Flooding preparations in the Toronto Islands in 2019. Richard Lautens/Toronto Star
Canadian municipalities will need to invest $5.3 billion annually to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, says a new report, as governments, residents and insurers brace for more frequent severe weather events.
The new study from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Insurance Bureau of Canada cautions that the “poor state of Canada’s aging infrastructure” leaves all levels of government vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events made more frequent by climate change.
Bracing for the impact of floods will by far require the most significant municipal investment, the report says, while weather-proofing buildings is expected to be the largest infrastructure spending pool for local governments.
These climate change mitigation costs would be shared amongst all three orders of government, with the federal investment stream “well represented by current and future increased support to the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund,” according to the document.
“Municipalities, as the owners and operators of 60 per cent of the public infrastructure in Canada, are on the frontlines of both the impacts of climate change and the solutions to protect Canadians,” it reads.
“However, addressing climate risks by retrofitting existing infrastructure and implementing new adaptation measures poses an additional burden on the limited financial capacity of municipalities. Municipalities cannot shoulder the cost of adapting to climate change alone.”
A 2019 Government of Canada report found that the annual average temperature in Canada increased by 1.7 degrees Celsius since 1948, when nation-wide records became available. It also suggested that trends of more frequent and intense weather extremes will continue in the future, increasing flood and wildfire risks, among other impacts.
Canada has been hit hard by a flurry of extreme weather events in recent years, ranging from historic wildfires in Western Canada to frequent and damaging flooding events in the Prairies and Eastern Canada.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reported earlier this year that severe weather caused $1.3 billion in insured damage in Canada in 2019, making it the seventh costliest year on record. The IBC noted that no single event caused the high amount paid out for losses in 2019, and instead the losses were attributable to “a host of smaller severe weather events from coast to coast.”
In fact, eight of the 10 costliest years on record for the IBC came in the last decade, with 2016, the year of the Fort McMurray wildfires, the most expensive year ever for insurers.
FCM president Bill Karsten said in a statement that all orders of government “can work together to protect the public infrastructure that Canadians rely on in their neighbourhoods.”
“This crucial new data that underscores the importance of greater investment in municipal adaptation and prevention amidst the effects of a changing environment,” he added.
Actions by and in support of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders are as much about government failure to resolve issues around Indigenous rights and title as they are about pipelines and gas.
Some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their people are defending their rights to traditional practices, clean air and water and a healthy environment. They say the Coastal GasLink pipeline threatens those rights. The $6-billion pipeline, to ship fracked gas 670 kilometres from Dawson Creek to Kitimat for liquefying and export, is part of a heavily subsidized, $40-billion LNG Canada project owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsubishi Corporation, state-owned Petronas (Malaysia), PetroChina and Korea Gas Corporation.
The hereditary chiefs suggested an alternative route, but the pipeline company nixed it as too costly. The company and government point to support from elected chiefs and councils along the pipeline route, many of which have signed benefit-sharing agreements as a way to gain much-needed money for their communities.
But, as Judith Sayers (Kekinusuqs), a University of Victoria adjunct professor from the Hupačasath First Nation, writes in the Tyee, “Neither the elected chief and band councils that support the pipeline, nor the federal or provincial governments, nor Coastal GasLink ever obtained the consent of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters.”
That’s partly because governments have failed to resolve issues around Indigenous rights and title, unless forced to after lengthy court battles, as with the 1997 Delgamuukw decision and the 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, which recognized Indigenous title over unceded territories.
Perhaps governments are afraid that Indigenous rights and title would infringe on massive resource development schemes, although, under the previous decisions, they can still approve such projects as long as they can justify them and engage meaningfully with Indigenous titleholders.
If the principles set out in the Truth and Reconciliation report, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and court decisions are to have meaning, both levels of government must resolve issues around Indigenous rights and title and respect for Indigenous law.
One complication is that few people truly understand Indigenous governance systems. As Sayers writes, “The Wet’suwet’en were never defeated in a war, never surrendered their lands and never entered into a treaty.” Hereditary chiefs have jurisdiction over traditional territories, whereas elected chiefs and councils have authority on reserves. Elected band councils are an outcome of the 1876 Indian Act (and its precursors), enacted in part to destroy traditional governance systems and laws.
Some see the hereditary systems through a colonial lens — as monarchy or divine right — but they’re much more representative and consensus-based than many realize.
Now that actions have spread across the country, blocking rail lines, bridges, roads and ports, complaints about inconvenience and disruption are rife. But colonial society has been inconveniencing and disrupting Indigenous lives for hundreds of years. Now the RCMP, acting on behalf of extractive industries and government, are forcing Wet’suwet’en off their own territory.
Politicians rant about “protesters holding the economy hostage.” But Canada has held Indigenous people hostage up until the last residential school closed in 1996 — and longer through an unfair foster care system.
Recent actions are also calling attention to rapidly expanding fossil fuel development during a climate crisis, and the problems that come with giant resource projects, including violence against women. The Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls found direct links between extractive industries, “man camps” and increased violence against Indigenous women.
They also put a spotlight on society’s failure to respect the knowledge, laws and traditions of the people who have been here since time immemorial.
