of the federal justice building in Ottawa until a trio of department officials came down to hear their concerns. The officials said Justice Minister David Lametti was travelling and unavailable, but protesters said they wouldn’t leave until they spoke to someone in a position of authority.

Emma Buchanan, who attended the protest, said the national show of support for the Wet’suwet’en was a sign that people are waking up to the need to support Indigenous people.

“Indigenous issues are Canadian issues and they are for everybody to care about,” she said.

Lametti said in a statement that he had spoken by phone with the protesters and was committed to bringing their demands to his cabinet colleagues.

“Advancing reconciliation is a crucial priority for our government and our country,” he said. “I take this responsibility very seriously.”

On the B.C. legislature steps, protester Kolin Sutherland-Wilson said he feels a responsibility to stand up for Wet’suwet’en members.

“In this day and age, it is immoral, it is unjust and it is inhumane for Canada to continue to criminalize and vilify Indigenous law,” he said.

All 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en council, have signed benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink. However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the council established by the Indian Act only has authority over reserve lands.

The hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area because they have never signed a treaty ceding their traditional territories.

Premier John Horgan has said the pipeline is of vital economic and social importance to northern B.C. He said the courts have decided the pipeline can proceed and the rule of law must prevail.

B.C.’s Indigenous relations minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. SOURCE


How Japan Has Almost Eradicated Gun Crime

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?


Shotguns and air rifles are the only firearms you can legally buy in Japan. Photo by Ronald Grant.

If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95 percent.

There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.

That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.

The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan’s 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

Police must be notified where the gun and the ammunition are stored – and they must be stored separately under lock and key. Police will also inspect guns once a year. And after three years your licence runs out, at which point you have to attend the course and pass the tests again.

This helps explain why mass shootings in Japan are extremely rare. When mass killings occur, the killer most often wields a knife.

My Perfect Country

In a world where a lot is going wrong there is also a lot going right. So what if you could build a country with policies that actually worked, by homing in ideas around the world that have been truly successful?

The current gun control law was introduced in 1958, but the idea behind the policy dates back centuries.

“Ever since guns entered the country, Japan has always had strict gun laws,” says Iain Overton, executive director of Action on Armed Violence and the author of Gun Baby Gun.

“They are the first nation to impose gun laws in the whole world and I think it laid down a bedrock saying that guns really don’t play a part in civilian society.”

People were being rewarded for giving up firearms as far back as 1685, a policy Overton describes as “perhaps the first ever gun buyback initiative.”

Screenshot_2020-01-15 How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime.png

The result is a very low level of gun ownership – 0.6 guns per 100 people in 2007, according to the Small Arms Survey, compared to 6.2 in England and Wales and 88.8 in the US.

“The moment you have guns in society, you will have gun violence but I think it’s about the quantity,” says Overton. “If you have very few guns in society, you will almost inevitably have low levels of violence.”

Japanese police officers rarely use guns and put much greater emphasis on martial arts – all are expected to become a black belt in judo. They spend more time practising kendo (fighting with bamboo swords) than learning how to use firearms.

“The response to violence is never violence, it’s always to de-escalate it. Only six shots were fired by Japanese police nationwide [in 2015],” says journalist Anthony Berteaux. “What most Japanese police will do is get huge futons and essentially roll up a person who is being violent or drunk into a little burrito and carry them back to the station to calm them down.”

Japanese police practise martial arts every week and avoid using weapons whenever they can.

Overton contrasts this with the American model, which he says has been “to militarise the police.”

“If you have too many police pulling out guns at the first instance of crime, you lead to a miniature arms race between police and criminals,” he says.



To underline the taboo attached to inappropriate use of weapons, an officer who used his gun to kill himself was charged posthumously with a criminal offence. He carried out the act while on duty – policemen never carry weapons off-duty, leaving them at the station when they finish their shift.

The care police take with firearms is mirrored in the self-defence forces.

Journalist Jake Adelstein once attended a shooting practice, which ended with the gathering up of the bullet casings – and there was great concern when one turned out to be missing.

“One bullet shell was unaccounted for – one shell had fallen behind one of the targets – and nobody was allowed to leave the facilities until they found the shell,” he says.

There is no clamour in Japan for gun regulations to be relaxed, says Berteaux. “A lot of it stems from this post-war sentiment of pacifism that the war was horrible and we can never have that again,” he explains.


There are a limited number of longstanding rifle owners in Japan – when they die their heirs must hand the rifles in. Photo from Reuters.

“People assume that peace is always going to exist and when you have a culture like that you don’t really feel the need to arm yourself or have an object that disrupts that peace.”

In fact, moves to expand the role of Japan’s self-defence forces in foreign peacekeeping operations have caused concern in some quarters.

“It is unknown territory,” says political science professor Koichi Nakano. “Maybe the government will try to normalise occasional death in the self-defence force and perhaps even try to glorify the exercise of weapons?”

According to Iain Overton, the “almost taboo level of rejection” of guns in Japan means that the country is “edging towards a perfect place” – though he points out that Iceland also achieves a very low rate of gun crime, despite a much higher level of gun ownership.

