Canada loves the rule of law (unless we’re talking Indigenous rights)

For the vast majority of this country’s history, the rules have been flagrantly broken when it comes to Indigenous land and rights

Hundreds gathered at the B.C. legislature on Feb. 11 to show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline on their traditional territory. Photo: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Last October, an international celebration occurred in the verdant coastal community of Bella Bella, B.C. Members of the Heiltsuk Nation finally opened their Gvakva’aus Hailzaqv, their Big House, a red and yellow cedar structure that is the centre of their governance and ceremonial life. Christian missionaries destroyed the last Big House 120 years ago, the Heiltsuk say.

In those years, pivotal elements of Indigenous life and law were declared illegal, including the gift-giving potlatch ceremonies that “were once the primary economic system of Coastal First People.” The potlatch ban is hardly ancient history — that law was not removed from the books until 1951. Nearly six million Canadians who filled out the last census were alive in 1951.

The Heiltsuk People, like the Wet’suwet’en currently at the centre of national attention, not only had to live with odious Canadian laws (that could themselves be seen as violating fundamental concepts of justice), but they also had their land taken outside of the processes promised by the Crown.

Treaty negotiations did not take place in vast tracts of British Columbia — a direct affront to the rule of law. “Under international and British law at the time of colonization, unless Indigenous people were conquered or treaties were made with them, the Indigenous interest in their land was to be respected by the law of the European colonizing nation,” historian and lawyer Bruce McIvor explained last week.

Politicians and pundits have been calling for the rule of law to be respected, given the ongoing protests in B.C. and in southern Ontario in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink project. The protests have stopped CN and Via Rail trains from running in parts of Canada.

But let’s set aside for a moment the question of the legitimacy or illegality of those protests. Where have all these influential voices been on the much larger rule of law question, the one that set the stage for these conflicts in the first place?

For more than 150 years, Indigenous governance structures and legal systems have been dismantled, local knowledge and language deliberately decimated, treaties violated, and Indigenous land settled without a legal leg to stand on. Still, even with all the bad laws, bad faith, and shrugging off the rule of law, we can’t seem to muster as a country a heartbeat of empathy or patience or self awareness.

We also ignore that the courts have acknowledged repeatedly that Indigenous laws and rights are part of the rule of law in Canada.

“Indigenous legal traditions are among Canada’s legal traditions. They form part of the law of the land,” Federal Court Justice Sébastien Grammond wrote in a 2018 decision.

National newspaper columnists have called the Wet’suwet’en system of governance an “oligarchy” and based on a “feudal genealogy,” but the Courts (which help shape the rule of law) haven’t shown that disdain. The Supreme Court has acknowledged the limits of the Indian Act-prescribed structures when considering the holders of Aboriginal title — and dealt specifically with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ authority in the 1997 Delgamuukw decision.

In the Supreme Court of British Columbia Tsilhqot’in decision, Justice David Vickers put it succinctly: “While band level organization may have meaning to a Canadian federal bureaucracy, it is without any meaning in the resolution of Aboriginal title and rights for Tsilhqot’in people.”

Indigenous communities have been trying to revivify their original forms of government that existed prior to colonization, but this is not quick work. Language, legal traditions, and skills were gutted by the Indian Act, the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, and other assimilationist policies.

Groups such as the Centre for First Nations Governance work with communities to try to help restore lost systems and empower local leadership. The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended Canada support this restorative process, but the report languished on the shelf for decades.

Canadian law when it comes to Indigenous communities has been a slippery, oppressive thing throughout the country’s history. Treaties are the law, but they are routinely violated.

Laws were invented to erase Indigenous culture. It took until last year for the federal government to finally remove the legislated gender discrimination from the Indian Act.

In British Columbia, the type of land title negotiations that created the Douglas treaties on Vancouver Island (themselves the subject of contention) were abandoned and unilateral settlement occurred on vast tracts of Indigenous land elsewhere in the province.

The rule of law and the “honour of the Crown” were disregarded. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada advised the Crown  that it had a “moral, if not a legal, duty,” to settle the question of title in order to facilitate “the reconciliation of the pre-existence of aboriginal societies with the sovereignty of the Crown.”

But today, delving into those fundamental issues around land title and Canada’s fundamental violations of the rule of law seems to exhaust the stamina of many Canadian political and thought leaders. SOURCE

RCMP arrests another 7 as Wet’suwet’en efforts wrap up

Exclusion zone will be lifted pending word from Coastal GasLink, Mounties say

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with numerous Indigenous communities. But the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation opposes the pipeline project through its traditional territories. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

CMP say they wrapped up enforcement of a court order in the traditional territory of a northern B.C. First Nation on Monday, after arresting another seven people who were blocking a service road needed for construction of a natural gas pipeline.