All Canadians should learn about Indigenous history and culture. We need to move beyond our narrow, extractivist, endless-growth mindset. The colonial worldview is failing us. We’re in a climate crisis, yet governments and industry are hell-bent on tearing up the landscape with fracking, immense oilsands mines, seismic lines, access roads and forestry to reap quick profits by selling it all to other countries. We need to realize that we have more to learn from Indigenous peoples than they from us.
Governments must work with Indigenous peoples to resolve issues around rights and title where treaties haven’t been signed and honour the treaties that have been. Until then, major resource projects that potentially infringe on these should be put on hold. SOURCE
Millions invested in TC Energy, the parent company of Coastal GasLink, stand out as a conflict of interest, experts say.
PROTESTERS BLOCK THE INTERSECTION OF BROADWAY AND COMMERCIAL DRIVE IN SUPPORT OF WET’SUWET’EN NATION HEREDITARY CHIEFS ATTEMPTING TO HALT CONSTRUCTION OF A NATURAL GAS PIPELINE ON THEIR TRADITIONAL TERRITORIES, IN VANCOUVER, ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/DARRYL DYCK
The board that oversees RCMP pension funds has invested in the owner of the Coastal GasLink pipeline—and experts say it is a conflict of interest in light of the Canada-wide standoffs between police and pipeline opponents.
Montreal-based Public Sector Pension Investment Board is a crown corporation that manages billions of dollars in retirement pension fund investments for the RCMP, the Canadian Forces, the Reserve Force, and the federal public service.
The $12.1 billion RCMP pension account is invested in a range of industries, including 4.5 percent in the global natural resource industry. Each year, PSP Investments receives millions more in transfers from the Canadian government toward pension accounts, with the goal of increasing that amount through investments.
Earlier this month, PSP Investments reported ownership of CAD $106,899,441 worth of shares in TC Energy, also known as TransCanada Corporation—owner of the controversial CGL natural gas pipeline.
PSP Investments has held shares in TC Energy since at least 2015, which has fluctuated in the range of 1 million since that year.
While TC Energy announced last December that it was selling off a 65 percent stake in the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) and private equity firm KKR, the company will be contracted to build and operate the pipeline.
Public Sector Pension Investment Board declined to comment on the TC Energy investment.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline is currently at the centre of ongoing protests and blockades across Canada.
Opponents of the pipeline say Coastal GasLink did not obtain proper consent to build through the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The RCMP has had continuous presence on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands in northern B.C., where the enforcement of a court-ordered injunction to prevent people from blocking construction has resulted in numerous arrests, including 30 people in early February.
Experts in the fossil fuel economy say that the connection between the RCMP and the CGL pipeline is too close for comfort.
“There is a definite conflict of interest,” said James Rowe, associate professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria. “This pipeline is literally in the material interest of the retirement security of the RCMP.”
Rowe is part of the Corporate Mapping Project, which investigates supporters of Canada’s fossil fuel industry. The project is led by the University of Victoria and two progressive research centres, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Alberta-based Parkland Institute.
Rowe explained that the conflict is not a direct one, because individual RCMP members likely aren’t aware of where their pension is invested.
“The way that pension capital often works, is that most beneficiaries have little idea in what their pension funds are investing in until people are called on it,” he said. “My guess is that most beneficiaries of PSP don’t know.”
Rowe said he doubted that these investments would directly affect policing decisions made by the RCMP.
The RCMP referred a request for comment to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which stated that PSP operated separately from the government.
“Pension investments are managed entirely by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board,” said Martin Potvin, media spokesperson for the Treasury Board in an email statement.
As a crown corporation, he said the PSP Board “operates at arm’s length from the federal government and its business and affairs are managed by an independent Board of Directors.”
December 2019 financial reports indicate that PSP is also invested in a wide variety of natural resource corporations, including Suncor and Kinder Morgan.
It also invests in hundreds of companies in a wide range of industries, including U.S.-based food and retail giants Papa John’s, Starbucks, and Walmart.
Rowe said that pension plan capital is a powerful player on the world market, and many of these funds are invested heavily in oil and gas. It’s not unusual for pension funds, or any investment, to rely on fossil fuel companies—though some organizations, such as the union BCGEU, are looking to divesting.
In 2019, the Corporate Mapping project found that the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) had $2.8 billion invested into the Canadian fossil fuel industry—an amount they said made the pension plan an “enabler” of the industry.
Rowe and his colleagues hope that more people will see their pensions as political vehicles, whether invested in pipelines, banks or other corporate titans. SOURCE
Prepared under the direction of AFN National Chief Ovide Mercredi in 1996, while I was AFN Indian Act Amendments Coordinator. Written by Peter Di Gangi and edited by me. It was written for Chiefs, Councils, Advisors and Peoples, but it is a good primer for anyone who wants to know about the Indian Act, which is still in force today for the majority of Indian Bands and Band Councils across Canada.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest Canadian income survey, released this week, after-tax incomes of families and unattached individuals rose 2.7 per cent in 2018, to a median of $57,100.
“Market incomes” ― meaning what people earn in the job market, not including taxes and government transfers ― rose 0.8 per cent.
But in Greater Toronto, both market incomes and after-tax incomes fell, by 0.9 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively. In Greater Vancouver, market incomes fell 8.8 per cent, while after-tax incomes declined 4.4 per cent.