Henrietta Moore of the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London applauds the Japanese for not viewing gun ownership as “a civil liberty”, and rejecting the idea of firearms as “something you use to defend your property against others.”

But for Japanese gangsters the tight gun control laws are a problem. Yakuza gun crime has sharply declined in the last 15 years, but those who continue to carry firearms have to find ingenious ways of smuggling them into the country.

“The criminals pack the guns inside of a tuna so it looks like a frozen tuna,” says retired police officer Tahei Ogawa. “But we have discovered cases where they have actually hidden a gun inside.” SOURCE


‘Borderline insulting’: Indigenous group could launch unprecedented challenge if Ottawa rejects Frontier

‘From our perspective, no matter what decision is made, there needs to be consultation’: Fort McKay Metis Nation

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: “I am sick and tired of politicians and environmental activists only listening to First Nations that are opposed to development.”Larry Wong/Postmedia

CALGARY — An Indigenous group that stands to benefit from Teck Resources Ltd.’s Frontier oilsands project, says it would launch a legal challenge against the federal government if it rejects the development.

“We do recognize that there are ways that we can go – and that’s one,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Metis Nation, about launching a legal challenge if the Frontier project is rejected. “We are prepared.”

Quintal says the government has yet to consult with his group.

The Fort McKay Metis are one of the 14 Indigenous groups that have signed benefits agreements with Teck; others include the Fort McKay First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Ron Quintal is president of the Fort Chipewyan Metis Nation. Quintal says that band will sue Ottawa if it rejects the Frontier oilsands project. Cullen Bird/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Quintal said his group is sending Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson a letter this week outlining his community’s concerns as Ottawa’s end-of-February deadline for a decision on the Frontier oilsands project approaches.

“From our perspective, no matter what decision is made, there needs to be consultation,” he said, adding that it’s “borderline insulting” that the federal government would look to cancel the $20.6-billion project that would directly benefit his community, then look to provide an aid package to the province more generally. The president was referring to an unconfirmed news report that the federal government was going to reject the project but will offer Alberta a financial package as compensation.

“We’ve already had one major industry taken from us — that’s the fur trade,” Quintal said, adding, “We want to earn our way.”

The Fort McKay First Nation declined to comment on whether they would also launch a legal challenge if Ottawa rejects the project, but the group reiterated its support for the project.

“We believe, with necessary government action on cumulative effects, that Frontier can strike the right balance between environmental and Treaty rights protection and create economic opportunities for Fort McKay and its members,” Chief Mel Grandjamb said in a release.

If a legal challenge is launched, it would mark a new type of challenge launched by an Indigenous community arguing their rights have been infringed by a project being rejected.

“There’s no precedent for or against this type of claim. It’s untested ground,” said Dwight Newman, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law.

Newman said the Crown’s duty to consult normally arises when the government takes an action that would potentially infringe on an Indigenous group’s rights. For a group to argue that a rejection of a development requires consultation, he said, they would need to argue that rejection is also a violation of their rights.

He said it’s possible such an action could be successful, but there’s no relevant case law. “It’s just not really been tested in court,” Newman said.

The Alberta government, which has steadily increased pressure on Ottawa to approve the Frontier project, said it is willing to support a legal challenge.

Should the federal government substitute politics for the regulatory process, they will be betraying the 14 First Nations that have signed benefits agreements with Teck

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

Last year, the Alberta government set up a $10-million litigation fund to support First Nations groups in favour of natural resource development. The fund was initially launched to help Indigenous groups opposed to Bill C-48, a federal law that banned oil tankers from the northern part of British Columbia’s coastline.

On Monday, Kenney also released a letter dated Feb. 5 to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on the federal government to approve the Frontier project. In a handwritten post script, Kenney said, “We think it is essential that Canada has a regulatory process that is not substituted to politics.”

The letter’s release comes as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, one of 14 Indigenous groups that have signed onto the project, have asked Ottawa to postpone its decision on the project.

In the letter, Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam asked the federal government to delay a decision on Frontier while it continues to consult with the Alberta government on the effects of the project. Adam said the Alberta government “has not yet taken the appropriate actions” to mitigate the effects of the project.

We are still talking with Alberta and remain hopeful that progress can be made from now until the end of February, when Cabinet makes its decision on project approval

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters in Calgary on Monday that cabinet would “take a look at the letter” but added the federal government has yet to make a decision on the project.

“We have not yet come to that decision. It has not come to cabinet formally and for that reason, I don’t have anything to say about that project at this time,” Morneau said.

On Monday, Morneau also said the federal government would begin consulting with Indigenous groups on the potential to buy a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is now estimated to cost $12.6 billion.

Multiple Indigenous groups in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have expressed their interest in buying stakes in the pipeline project that will carry 590,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to B.C.

Some analysts also expect major institutional investors are interested in purchasing a stake.

Stifel First Energy analyst Ian Gillies wrote in a Monday research said Toronto-based private equity group Brookfield Asset Management Inc. could be in the running.
“One potential dark horse could be Brookfield (who owns North River Midstream) because it recently completed a $20 billion capital raise and continues to have excellent access to capital markets,” Gillies wrote. “We would also expect various Indigenous groups to pursue acquiring the pipeline.” SOURCE




All eyes are watching as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began their invasion on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.  We wanted to provide the map above along with a brief update from our Wet’suwet’en relatives so you can better understand the lay of the land in the fight against TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline being forced on the homelands of the Wet’suwet’en. Keep scrolling after updates for ways to take action.