Mounties arrested seven people for breach of the injunction and on Monday evening said — once Coastal GasLink confirms that it can access the Morice West Forest Service Road and its infrastructure — they plan to lift a exclusion zone along the logging road.

“I am very satisfied that this operation was conducted safely and there were no injuries sustained by anyone,” Chief RCMP Supt. David Attfield said in a news release.

“This was a very challenging situation, and I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our members.”

Earlier in the day, police moved into Unist’ot’en, where the Wet’suwet’en have, for more than a decade, been re-establishing a presence in what began as an effort to block proposed energy projects through the area.

People at the site, including journalists, provided updates on Twitter and Facebook on Monday, reporting that RCMP arrived with dogs, tactical members of the force and that some police had been dropped on the backside of the checkpoint via helicopter.

In one of the livestreams posted by the Unist’ot’en, police were heard reading the injunction to a group of women standing in the road — but the women didn’t acknowledge the RCMP presence and instead continued drumming and singing in a circle.

Among those arrested Monday were Karla Tait, the director of clinical programming for the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and Freda Huson, longtime spokesperson for Unist’ot’en and one of the named efendants in the injunction brought forward by Coastal GasLink.

Tensions are rising in Wet’suwet’en territory where the RCMP are following through on an injunction and blocking access to an area where supporters of the hereditary chiefs are trying to prevent the construction of a major natural gas pipeline. 2:22

The Wet’suwet’en set up an access checkpoint at Unist’ot’en in 2009, controlling who could come into the area. But that checkpoint has since grown, and the area has morphed into a permanent settlement that includes a healing centre.

It’s unclear how many people are currently staying in Unist’ot’en. The RCMP said in an email to CBC News on Sunday it would be taking action there on Monday as part of the injunction enforcement.

Acts of civil disobedience and solidarity gatherings have been taking place across the country to show support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who maintain no pipelines can be built through their territory without their consent.

Supporter camp growing

The chiefs and their supporters have defied the injunction, asserting Wet’suwet’en law instead and demanding that the province and federal government come to the table to sort out their rights and title to the territory.

In recent days, their access to that territory has been shrinking.

The hereditary chiefs and their supporters have been slowly pushed farther out of the area as police move, camp by camp, down the Morice West Forest Service Road.

As of Sunday, police were not allowing people past the four-kilometre mark on the road, saying that would be the boundary of an expanded exclusion zone that had previously been applied at the 27-kilometre mark.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Kaliset at the four-kilometre police checkpoint on the Morice West Forest Service Road on Sunday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“You know, I never ever thought that we as We’tsuwet’en people would ever be faced with such a crisis as we’re facing today,” hereditary chief Kaliset told CBC News on Sunday while being kept out of the territory at the police roadblock.

“Us elders, we’ve sat back and we’ve watched — we support our young people with the work that they’re doing. Today we’re speaking out.”

On Monday morning, hereditary chief Smogelgem said police had once again shifted their checkpoint to the 27-kilometre mark.

The $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline has received approval from the province, and 20 First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the project, including five of the six band councils in the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

First Nations that signed agreements with the company stand to benefit through a number of avenues — with direct cash payments at different stages of the project’s lifespan, contracting and employment opportunities, and other agreed upon conditions.

However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those band councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act. The hereditary chiefs — leaders in place before the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.

Not everyone within the Wet’suwet’en nation is standing behind the chiefs, however.

Bonnie George is a Wet’suwet’en woman who previously worked with Coastal GasLink. She told CBC News she believes the conflict has become “blown way out of proportion.”

She stressed there are Wet’suwet’en people who want the project to go ahead and have taken jobs with the project. She also said that the nation is “hurting terribly” through this conflict and welcomed those who are taking action in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs “to refocus that energy on helping us try to live in harmony.”

Construction elsewhere

Construction continues along the length of the project at other sections, but Coastal GasLink says it can only put off getting back into the area subject to the injunction for so long before construction timelines are disrupted.

For weeks the company has not been able to move freely along the forest service road at the geographic centre of this conflict.

The Morice West Forest Service Road leads into the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory, about 300 kilometres west of Prince George. It is also the only access road for workers to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline through the area.

Weeks after the injunction decision came out on Dec. 31 it became increasingly clear that those involved in the dispute were at an impasse.

Early Thursday morning, police began the first wave of arrests on the road, at a camp set-up at the 39-kilometre mark.