Why is this happening?
The Toronto and Vancouver job markets have been strong recently, with the number of people employed in Toronto up a massive 5.2 per cent in the past year, and up 0.4 per cent in Vancouver. Clearly, these are not bad job markets, or bad economies.
The answer may lie in migration, and in our changing lifestyles. In Vancouver, it seems more people are living alone.
The data suggests “the population is shifting to include more (people living alone) ― this could reflect population aging and/or increased numbers of students and other younger, unattached people,” TD Bank economist Brian DePratto wrote in an email to HuffPost Canada.
Also, faced with soaring housing costs, many Toronto and Vancouver residents are picking up and moving to more affordable locations.
“If higher-income families are moving out to perimeter cities, it could pull the Toronto median down while boosting the rest-of-Ontario level,” Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic said.
A recent study from Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development found that Toronto lost more than 5,200 millennials to other parts of Canada between 2018 and 2019, while Vancouver lost nearly 1,700. Ottawa, Victoria and rural areas in southern Ontario were the big winners from that shift, taking in the largest numbers of millennials from other parts of the country.
But the big cities need not worry about losing population ― increased immigration levels mean their population growth has accelerated.
“These flows still represent a small share of (Toronto’s) overall millennial population,” senior researcher Diana Petramala wrote. “The region is still the fastest growing region across the country, owing to immigration.”
Higher immigration levels may also be responsible for some of the fall in median income. Because immigrants are on average younger than the Canadian average, and because they often can’t find work in their fields, they tend to earn less than the average for locals.
House prices make even less sense
Regardless of the reasons, the income data suggests that Toronto and Vancouver are growing even less affordable for their populations.
The average resale price for all home types has jumped by 12.3 per cent in Greater Toronto over the past year, while the home price index for Greater Vancouver shows the city is recovering from a home price slump, with prices up 1.4 per cent in the past six months.
With that, a nine-month period of improving home affordability has come to an end, National Bank Financial reported earlier this month ― and worse is yet to come.
“We doubt that a further improvement in home affordability is possible at this point as we see interest rates levelling off and home prices should accelerate given tight supply in the resale market,” economists Kyle Dahms and Matthieu Arseneau wrote.
“Indeed, the national active listings to sales ratio is at its lowest since 2007, a level generally associated with worsening affordability.” SOURCE
From outside Wet’suwet’en Nation, conflict over gas pipeline seems complex, but key players have emerged
Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) of Tsa K’en Yex (Rafters on Beaver House) has been a prominent spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
The conflict over a natural gas pipeline project in northern British Columbia has swelled across the country, drawing intense attention to the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
To outsiders, the organization and the dual Wet’suwet’en power structures can seem confusing, and parsing who has legitimate authority over the decision to support or block the pipeline can be challenging.
Along the pipeline’s route, 20 elected First Nation councils have signed benefit agreements, but across the country, Indigenous groups have taken part in demonstrations and blockades to protest the project.
Here’s a guide to some of the main Wet’suwet’en people who have emerged as leaders, spokespeople, advocates and opponents of the project, and how they fit into the nation’s elected, hereditary and corporate organizational structures.
Note that there’s the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which has an elected chief and council, and the broader Wet’suwet’en Nation, which includes both the elected bands within the colonial system of governance and a traditional hereditary clan system, which has responsibility for a broader unceded territory covering 22,000 square kilometres.
IN FAVOUR OF THE PIPELINE
Five of the six elected band councils within Wet’suwet’en Nation have signed benefit agreements with the pipeline company, Coastal GasLink (CGL), a subsidiary of TC Energy. (Hagwilget Nation is not on the pipeline route and has not signed any agreements.)
The elected councils, which also include Witset First Nation, Skin Tyee Nation, the Nee Tahi Buhn Band, Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band) and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, represent First Nations on reserves created by the federal government under the Indian Act.
Karen Ogen-Toews is a former elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. She signed one of the agreements to approve the pipeline, and remains a vocal supporter of the plan.
“In my heart I know I’m doing the right thing. I’ve done the right thing for our people and my heart is in the right place,” Ogen-Toews told CBC News. “If our people are living in poverty, the way to overcome it is through proper training, trades, education and a job.”
She’s now CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, a collection of First Nations that are taking part in and supporting liquefied natural gas developments in B.C.
Troy Young runs a Wet’suwet’en-owned company. He’s the general manager and director of Kyah Resources Inc., which is owned by a Witset First Nation Limited Partnership.
Kyah Resources has a contract to provide pipeline-related work, including clearing, heli-logging, road building, security and first aid services, according to the B.C. Supreme Court injunction decision.
Young’s comments were included in the injunction decision. He argued a delay in the pipeline construction “would have a severe impact on the local Wet’suwet’en community and the Wet’suwet’en people.”
Gloria George, Darlene Glaim and Theresa Tait-Day
Gloria George, Darlene Glaim and Theresa Tait-Day were stripped of their hereditary titles in recent years after creating the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition. They held titles in Tsaiyex (Sun House), Cassyex (Grizzly House) and Kwen Beegh Yex (House Beside the Fire), respectively, though their loss of title remains in dispute.