January 5th, 2020 Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation evicted Coastal GasLink (CGL) from their territories. CGL does not have consent to construct their $6.6 billion fracked gas pipeline. CGL is trying to push through their project on unceded Indigenous territories.

“Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink/TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.” The Royal Canadian Mountain Police are invading the land to clear it of Indigenous land defenders and their supporters so that CGL can continue work. Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl (Liksamisu Clan) said, “wet’suwet’en will enforce the eviction of Coastal Gaslink with any means at their disposal.”

RCMP spent $3.6 million in the first three months they invaded Wet’suwet’en territory. They’ve now been here for 13 months. How many millions of dollars has RCMP spent finding our Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirits? The connection to our MMIWG2S epidemic and pipeline industrial man camps is well know. We know that with violence to Indigenous lands comes violence to Indigenous peoples.

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Day Three, February 8th, 2020 :

Unist’ot’en Camp 66km

RCMP has made it the gates of the Unist’ot’en Camp at 66km. Unist’ot’en matriarchs went into ceremony to call on ancestors and cremated a Canadian flag marked with the words “Reconciliation is dead.” Freda Huson threw the injunction and shouted “this is all its worth, the paper its written on.” RCMP helicopters have retreated for now.

1:28 pm – 4 arrests reported at 27km, Gisdewe cabin. Media being held back from accurately reporting the invasion for the third day in the row.

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Day two, February 7th, 2020
Gidimt’en Checkpoint 44 km

Dozens of RCMP officers breached the gates here, four waves of helicopters dropped off tactical officers to surround the homesite with assault rifles and police dogs. The four land defenders arrested during the Gidimt’en invasion are still in custody. They have refused to sign conditions of release that will prohibit them from visiting homesites on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Among those arrested are Gidimt’en Chief Woos’ daughter Eve Saint, Anne Spice of the tlingit nation, Denzel Sutherland-Wilson of the Gitxsan nation, and a Mohawk supporter.

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Day One, February 6, 2020
Media Camp Invasion 27 km

Dozens of militarized police with assault rifles and dogs have been deployed against unarmed Wet’suwet’en land defenders on unceded Indigenous land. At least 100 police are part of the operation. Six arrests were made, while two Wet’suwet’en home sites remain in the path of police violence, including the Unist’ot’en Healing Center founded in 2015.


You can donate to legal defense/support funds here:




To follow the events of the invasion:

On twitter @UnistotenCamp

Hashtags for Social Media: 




Download the Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit 2020 here:

Hold a solidarity action

Find A Solidarity Action Near You:

Watch this video of Freda Huson, Healing Center founder, giving an update 31 days after the eviction:

Video of heavily militarized police invading #Wetsuweten territories:

More Video militarized police with assault rifles and dogs have been deployed against unarmed Wet’suwet’en land defenders:


Contact the British Columbian Government here:

Premier John Horgan

Minister of Indigenous Relations and “Reconciliation” Scott Fraser

Attorney General David Eby

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth

Minister of Forest Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development and MLA for Stikine-Wet’suwet’en Territory Doug Donaldson

Contact CGL Operator TC Energy (Formerly TransCanada):

Corporate Head Office
450 – 1 Street S.W. Calgary, AB
Canada, T2P 5H1

Corporate Head Office
700 Louisiana St,
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (832.320.5000

Contact CGL Operator KKR :

9 West 57th Street
Suite 4200
New York, New York 10019
+ 1 (212) 750-8300


600 Travis Street
Suite 7200
Houston, Texas 77002
+ 1 (713) 343-5142


2800 Sand Hill Road
Suite 200
Menlo Park, California 94025
+ 1 (650) 233-6560

Do not look away as Indigenous peoples are being pushed off their land. Reconciliation isn’t violence against Indigenous peoples.


Wet’suwet’en: Why Are Indigenous Rights Being Defined By An Energy Corporation?

Image result for yellowhead institute

AN UNSIGNED AGREEMENT between a Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Coastal GasLink along with financial documents obtained by Yellowhead Institute provide reinforcement to Yellowhead’s assessment of the ways these private contracts can dramatically undermine First Nation rights and jurisdiction.

The Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) and other documents were drafted in 2016, two years before the first payments were made to the First Nation. Because official agreements are not available to the public due to confidentiality clauses, these documents provide a valuable record of Coastal GasLink’s negotiating objectives.

In light of present RCMP raids, these documents provide important insights that support an emerging analysis around how resource extraction companies work with provinces to limit the scope of the Aboriginal and treaty rights.

One of the most alarming clauses in the document positions the band as paid informers to quell internal dissent within the First Nation against the project at the cost of “financial consideration” or payouts.

The document also introduces the possibility of future negotiations with the band on the pipeline’s conversion to crude oil.

Operating on unceded lands

The pipeline, a natural gas project by Coastal GasLink owned by TC Energy, has been approved by the B.C. government, but it is being opposed by Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary leadership in the region.