After that, enforcement took place at the 44-kilometre Gidimt’en checkpoint.

The next day, people were cleared from an area established as a warming centre and gathering space at the 27-kilometre mark.

Between Thursday and Monday, police arrested a total of 28 people as they worked to gain control over the area to ensure Coastal GasLink contractors could clear the road of obstructions from Houston past Unist’ot’en.

Several of those arrested were scheduled to make court appearances on Monday.

Police continue to investigate alleged criminal acts on the territory, including mischief and setting traps likely to cause bodily harm.

SOURCE

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One of the hundreds of protesters who marched in Vancouver on Monday. Small protests have emerged across Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’ens fight against a gas pipeline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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RCMP breach final Wet’suwet’en camp in the path of Coastal GasLink pipeline

Wet’suwet’en Raids: Canada Chooses Colonialism Again

A future of reconciliation is now squandered along with our billions propping up LNG.

RCMP-Pipeline-Camp.jpg

Protecting extraction, once again: The scene last year as heavily armed RCMP officers shut down Indigenous checkpoints blocking a natural gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en land. Photo by Michael Toledano.

It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.
— Albert Camus

On Thursday, the RCMP and the Canadian state came to a moral crossroads on a snowy country road and looked briefly down a pathway to reconciliation. Then it said, “Fuck It.”

A highly militarized police presence once again used force against Wet’suwet’en protestors blocking the construction of a $6.6-billion methane pipeline needed to feed a grossly uneconomic $40-billion liquefied natural gas project.

In so doing the police made a mockery of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is not a complicated document. As criminologist Jeff Monaghan notes, the declaration expects “that conflicts like this will not be resolved violently or militarily but with negotiated solutions. The document directs us to do peaceful negotiated solutions that respect everyone’s rights, and equally.”

That didn’t happen.

As reliable agents of the Canadian state and defenders of resource extraction, the RCMP let it be known that the Trudeau government puts highly subsidized methane projects ahead of reconciliation and UN declarations.

Let’s be clear: in Canada, low-priced natural gas matters more than unresolved land claims.

By implication the government also told the nation that it puts uneconomic LNG projects ahead of climate change, given that serious methane leaks from the shale gas industry are now accelerating that chaos.

It, too, advances LNG ahead of the destruction of the arable lands and First Nations treaty rights in Peace River.

In that precious part of B.C., the shale gas industry continues to frack, industrialize and fragment that landscape with impunity, because only rural people live there, after all.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are not asking for much: they want Indigenous rights and title respected and acknowledged by the B.C. and Canadian governments.

The chiefs tried to negotiate with the B.C. government over the recent enforcement of a court injunction but got nowhere with Premier John Horgan.

The recent negotiations predictably failed for an obvious reason: the B.C. government has become a salesman for LNG at home and abroad.

The shale gas industry has secured better representation in the B.C. government than ordinary citizens who actually pay taxes.

But what about the 20 First Nations that have signed on to the project, you might ask?

Yes, they signed and the negotiations were colonial. It was sign or get nothing. Many nations signed under severe constraints. Nor were they presented with economic alternatives.

As legal scholar and expert in Indigenous rights Dayna Scott has noted, Indigenous leaders are faced with a “false choice. They’re being asked to choose whether or not they want to sign a deal and get some benefits for their people for a pipeline that’s going to go through whether or not they agree to it.”

Now consider the position of Hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale). He is not willing to settle for mutual benefit agreements or the modern equivalent of beads and trinkets:

“They wanted access to the land, and we said you’re not getting access, you’ll never get approval, not from the hereditary chiefs and not from our people.” A colonial mind, however, can’t fathom such arguments, because it still refuses to come to terms with the nation’s dirty past.

For the most part Canadians remain an arrogant mining people with little regard for the truths of our colonial history. Most still think we have nothing to acknowledge, let alone make amends for.

These deniers or doubters should read the indomitable Bev Sellars, former chief and councillor of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake. Her searing book, Price Paid, presents the issue of reconciliation in a clear and telling metaphor.

Imagine you owned a nice home. Then you graciously shared it with a bunch of white guests from across the seas. Without even saying thanks, these guests took over more and more rooms in the house. Soon they imposed their own laws and even banned the owner’s original customs. Eventually the invaders kicked out the original owners and left them to die.

Until every Canadian can visualize that colonial abuse, until all of us can feel that in our guts, there will be no reconciliation in this country.

Those still unconvinced by Sellars’ metaphor should pick up James Daschuk’s brilliant Clearing the Plains.