Tait-Day said the coalition was formed to set up a process for the hereditary groups to consider projects on Wet’suwet’en territory and negotiate agreements, according to the injunction decision.
The coalition has a board with five members, including George, Glaim and Tait-Day and two others representing all five of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans.
“A few house chiefs cannot make decisions for our nation. Everyone in our nation is equal and has a voice that deserves to be heard,” said Tait-Day in an affadivit filed in B.C Supreme Court.
According to the Environmental Assessment Office, the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition was not among the list of Indigenous groups CGL had to consult with on the project.
AGAINST THE PIPELINE
While the elected band councils have agreed to the pipeline construction, the hereditary chiefs have maintained opposition to the project.
They assert Wet’suwet’en territory was never ceded to the federal government, and that they have responsibility over it and to the Wet’suwet’en people who aren’t confined to the pockets of reserve governed by the elected chiefs and councils.
In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed Aboriginal title rights in Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia, a decision that recognized Wet’suwet’en have a system of laws that predates colonialism.
The hereditary chiefs and their respective houses are nearly all represented by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en for the purposes of consultation with CGL, with the exception of Yex T’sa Wilk’us (Dark House) of Gilseyhu Clan (Big Frog Clan).
The Wet’suwet’en Nation is organized into five clans. Within each clan, there are two or three houses. It’s at the house level that chiefs hold hereditary title. Each of the 13 houses also has various chiefs below the head chief, including wing chiefs, sub-chiefs and alternate chiefs.
Currently, four of the house hereditary chief positions are vacant, leaving nine hereditary chiefs. Eight of the hereditary chiefs have clearly opposed the pipeline and this group signed an eviction letter to CGL in early January ordering workers off unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.
Samooh (Herb Naziel), hereditary chief of Kayex (Birchbark House), doesn’t appear to have voiced a position on the pipeline and did not sign the eviction notice.
Chief Na’Moks has frequently served as spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, and has thus risen to prominence in media coverage of the issue.
“We do expect [RCMP and Coastal GasLink] to meet and discuss things,” said Na’Moks in early January in the face of an injunction order and enforcement by police.
“We need them to understand that what they are doing is destroying our lands, our ecological sites, our burial sites,” he said. “They have no comprehension of how important it is to our people.”
Chief Woos has also played the role of spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, especially when the issue in question involves the land of the Grizzly House.
Woos was part of the delegation that travelled to Ontario and Quebec to meet with members of other First Nations who have established solidarity rail blockades.
In a press conference after the meeting on Jan. 21, Woos spoke out against the police enforcement of the court-ordered injunction against the blockades on Wet’suwet’en land.
“We demand the remote detachment community-industry service office established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory without our consent be immediately removed, and that the RCMP are completely removed from our territory and cease patrols on our lands. Out means out,” said Woos.
“We demand that all CGL activities cease within Wet’suwet’en territory while nation-to-nation talks are going,” he said.
Chief Smogelgem is central to one of the three blockades, or checkpoints created in opposition to the pipeline. Along with the title Smogelgem of Tsaiyex (Sun House), Warner Naziel holds the hereditary title of Toghestiy of Medzeyex (Owl House).
He is one of only two named defendants in the injunction against the Wet’suwet’en blockades along the pipeline route.
Naziel helped set up an original blockade in 2012, according to the B.C. Supreme Court injunction decision, and assisted the emerging group known as Unist’ot’en with trapping, hunting, gathering and logistical support.
Freda Huson has served as spokesperson for Yex T’sa Wilk’us (Dark House) and Unist’ot’en. She holds the hereditary title Howihkat within Dark House.
Unist’ot’en is a camp created by Wet’suwet’en pipeline opponents to strategically reoccupy land along the pipeline route. It’s associated with Dark House.
Huson, along with Naziel, is named in the injunction as a central character in the opposition to the CGL pipeline.
Molly Wickham is a member of the Gitdumden clan who speaks for the group behind the Gidim’ten Access Point at 44 km, along the Morice Forest Service Road. The B.C. Supreme Court ordered an injunction barring people from obstructing CGL workers at the camp, resulting in 14 arrests on Jan. 9.
Soon afterward, Wickham coordinated the construction of a new camp at the 27-kilometre mark near the RCMP checkpoint, as directed by the hereditary chiefs. She is seen in a video posted on social media Jan. 19 appealing for help from supporters.
“Come out, be self-sustaining. Be dressed for the weather. Come to 27 km for a day. Come to 27 km for a few days. Come and support us on this front line on Wet’suwet’en territory,” said Wickham as a generator hummed in the background.
According to the injunction decision, Wickham made public statements that the people occupying the camps were doing it to prevent CGL from completing the work required to get permits and authorizations, “and to ultimately prevent the pipeline project from being completed.”
Rob Alfred is identified in court documents as being associated with a group calling itself Tsayu Land Defenders, which established one of the Wet’suwet’en camps along the pipeline right-of-way.
Alfred holds the hereditary title Ste ohn Tsiy under Chief Na’Moks in Tsa K’en Yex (Rafters on Beaver House), and is active on Twitter using the handle @showmekittys.