It has been criticized by Amnesty InternationalB.C.’s Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination who say all First Nations affected by the pipeline should give free, prior and informed consent before it can proceed.

Provincial and federal governments, industry and the First Nations LNG Alliance have responded to criticism about the contentious project by citing the consent of elected band councils along the route. Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 First Nations, including with each band council in the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

But the terms of consent this unsigned agreement seek to secure should raise serious concern for those watching the conflict unfold.

Irrevocable consent
According to the IBA, Coastal GasLink aims to secure “irrevocable consent” for the project from the First Nation.

The First Nation must also act to dissuade band members from engaging in any internal dissent within the First Nation against the project. The unsigned agreement reads:

  • “[The First Nation] will not take, and will take all reasonable actions to persuade [First Nation] members to not take, any action, legal or otherwise, including any media or social media campaign, that may impede, hinder, frustrate, delay, stop or interfere with the Project’s contractors, any Authorizations or any Approval Processes.”

Experts on IBAs have been warning for years that serious issues can arise when commercial law is used to interpret Aboriginal constitutional rights. With these agreements, we now see how. The draft agreement states:

  • “[this is the] full and final satisfaction of any present or future claim by [the First Nation]… against Coastal Gaslink… for any infringement by the Project of [the First Nation’s] Section 35(1) Rights.”

The extent of constitutional Aboriginal rights is being defined here by a private energy corporation, specifically limiting the exercise of Aboriginal rights. A separate provision affirms that the band can take legal action against British Columbia.

Future protection is granted to Coastal GasLink in the case that Aboriginal rights are expanded to the nation through legal or policy means. The draft agreement states:

  • “If [the First Nation] obtains any interest in land including Aboriginal title or ownership or jurisdiction over lands used by the Project… [the First Nation] affirms the Authorizations … will continue” and that these changes will not affect the Agreement.

Dayna Nadine Scott, a law professor at York University, has interviewed lawyers with experience drafting IBAs for a research project, due out in the spring. She says this language is highly problematic and is often referred to as “gag orders,” preventing communities from raising concerns when new issues come to light.

Therefore, the unsigned agreement restricts the band from challenging any of the company’s legal rights of development, even in the case of changes to the First Nation’s legal rights, as recognised by courts or governments.

Possibility for natural gas to crude oil conversion?
The unsigned agreement also raises the issue of the possibility of converting the pipeline for other uses.

Previously, First Nations in the region were almost unanimously opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge, because it carried significant environmental risks, such as oil spills in coastal waters. Coastal GasLink garnered significantly more support, in part because of its pipeline would carry natural gas, not bitumen.

The unsigned agreement says: “Coastal GasLink will not convert the pipeline component of the project to use for transportation of crude oil, bitumen or dilbit without the consent of [First Nation].”

That line, “without the consent of First Nation,” means the subject of conversion was very likely raised in negotiations between the parties. The First Nation protected itself by confirming this change would require an amendment or a new agreement altogether to obtain consent for the change.

However, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose the project have not consented and signed an agreement. Therefore, it remains to be seen if Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose the project would be afforded the same opportunity.

Though B.C. introduced a regulation in 2015 against the conversion of LNG pipelines, it has yet to be tested and could be repealed.

A once-shuttered energy corridor could re-emerge if the LNG pipeline is built. Hydrocarbons are Canada’s biggest export commodity, with $129 billion CAD in exports in 2018. Enbridge was unable to secure a corridor through the region previously, but TC Energy, the owner of Coastal GasLink, is aiming to succeed.

Subsidizing dispossession

LNG Canada is already subsidized by the province of B.C. for $5.35 billion. A further $1 billion in estimated subsidies will be provided by the federal government in exemptions from tariffs on steel imports.

The provincial funding arrangement puts B.C. Premier John Horgan in a conflict of interest with Wet’suwet’en hereditary governments opposing the project.

Horgan has expressed concern about First Nations experiencing “systemic poverty” and characterized the Coastal Gas Link investment into First Nations as “a pathway to prosperity,” according to recent statements in the press.

But a substantial amount of financial support to First Nations are derived from public coffers. Rather than alleviate “systemic poverty” in communities directly, the B.C. government is channelling these dollars through energy companies. Therefore, making First Nation funding contingent upon support for pipeline deals.

The summary of financial benefits obtained by Yellowhead shows that B.C. will put up $1 million to the band in signing payments, $5 million in construction and in-service payments, and an estimated $40 million total in annual operation payments over 40 years.
These numbers confirm amounts committed in a Natural Gas Benefits Agreement signed between the parties.

As the RCMP descend on Wet’suwet’en territory it is worthwhile to reflect on how social license is achieved by industry to access Indigenous territories.

The provincial government has downloaded its constitutional obligations to energy companies to determine the scope and assertion of Aboriginal rights.

A hand-in-glove system, the B.C. government has supported the current raids through financial incentives that have forced communities apart.

With upwards of $7 billion on the line in government subsidies, the interests of Coastal GasLink’s viability appears to have been put far ahead of Wet’suwet’en rights, title and justice. SOURCE


The project of land back is about reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction: breathing life into rights and responsibilities. This Red Paper is about how Canada dispossesses Indigenous peoples from the land, and in turn, what communities are doing to get it back.