“This isn’t just about a pipeline. It’s about Indigenous title,” Alfred told CBC News. “We wouldn’t have this conflict if the governments would step up and deal with that issue. I do wholeheartedly believe the project won’t be completed as is.”
B.C. government, office of the Wet’suwet’en previously announced meeting was called off
Chief Na’Moks, a spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, said two days of meetings to discuss title and land rights of the Wet’suwet’en will take place at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en on Thursday afternoon. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)
A proposed meeting between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the federal government and the British Columbia government is set to take place on Thursday, following word that talks for a meeting had fallen through Wednesday afternoon.
In an interview with CBC News, Chief Na’Moks, also known as John Ridsdale, said the Office of the Wet’suwet’en received a call Wednesday night from someone representing the federal and B.C. governments saying news that the proposed meeting was cancelled was a miscommunication.
“Miscommunication, I don’t know how that would happen,” said Ridsdale. “Our executive director was called, and given that message, and no reasoning why it was back on.”
“We’re pleased with having the talks back on, our willingness has always been there.”
Ridsdale, a spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, said two days of meetings to discuss title and land rights of the Wet’suwet’en will take place at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in Smithers, B.C., sometime on Thursday afternoon.
Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen confirmed Thursday’s meeting to Radio-Canada’s Philippe Leblanc. Cullen was tasked by B.C. Premier John Horgan with acting as an intermediary between the Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs, the province of B.C., RCMP, Coastal GasLink and others.
Just a few hours earlier, the office of the Wet’suwet’en said both the federal and B.C. governments had declined an invitation from the chiefs, whose opposition to a pipeline through their traditional territory in northwest B.C. has sparked protests and rail blockades across the country.
The office of the B.C. Premier had confirmed in a statement the province has “not been able to come to agreement for a meeting.”
“We had hoped the hereditary chiefs would agree to a period of peace and respect during the talks, which would include encouraging their supporters to remove blockades.”
But the premier’s office said it remained interested in meeting with the hereditary chiefs.
It was not immediately clear who was invited from the federal government. Federal representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Defiant in the face of recent injunctions Kahnawake Mohawks add cement roadblocks at the entrance to the rail line blockade on their territory across the Mercier Bridge from Montreal, Quebec. February 25, 2020. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-Willcock
The Mohawks of Kahnawake have no intention of dismantling a rail blockade on their territory near Montreal despite an injunction issued on Tuesday that one official called a “provocation.”
Defiant yet seemingly calm Kahnawake Mohawks continued to add cement barriers and bring in supplies to the blockade site.
People came and went from the scene of the blockade. Supporters chatted with Peacekeepers – the Kahnawake Mohawk police force – who were on site.
“Another day, another injunction” said one supporter on the ground. Several freight trucks honked in support as they passed by the blockade.
The Kahnawake blockade, which has restricted freight and commuter train traffic between downtown Montreal and the South Shore since early February, is in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the planned Coastal GasLink pipeline that would cut through their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.
“People are still quite clear that they want to continue the blockade in support of the Wet’suwet’en chiefs,” Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, told National Observer in a phone interview.
More Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests sprung up in various locations across Canada on Tuesday, a day after Ontario police moved on a weeks-long blockade by Tyendinaga Mohawks near Belleville that had shut down a major transport route between Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal.
“The whole issue has always been imposition of the will of Canada onto Indigenous peoples and their territory. We have to continue to resist,” Deer said.
Deer said that land is central to the context of conflicts between Indigenous peoples and government in Canada more broadly.
“All of these flashpoints are always about land. It’s our land. It’s our territory. How did all that land become theirs? How did it all become Canada’s?,” Deer said.
“Another day, another injunction” said supporter on the ground at Montreal area blockade. Several freight trucks honked in support as they passed by the blockade.
The prospect of a drawn out confrontation on Mohawk Territory in Quebec brings back painful memories in the province.
The 1990 Oka Crisis, also called the Mohawk Resistance, was a dispute over territory between the Kanesatake Mohawks and the Town of Oka, northwest of Montreal.
Oka planned to develop a golf course and condominiums on land that includes Mohawk burial grounds in an area called the Pines.
The Crisis lasted 78 days, involving Mohawk warriors, the Sûreté du Québec and the Canadian Army. SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was the lone fatality.
Quebec police moved against several other disruptions on Tuesday, but not in Kahnawake. Injunctions were also issued against protests in Lennoxville in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec and Listuguj, in the Gaspé Peninsula.
Police arrested an estimated 20 people in Lenoxville as they attempted to dismantle a blockade erected on Tuesday morning.
In Listuguj, Mi’gmaq Wet’suwet’en supporters refused to leave after police approached their barricades on a railway line between Quebec and New Brunswick.
Solidarity protests also slowed down traffic during rush hour in Montreal.
Earlier on Tuesday Premier François Legault implied that the Sûreté du Québec provincial police force has been working on a plan to dismantle the barricades but did not provide specifics.
“I trust the Sûreté du Québec to take all steps necessary to act with the Peacekeepers,” Legault said at a Montreal event.
Legault has also stated that some of the Mohawks in Kahnawake are armed and mentioned the Oka Crisis. However no weapons were visible at the site of the blockade and Mohawks categorized the Premier’s statement as inflammatory.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is considering challenging the injunction, and has indicated its own police force has no intention of enforcing it.
“First and foremost, we must make it clear to our own people that this injunction will not be executed on this territory,” Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton said in a statement.
He said it was “truly unfortunate” that Canadian Pacific sought the injunction, which he said “will only add to the problems at hand.”
”History reminds us that the proper approach to addressing issues is through dialogue and discussion – not by sending in police, he said”
The provisional injunction was granted in response to a request from CP Rail by Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Pinsonnault.
Deer said that the injunction came as a surprise to him since he felt that their previous relationship with the railway had been positive.
He said Kahnawake Mohawk supporters intend to hold their ground and continue the blockade until Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia indicate they are satisfied that their demands have been met.
“They [the hereditary chiefs] want the tactical unit of the RCMP off their territory and they want the pipeline stopped while negotiations happen. That’s what they want and we’re here to support them to get to that point,” said Deer.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Woos, who also goes by Frank Alec, told National Observer on Monday that the RCMP had said it would take 16 days for them to dismantle a temporary outpost.
Deer said that it is Canada and not the Wet’suwet’en who are breaking the law by moving forward with the Coastal GasLink pipeline project without consent from the hereditary chiefs.
“People like to talk about the rule of law. The rule of the Supreme Court says that the land belongs to the hereditary chiefs […] It belongs to them,” said Deer.
Deer said that the Mohawks of Kahnawake are sympathetic to the people manning the barricades in B.C. and to the Wet’suwet’en chiefs themselves.
“It’s unceded territory. So that’s the rule of law and it’s Canada that’s violating that rule by imposing [this pipeline] on Wet’suwet’en territory without the consent of the chiefs who are the title holders of that land,” he said.
“We’re hoping that negotiations in B.C. will come to a settlement,” said Deer. SOURCE
Sabina Dennis holds her hands up as RCMP tactical teams approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Wet’suwet’en territory on Jan. 7, 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano
Surveillance helicopters circling overhead. Police officers, some carrying tactical gear, pouring into the surrounding towns. An elder arrested, then released, for trying to go past a police checkpoint.
On the ground along a remote forest road in northern B.C., members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation say police presence has been ramping up, despite assurances from the RCMP that officers would stand down as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and officials from the British Columbia government met to try to de-escalate the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
On Tuesday night, the hereditary chiefs announced that the talks had broken down, leaving the looming possibility that the RCMP will “imminently” move into the nation’s territory. Tensions in the region have been high since January 2019, when the RCMP violently arrested 14 people while enforcing a court order to remove the Wet’suwet’en from the path of the pipeline’s construction.
“Efforts to de-escalate the situation on the territories were severed when the province refused to pull the permits they issued to (Coastal GasLink),” said Smogelgem, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief of the Fireweed Clan, on Twitter.
Coastal GasLink, a natural gas pipeline, would run through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory over the objections of the nation’s hereditary chiefs. Members of the nation have set up several camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road, about 1,200 kilometres north of Vancouver, to reoccupy their traditional lands and block resource projects.
Before the chiefs announced discussions with the province, the RCMP had been preparing to enforce a second injunction the B.C. Supreme Court granted to Coastal GasLink on Dec. 31. After seven days of talks known as Wiggus — the Wet’suwet’en word for respect — were announced, RCMP confirmed more officers were still being deployed in the area.
In a press release late Tuesday, the hereditary chiefs said a mediator had been in touch with the pipeline company after two days of talks.
“Coastal GasLink declined to see this discussion resulting in progress,” the statement said. “Therefore, the enforcement of the injunction zone is imminent.
The chiefs also urged peace, saying they remain committed to the Wiggus process and “will continue discussions with the Province of British Columbia.” A representative didn’t immediately return a call from National Observer.
In a press release, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, emphasized the need for safety.
Talks between the Wet’suwet’en the B.C. government ended without resolution late on the evening of Feb. 4. The community fears violence may be imminent as RCMP stage in nearby towns. #bcpoli
“It was very clear from our discussions that all of us came together in good faith to try to find a way forward together,” the statement said. “While we were not successful in finding a resolution to the current situation, we continue to remain open to dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en leadership on this issue.”
TC Energy, which owns Coastal GasLink, said in a statement that its senior leadership had been in nearby Smithers, B.C. to meet with the hereditary chiefs “if required,” but “unfortunately, we were unable to meet with the chiefs.” The company said it must quikcly resume construction to meet its various business commitments.
“In the coming days, Coastal GasLink will resume construction activities,” the statement read. “It is our hope that the resumption of construction activities occurs in a lawful and peaceful manner that maintains the safety of all in the Morice River area.”
The community now fears more violence may be imminent — especially as at least three of the same commanding officers who spearheaded last year’s RCMP efforts appear to be again leading the charge.
“They’re exactly the same oppressive violent force of oppression that they were on Jan. 7 last year,” said Molly Wickham, also known as Sleydo, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
“They haven’t learned a thing.”
Wickham was one of those arrested last year. In an interview Tuesday, she said three of the same commanding officers from 2019 — John Brewer, Robert Pikola and Dave Attfield — are still around now.
“People recognize them,” she said, adding that the hereditary chiefs have unsuccessfully asked for those commanders to be reassigned. “They know who they are, because (the officers) were responsible for what happened last year.”