Taking surveillance seriously

A map shoes the proposed energy corridor that leads to Kitimat, and through which multiple projects are slated to go through.

The Unist’ot’en Camp lies directly on the GPS coordinates of the proposed “energy corridor” that threatens all living things in its path.

by âpihtawikosisân

Things may seem confusing, because there are claims that the Wet’suwet’ten actually support this project, and there is plenty of media out there trotting out folks from the five out of six Wet’suwet’ten band councils who signed agreements in favour. However it is vital to understand that in 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear in Delgamuukw and reiterated in Tsilhoqot’in [2014], that the territories in question, along with the rest of the land in BC not covered by Treaties, were never ceded to British Columbia and therefore never ceded to Canada.

These supreme court cases also affirmed that the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs continue to exercise legitimate authority over the lands in question and they have not given their consent to Coastal GasLink. These hereditary leaders assert that Wet’suwet’en band councils have authority only over their individual reserves, because their authority came from the Indian Act. Now despite these supreme court decisions, folks are going to believe what they want to in order to marshal support for their position, but the take away from this really should be that this is a hotly contested issue, on lands that are in dispute, and that alone should slow this project down to a standstill while the issues are discussed properly.

By the way, Alberta teachers, your pension is being managed by AIMCo, who has a 65% interest in this pipeline. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada clearly identified the responsibility of educators and systems of education in the process of reconciliation, and it is absolutely incumbent upon you to insist that you divest from this project.

Hopefully you’re reading this and asking, “how can I help?” Here is a supporter toolkit that can guide you through this, with more background information and specific requests: WET’SUWET’EN SUPPORTER TOOLKIT.

All of this is the current backdrop, but what I want to remind you is that the Canadian government, and its paramilitary arm, the RCMP, are absolutely surveilling Indigenous peoples and our allies, whether they are on the front-lines or not, and this is unacceptable.

It is crucial to understand the state focus is on whether or not Indigenous people are able to sway public opinion, hence the very wide net that is cast when it comes to surveilling us. You may recall that Cindy Blackstock, who successfully fought to prove that Canada discriminates against First Nations children, was put under warrantless surveillance by the government, where her personal Facebook page was spied on, and information was collected about her, as well as her family and friends, and distributed to government officials. This included surveillance of minors, without consent of their parents.

A group picture of Unist'ot'en allies, holding a warrior flag, fists raised, a sign saying no access without consent. Are these people passive, disruptive, or volatile according to RCMP check lists?

So today, it is time to review Project SITKA. Whether or not this operation continues under the same name, or has another moniker, we won’t likely know for a few years, but the focus is almost certainly consistent. If you want a quick summary of Project SITKA, this article will help you out: The RCMP Used Police Databases and Social Media to Track Aboriginal Protestors.

During Idle No More, hundreds, and potentially thousands, of Indigenous people were profiled by the RCMP to evaluate their “criteria for criminality”. The 2014 report that was uncovered through an information request by Jeffrey Monaghan and Andy Crosby, listed 313 folk (whose names were mostly redacted from the released documents). It is very important that you look at how the evaluations were carried out.

Here is the RCMP document, so you can read it in full. It is called “PROJECT SITKA: Serious Criminality Associated To Large Public Order Events With National Implications.” Talk about a broad mandate!

This document shows there was a provincial break down, focusing on BC, MN, ON, QC, and NB/NS, profiling:

  • most active individuals within the province
  • subjects who travelled to the province to attend events
  • organizations associated with provincial protestors

The RCMP state they focus on “public safety” and people who use “unlawful tactics at protests that pose a threat to public safety”. They admitted to surveilling 313 people, and determining that 89 of those people met the “criteria for criminality”. Project SITKA tracked some folks for at least FIVE YEARS, and some for even longer, back to the year 2000. And here’s the type of protest events they flagged:

  • natural resource development protests
  • anti-capitalist protests
  • demands for a missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry
  • land claims issues
  • Idle No More, in general

If you think the RCMP haven’t maintained an unbroken surveillance web that is still in place now, you’re engaging in heavy duty denial. In any case, “social media usage” figures heavily in this report. The RCMP bemoan how this makes things hard to predict. They rail against “misinformation, and wild accusations, particularly against police to provoke a crowd response”. As you’ll see in a bit, they rate certain folks “volatile protestors” based very much in how able these folks are to “sway public opinion”. Heavy online presence is rated a serious threat.

Okay so let’s look at those 89 folks they ranked as having “high criminality”. They:

  • attended a higher number of events (than the rest of the 313 people surveilled)
  • were capable of mobility (crossing provincial boundaries sent up huge flags, as though our territories don’t go beyond provincial boundaries???)
  • were affiliated with several organizations
  • interaction socially to each-other or via social media.

Despite identifying that there is no shadowy group or controlling Indigenous actions, and no indication of organized crime exploiting “the loose network associated to Aboriginal protests to pursue a criminal agenda”, surveillance was still extremely thorough and protracted. This report recommended changing the vocabulary used about Indigenous protestors, strategically shifting away from terrorist/militant/extremist, because those terms are not defined within the Canadian Criminal Code, and instead categorizing people according to “levels of criminality” which includes: background, motivation, and rhetoric. What that means, we’ll see in a moment, but hold on to your shorts because it’s wild.

The RCMP notes that keeping protestor profiles will help in the “operational response” (aka RCMP action) to Indigenous protests and occupations. The RCMP recommends learning more about causal roots and holisitic underpinnings to these protests and occupations, not so it can oh you know, change institutionally or anything. Na. Understanding the issues will help the RCMP predict locations of protests, “highlight negative influencers” as well as folks and “indicators?” with more “positive influence”. They are assessing “threats” and “assets”, of course.

Okay so let’s look at the appendices, where they lay out how they group Indigenous peoples according to “levels of criminality”. There are three “personalities and tactics of individual protestors”: passive, disruptive, and volatile.

A screenshot of the description of Passive, Disruptive, and Volatile personalities and tactics definitions. The definitions are discussed below this image.

Passive is defined as soft-commitment, peaceful protest, seeking media attention, using emotional language, broad mix of tactics, solution oriented, consultative and widespread us of the Internet. This is most people according to the RCMP.

Disruptive is very committed and have established networks. They may engage in peaceful arrests, non-violent disruptions, they use dramatic words and symbols, stage media stunts, and have heavy used of the Internet. This is about ten to fifteen percent of folks apparently.

Now look at how they class volatile. Three to five percent, mostly men, young, lower income, “anarchist oriented”, small, strong networks. Violent planned actions (but violent isn’t defined), “inflammatory language” (also not defined), provokes police reaction…that’s a weird one, because police “react” to the things defined as passive and disruptive too. Ah yes and the volatiles record actions, are critical of “peaceful” protestors, make “outrageous demands” (like Land Back?), make “wild accusations” (like what? Seriously, LIKE WHAT, like Canada discriminates against First Nations children?), and have heavy Internet use.

Anyway, the RCMP will look at Indigenous folks who fit any of these criteria, and decide if they are a Suspect, a Person of Interest, or an Associate. It’s wild because this document keeps explaining that these aren’t actually defined terms under the Criminal Code. They claim they’ll eventually stop looking at folks categorized “passive” but they’ll keep records of “disruptive and volatile” people. They also assess groups.

What is the most notable about these criteria is the focus on whether or not individuals or groups are able to get their message out, and have it believed. That is the biggest threat factor. Use of the internet, public credibility, and so on. They assess the “risk” according to the following:

This is the Project SITKA public order profile scale, which is described below the image.

Pay attention to the criteria listed. Protests deemed of the highest risk (risk of what? Risk isn’t really defined other than it justifies further surveillance and RCMP intervention) are those that sway public opinion the most. If the group is well known and credible, has experience with protests, if their members are committed to their cause, if they have access to resources, can get media attention, are supported by other groups, well organized, have articulate leaders, highly proficient in social media, the issue is easy to understand etc etc etc etc. Cripes. The better you are at getting your message out, the more dangerous you are, apparently.

This is a document on how to rate the personalities and tactics of individual protestors, it is quite difficult to read, and is explained in more detail underneath this image.

I’ve been using this document as a fun party activity since it was released because holy shit. It’s hard to see with all the stamps and poor resolution, but it’s a “Personalities and Tracts of Individual Protestors checklist” to help determine how dangerous someone is. Are you “anarchist oriented”? You’re volatile, and dangerous. Do you use “inflammatory language” (like maybe, Smash the State?) bad. Planned actions, versus “peaceful protest” (not planned? Huh?) are bad. Do you use what the RCMP may consider dramatic language or symbols on the internet, like raised fists, Land Back slogans, or who knows what else? Do you record actions? Bad, bad, bad, bad.

And remember, these are not clear, objective definitions. These are subjective criteria according to the RCMP. It’s how THEY see YOU, not how you understand yourself, and not even how others may see you. These check lists and criteria are scarily open to state interpretation, and may justify warrantless surveillance of you, your family, your friends, whether you’ve been on the front line or not.

How confident are you that you’d be assessed as “passive” according to your offline and online activities? Try doing a self-assessment using their checklist, or have someone fill it out for you. Look at pictures of Indigenous peoples at events…are raised fists, warrior flags, signs about the illegitimacy of Canada passive, disruptive, or volatile according to the RCMP? Add up your totals according to how many times you think you’d be rated passive, disruptive, or volatile. If Your disruptive and volatile scores added together, are higher than your passive score, this document explains that you are a legitimate target of surveillance.

The point of all of this is to be aware that surveillance of Indigenous peoples in Canada is much more widespread than you are probably aware of, and that the criteria used to determine what level of “threat” we pose to “national interests” is extremely subjective. As well, if the “risk” becomes so much higher because of our ability to sway public opinion, then we have to understand that undermining that ability is going to be a core function of policing in this country. Discrediting Indigenous peoples and spreading disinformation becomes a CRUCIAL national security tactic. Hence the recent massive interference with journalists during the raids on Wet’suwet’en people and their allies.