The RCMP confirmed that Brewer is still deployed in the area, but “we respectfully decline in identifying any other officers from incidents that took place last year,” RCMP spokesperson Staff. Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in an email Tuesday.
According to a report in the Guardian, the officers leading the 2019 effort were prepared at the time to use deadly force against the Wet’suwet’en.
Citing detailed notes from an RCMP strategy session held before the RCMP swept the Wet’suwet’en checkpoint, the British newspaper reported that snipers were present, and officers had been prepared to use “lethal overwatch” — a police term that is understood to mean an officer is prepared to use lethal force. They were also instructed to use “as much violence… as you want” in “sterilizing (the) site,” the Guardian said.
The notes were stamped with Pikola’s name, the Guardian said.
The RCMP has strongly denied the Guardian’s reporting, saying lethal overwatch “does not indicate action other than observation.” That statement contrasts with a 2010 memo produced by the B.C. RCMP., and a review of military and law enforcement literature in both Canada and the US conducted by the Guardian.
The RCMP has also said snipers were sent as part of larger emergency response teams that are generally deployed all at once, according to a statement released after the article was published. Initially, the RCMP had said it wasn’t able to locate or verify the documents referenced by the Guardian; the organization has since found them, said Shoihet.
“We would also add that information was taken out of context and (there was) significant work done with respect to discussions, meetings, protocols, cultural training, etc.,” said Shoihet in an email.
“We have no intention in contributing to the tensions, but will ensure that allegations or misinformation is corrected when it comes to our actions. As we have stated repeatedly, we have not and will not take action to enforce the B.C. Supreme Court-ordered injunction by removing the obstructions on the Morice West Forest Service Road during this time.”
Brewer in particular is a “veteran, decorated police officer who himself is Indigenous,” though not Wet’suwet’en, Shoihet added. “We have well-trained and experienced personnel, including our operational commanders, overseeing our efforts prior to last year’s enforcement and since.”
Wickham said learning about Wet’suwet’en culture and employing Indigenous officers still doesn’t give the RCMP the right to remove community members from their home.
“Seeing a brown face or another Indigenous person harassing us and oppressing us in those same ways for the benefit of profit and ongoing colonization is quite frustrating, and by no means does it de-escalate the situation,” Wickham said.
“It’s a sad, sad thing… it’s so offensive that they’d even bring it up.”
‘We are under duress’
The case of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink exposes a stark divide between the traditional Wet’suwet’en legal system and Canada’s colonial legal system. Under Wet’suwet’en law, authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory lies with hereditary chiefs from five clans, who oppose the pipeline. But TC Energy, which owns the pipeline project, received approval to build the pipeline from some elected band councils, a governing body created by Canada’s colonial Indian Act, which have jurisdiction over reserve lands but not the disputed territory.
A 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed that the provincial government can’t extinguish the hereditary chiefs’ right to their land. However, the court also sent the case back for a second trial that hasn’t yet happened, leaving key questions unresolved.
Stating concerns about safety after the raid last January, the hereditary chiefs struck a temporary deal to allow Coastal GasLink to access the territory for pre-construction work.
But tensions smoldered in the months that followed, and were re-ignited with the Dec. 20 publication of the Guardian article, and the court injunction granted on Dec. 31
Also citing public safety concerns, the RCMP set up a blockade along the forest road on Jan. 13 and have restricted access to the area, prompting complaints from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. In the weeks since, the Wet’suwet’en community says it has felt under siege.
The RCMP initially denied that it was surveilling Wet’suwet’en camps by air — until photo evidence surfaced, as reported by Vice. Over the course of several days, community members posted reports on social media of large numbers of police staging in towns near the service road.
“People thought that last year was unacceptable,” Wickham said. “I think we need to be prepared for more or worse.”
Then, on Friday night, a Gidimt’en Clan elder was arrested and released without being charged after she tried to pass the police blockade without giving RCMP her ID. Carmen Nikal, 73, has been an adopted member of the Gidim’ten Clan’s Cas Yex house for four decades, Gidimt’en Clan said.
“Good faith discussions between the Wet’suwet’en and the Province cannot occur while we are under duress, and while our families and guests face the threat of police violence,” the clan said in a press release.
In a tweet Tuesday, Smogelgem said “it feels like reconciliation is being brutally killed here in Wet’suwet’en territory.”
RCMP harassment and build up continues while I sit in talks with the Province. There are a lot of sceptics in the room. There are good reasons for that. The #Wetsuweten have survived the “Rules of Law” since contact and have become #WetsuwetenStrong
Wickham said people in the community are worried for the safety of people in the camps as they wait for the possible enforcement of the injunction.
“But out on the territory, people are strong and gaining strength every single day from being on the land,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of strength.” SOURCE
A view of the control room at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station during a tour for National Observer on April 17, 2019. Photo by Carlos Osorio
Carbon emissions from Ontario’s electricity sector are set to almost triple over the next decade, as gas-fired generation largely fills the void left by major nuclear refurbishments and the dismantling of green energy under Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.
The sharp jump in Ontario’s reliance on natural gas — the only source of operational emissions in its supply mix — comes as Ford’s government has also abandoned a wide range of energy efficiency programs and rebuffed an offer from Quebec to provide it with a long-term supply of cheap hydroelectric power.
Critics say that all of those greener options are now cheaper than either gas or nuclear, leading them to question Ford’s ability to deliver on a campaign promise to lower ratepayers’ bills or get anywhere near achieving the province’s emission-reduction target of a 30 per cent cut from 2005 levels by 2030.
“It’s a very bad proposal,” said Jack Gibbons, the chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. “It will mean Ontario won’t be able to meet its 2030 climate target, and that is simply not acceptable.”
Ontario’s electricity sector generated four megatonnes of carbon emissions in 2018. But it is set to double from that level by 2023 and to hit 11 MT by 2030, according to forecasts in the Independent Electricity Systems Operator’s (IESO) latest 20-year planning outlook, released last month.
Ontario’s auditor general said late last year that Ford’s threadbare climate policies would lead to the province missing its 2030 target by between 7 and 14 MT.
The province is planning to spend some $25 billion between 2016 and 2031 to extend the life of 10 reactors at the Darlington and Bruce plants, while the Progressive Conservatives are seeking to extend the life of a third aging plant in Pickering until 2025, which critics warn is a risky undertaking.
Electricity generation in Ontario had emitted 35.4 MT in 2005, when the former Liberal government was only a couple of years into the phase-out of coal-fired power. Coal had accounted for a quarter of the supply mix in 2003 and was gone by 2014. That effort is widely credited as the single biggest reason Ontario is anywhere near that 2030 target.
Much of the shortfall was picked up by a greater reliance on nuclear power, but now that it needs to come offline Ford’s government is looking to gas to pick up the slack.
“The real threat now is that all of that progress we’ve made is about to be reversed and emissions to rise again from the electricity sector as Ontario embraces more natural gas,” said Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence.
Underused gas plants to fire up
Ontario has a large fleet of gas-fired plants, which are typically underused. While they can produce more than a quarter of the province’s total capacity, they accounted for only eight per cent of electricity generation in 2016, according to the Canada Energy Regulator.
Ontario’s electricity sector generated four megatonnes of carbon emissions in 2018. That is set to double by 2023 and to hit 11 MT by 2030, according to the latest @IESO_Tweets forecasts
The IESO’s projects that the share of Ontario’s electricity supply that will come from gas will rise from 10 per cent in 2020 to 20 per cent in 2040, with its utilization rate increasing from 20 per cent to between 40 and 60 per cent.
Gibbons, a former commissioner of Toronto Hydro, said the province could avoid upping the use of existing gas plants and even walk away from the nuclear refurbishments not yet in process while still securing enough power for the province’s needs.
“We don’t have to operate the gas plants at as high a utilization rate as Premier Ford is planning, and we’re saying we can avoid the rebuild of at least eight of those nuclear reactors,” he said. “And those savings, because they are such a high-cost option, will mean we can actually lower our bills while we are buying more low-cost waterpower from Quebec and while we’re investing in energy efficiency and investing in cost effective Made-in-Ontario green energy.”
The Ford government did not respond directly to questions about how it intends to mitigate or offset this expected increase.
It also did not say whether it would consider the emissions implications of a report Energy Minister Greg Rickford has asked the IESO to submit by the end of February with recommendations on “any and all viable cost-lowering opportunities” related to larger gas, wind and solar contracts that expire in the next ten years.
“There is no one single environmental approach or solution that fully addresses the needs of all provinces, regions or communities,” environment ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler said. “That is why our environment plan and modeling will continue to evolve as to address the environmental priorities of Ontarians as new information, ideas and innovations emerge.”
While the Ford government has yet to publish its long-term energy plan, the knock-on effects of its signalling have already started, with Enbridge Inc citing the expected expansion of gas to produce electricity as justification for its recently filed application to the Ontario Energy Board seeking expansion of its pipeline capacity through Hamilton.
Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Green Party of Ontario and MPP for Guelph, wrote to Rickford in January asking him to oppose the application, arguing that both the government and the company would be better off investing in energy efficiency rather than burning more fossil fuels.
Cheaper, cleaner options
He said the average cost to ratepayers of energy efficiency programs was 2.1 cents per kWh in 2016, while rebuilt nuclear could cost us up to 18 cents per kWh by 2025. He noted that Quebec had offered its hydro power at 5 cents per kWh. (Ontario would need to invest in additional transmission capacity were it to take up the offer.)
“Dollar for dollar, electricity conservation programs are less expensive, per unit of electricity, than any form of new generation,” he wrote. “Yet last year your government abandoned a swath of energy efficiency programs that were helping people to save money by saving energy.”
David Heeney has seen the impact of those cuts first-hand.
That work has been added to the mandate of the IESO, which he said has been slow to fill the void and lacking in local knowledge that Ontario’s 60-odd local distribution companies have about how to administer the efforts.
“The local utilities were shaking the bushes trying to get people to sign up, and the IESO’s conservation office is in downtown Toronto and have limited capability to do that.”
“It’s really a pity, because the local distribution companies in the past were all about wires and poles, and then when the Liberal government introduced the requirement that they deliver energy efficiency they were really getting that into their DNA,” he said.