Think about all of this. Think about security culture, and whether or not you and your organizations practice it. Think about where you get your information from, and think about what kind of society you want to live in, and whether criminalizing Indigenous peoples for asserting their inherent, constitutionally, and supreme court affirmed rights is something you believe in. Most importantly, be aware that the state overtly does not want you to be “swayed” by Indigenous peoples as we articulate our struggles, and you can push back significantly by ensuring you become more educated on these issues. The first step to taking surveillance seriously is to recognize that it’s happening much more than most folks want to believe it is.





Teck Frontier oilsands project pits Trudeau’s climate credibility against concerns for Alberta’s economy

Steven Guilbeault was a prominent environmentalist in Quebec before he was elected to Parliament last fall. Now, as a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, he will be at the table as government ministers ponder whether to approve the controversial Teck Frontier oilsands project.

OTTAWA—Like most everyone with a stake in the quagmire of Canadian climate politics, Colleen Thorpe does not know if the Liberal government will approve the Teck Frontier oilsands project.

But she sure is worried it will.

The executive director of Équiterre was among a host of Quebec environmentalists who met Monday with key cabinet ministers to air their thoughts about the massive — and politically contentious — proposed development in northeastern Alberta. Naturally, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was there. But so was Steven Guilbeault, the rookie politician installed as heritage minister after he was elected in Montreal last fall. In his prior life, Guilbeault was one of Quebec’s most prominent green activists, a vocal campaigner in the fight against climate change, who co-founded Thorpe’s organization and worked there until less than two years ago.

Yet despite Guilbeault’s presence, Thorpe left the meeting with concerns. She had the impression that the Liberal cabinet is divided on the project, meaning it could still go either way.

“We’re on high alert,” she told the Star last week. “I think there’s a lot of work to do to get the different cabinet members understanding the full implications of the project.”

Beatrice Allard, a civil law student at the University of Ottawa who volunteers with the youth group ENvironnement JEUnnesse, was also at Monday’s meeting.

“They said they have not reached a consensus in the cabinet,” Allard said. “I think they’re trying to have an open conversation on … the dilemma that the Trudeau administration has to deal with, which is dealing with Alberta’s interests while being able to deliver their environmental promises.”

Aye, there’s the rub. For a government that has argued it can fight climate change and spur economic growth at the same time, it’s hard to imagine a starker example of those priorities diverging in a single decision.

At an estimated cost of almost $21 billion, the 29,000-hectare Frontier project proposed by Vancouver’s Teck Resources is on the cusp of a crucial, perhaps ultimate, hurdle. A joint panel of federal and Alberta regulators recommended its approval last July, and now it is up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to decide whether it should go ahead.

The joint panel predicted the project would create thousands of jobs and pump $67 billion into federal and provincial coffers over its 41-year lifespan. Allies of Canada’s oil and gas industry — led by federal Conservatives and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney — have seized on those figures, arguing the project is a no-brainer and much-need economic boost for a region simmering with resentment over Ottawa’s environmental policies under the Liberal government. Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs warned on social media this week that “a political rejection of Teck Frontier … will be perceived by most Albertans as a final rejection of Alberta by Canada.”

Terry Parker, executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta, an umbrella group representing 60,000 workers in the province, said the project would be a welcome boost to the economy that has slumped in recent years with a persistent drop in oil prices, among other factors.

“This would be roughly 7,000 jobs for Albertans and another 2,500 after the mine is constructed,” Parker said, citing figures from the panel’s report. “It’s essential to Alberta’s economy that this project move forward.”

On the other side of the divide, environmental groups across the country have banded together to press the federal government to reject the project. They point to the panel’s conclusion that it would have “significant adverse effects” on the environment and traditional Indigenous land use. The project would also belch 4.1 megatonnes of greenhouse gas into the air every year, according to the joint panel — a figure that doesn’t include “downstream” emissions from burning the project’s daily output of 260,000 barrels of oil.

“Full rejection is the only thing that is an acceptable, defensible decision if Canada wants to continue to call itself a leader on climate,” said Julia Levin, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defence, who pressed Wilkinson about the project during the global climate summit in Madrid two months ago.

Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research, says his polling shows a partisan “chasm” between Conservative supporters and more left-leaning Canadians on questions of climate change and energy policy.


Unist’ot’en camp next in line as RCMP injunction enforcement continues

(A parked RCMP vehicle in Smithers, B.C. Photo: APTN file)

The Unist’ot’en camp may be next as the RCMP enforces an injunction against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters on the Morice West Forest Service Road in British Columbia.

Twenty-one people have been arrested at the time of writing.

“6 persons were arrested on Thursday morning. These persons were arrested at the 39.5 km mark all have been released from custody, without charges or conditions. 4 more persons were arrested at the 44km mark on Friday, and 11 were arrested on Saturday after the exclusion zone had been pushed back to the 4km mark after blockades and items placed on the road damaging police vehicle tires,” Cpl. Chris Manseau, an RCMP communications officer, explained by email.

Federal police spent the last four days moving down the road arresting people and dismantling obstructions at the 27, 39, and 44 kilometre points on the road so Coastal GasLink (CGL) can build a $6.6-billion liquid natural gas pipeline through the territory.

The completed project would carry fracked natural gas to Kitimat on the coast, where it would be exported to markets in Asia.

Hereditary chiefs representing the five Wet’suwet’en clans oppose the project, but all elected Indian Act governments have signed agreements that express support.

The next site on the RCMP’s path is the Unist’ot’en camp at the 66 kilometre mark.

On his way to the four kilometre mark, Hereditary Chief Smogelgem, also known Warner Naziel, discussed the raids.

“There was a lot of violence that happened on our front lines, violence that came from the state. Our people have been peaceful the entire time,” he said.

On Sunday, the camp reported officers and industry approaching as well as a helicopter flying over at 11:00 am PST.

Unist’ot’en Camp@UnistotenCamp

We have reports of a large convoy of RCMP and industry working up the road from @Gidimten toward . 2 bulldozers, 1 plow, 2 large cats, 1 large white RV, 1 ambulance, 7 pickups.

Manseau said another press release was coming, but this was not received by publication time.

On Saturday, Unist’ot’en camp released a statement on Facebook calling for the RCMP not to evict people from the healing centre, which is a main component of the camp.

“Even under colonial law, the RCMP cannot enter or search our Healing Centre without a warrant,” the statement said.

“People living and receiving treatment there are not in violation of CGL’s injunction, nor is the Healing Centre itself in violation of the injunction. The Healing Centre exists to support the self-determination and healing of our people and is unrelated to CGL’s work and the injunction.”

In a Saturday update, police said officers arrived at Unist’ot’en by “alternative means of travel” because support beams on the Lamprey Creek Bridge “appear to have been cut.”

Police said they are launching a criminal investigation into the matter. APTN is unable to independently verify the damage to the bridge.

The RCMP said officers were at the camp to “facilitate conversation,” but left an hour later after this was unsuccessful.

Watch: those who were arrested speak out

Freedom of the press

Due to an exclusion zone established at the 27 kilometre mark, few media are present to document the enforcement. Harsh criticism ensued when reports emerged that police threatened to arrest journalists observing the raid.

Journalists were not arrested. They were detained, forced to relocate against their will, and prevented from documenting police conduct.

“Throughout the enforcement of CGL’s injunction, media and legal observers were illegally corralled and threatened with detention and arrest for doing their jobs,” said Unist’ot’en camp in the release.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) issued a statement calling on media to “continue to document police interference and misuses of power, including noting names and badge numbers.”

“Yesterday the RCMP promised to respect media rights, but today they continue to abuse their powers and blatantly disregard the law in a way that is previously unheard of in Canada and unthinkable in a democratic country,” said president Karyn Pugliese in the Saturday release.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association said it too was “alarmed.”

“We emphasize that even in areas where injunctions are being enforced, the courts have upheld the constitutionally-protected freedom of the press” the organization said in an open letter Thursday.

Unist’ot’en camp’s statement also criticized “use of excessive force by the RCMP, including the unnecessary use of heavily armed tactical teams deployed by helicopters to surround Gidimt’en camp at 44 km, use of snipers, and deployment of K9 units.”

RCMP’s account differs. Police said that, despite the large deployment of officers, “a minimal amount of force was required to support the arrests or removal of individuals from within the exclusion zone.”

APTN asked Manseau to comment on this discrepancy, but he did not respond.

‘Not a protest or demonstration’

On its website, Unist’ot’en camp says it’s “not a protest or demonstration,” but rather a reoccupation of traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.

It claims to be an assertion of “jurisdiction and our inherent right to both give and refuse consent” under precolonial governance systems.

These traditional systems are complex.

The Wet’suwet’en Nation consists of five clans and 13 house groups. There are six Indian Act bands, five of which have signed on to the pipeline.

The feast hall, or potlatch, is the primary institution of governance. It’s where decisions are made and the investiture of hereditary titles takes place.

Under the traditional system, certain hereditary titles confer exclusive territorial rights to the title holder, according to anthropologist Antonia Mills.

Mills was hired by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in the late nineties to study their traditions and offer expert testimony as part of the case commonly called Delgamuukw.

She argued that some titles are over 5,000 years old.

For instance, Goolaht is “among the world’s oldest recorded continuously held titles to confer exclusive property rights,” she wrote.

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The Delgamuukw case concerned the question of Aboriginal title.

However, B.C. Supreme Court rejected Mills’s evidence and the evidence of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan chiefs.

In 1991, Judge Allan McEachern ruled Aboriginal title had been extinguished.

The Supreme Court of Canada disagreed. The high court said that Aboriginal title is an ancestral right protected under Section 35(1) of the Constitution. However, a new trial was ordered. It never took place.

Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty or ceded their territory to the Crown.

The hereditary chiefs say, under Wet’suwet’en traditional law, the pipeline requires their permission, which they have no plans to grant.

This has created division within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, since five elected governments have signed benefit agreements supporting the project.

APTN has spoken with community members who support the project because of the economic benefits it promises, though the numbers for and against the pipeline are not altogether clear.

When Justice Marguerite Church granted the injunction, she said that even if Wet’suwet’en law did impact Canadian law, it wasn’t clear to her if Wet’suwet’en law had been followed or not.