We all know that the American government thought they could murder Indians into submission. The Canadian government took a different approach: it pursued a policy of planned relocation, starvation and disease. Indian agents stole funds and raped Indigenous women. Anyone who resisted was hanged. Then came residential schools.

The Canadian state’s willingness to ignore reconciliation is even more galling when you consider its colonial defence of the preposterous economics of LNG and fracked gas in northern B.C.

In Canada, LNG development has become an absurd Soviet engine that ignores costs and environmental damages.

But being Canadian, it drapes itself with the plastic word “responsible.”

“Responsible” subsidies for the foreign-funded LNG industry now include low royalties; nearly $1 billion worth of royalty credits; discounted electricity prices; reduced corporate income taxes; free water for fracking; reduced carbon taxes and the deferral of provincial sales taxes during construction. The Canadian government even invested $275 million in LNG Canada!

These subsidies, however, still can’t make LNG economic. In 2018 the Canadian Energy Research Institute examined the economics of LNG.

It concluded that Western Canada LNG would be $1 to $3 more expensive than the current spot price in Japan of $8 per million (BTU) and needed more subsidies and tax credits.

CERI then calculated what the LNG industry would need in terms of future prices to remain economically viable: a market price of $8.99 per million BTU or higher in Asia to break even. Or an oil price of approximately $80 or higher to break even under long-term LNG contracts.

Those conditions don’t exist and show no signs of coming into being.

A global LNG supply glut has collapsed prices in Asia to as low as $5.5 per million BTU in Japan and India. Analysts say the glut could last years.

Meanwhile oil prices, which influence LNG pricing, remain in the doldrums.

Unless the Canadian and B.C. governments are prepared to give away LNG, neither Coastal GasLink nor LNG Canada are economic at this point in time.

These appalling economics explain why Chevron pulled out of the Kitimat LNG project last fall. At the same time, Chevron wrote off $11 billion in underperforming shale gas assets in Appalachia due to low prices and overproduction.

Throughout North America’s oil patch, the shale boom has collapsed as more companies go bankrupt and investors refuse to loan more money to companies whose costs exceed their revenue.

Given the volatility of commodity prices, reconciliation should come first.

And let’s not strut like peacocks and talk about the rule of law as Horgan has done.

In Alberta, oil and gas companies now break the law every day. They owe $172 million in taxes to rural municipalities and millions more to landowners for unpaid surface leases.

Does Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrest the offending white collar criminals and charge them with breaking civil contracts? No. He actively excuses their behaviour.

So there is one rule of law in Canada for insolvent resource extractors, and another law for First Nations, rural municipalities and landowners.

Fortunately, the Wet’suwet’en respect laws that are thousands of years old.

They plan on upholding them.

So should we. SOURCE

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John Ivison: Pipeline dispute raises important question — who speaks for First Nations?

Reconciliation means making one system compatible with another, not Indigenous law trumping Canadian law at the behest of some self-anointed aristocrats

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline hold a press conference in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2020.Amy Smart/The Canadian Press/File

The “territorial re-occupation” of land along the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. by hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people has raised some thorny constitutional questions and some surprising interventions.

The $6.2 billion, 670 km pipeline route runs from Dawson Creek, near the Alberta border, to Kitimat in B.C.’s north coast region, crossing through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.

The pipeline is supported by the five Wet’suwet’en bands, and their elected chiefs and councils. They point out the advantages for local communities – financial benefit agreements worth $338 million for the 20 bands along the route and contract work for indigenous businesses estimated at $620 million. Reginald Ogen, president of a company that has won a $75 million contract to provide camp facilities, has noted that the jobs may be short and medium term but the training “lasts a lifetime and provides future opportunities”.

The project is opposed by the hereditary chiefs who represent the 13 Wet’suwet’en houses (12 are represented by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, while the Dark House operates independently). Small groups of “land defenders” have blocked a bridge crucial to future development.

The project hit the headlines earlier this month when the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for an immediate stop to construction, only to be given pause for thought when it was pointed out to the committee chair that most communities along the route support the pipeline.

B.C. Supreme Court justice, Marguerite Church, extended an injunction late last year that found in favour of the pipeline proponent and against the hereditary chiefs blocking construction.

This has sparked a debate about who speaks for the Wet’suwet’en. Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould weighed in with an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail last week that raised eyebrows.

The independent MP for Vancouver Granville argued that Indigenous reconciliation requires moving beyond the Indian Act to systems of Indigenous governance that are created on the ground and recognized by others.

Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. Mike Bell/Postmedia/File

So far, so good. But deconstructing the colonial reality, in Wilson-Raybould’s eyes, means blowing up the band councils.

“The legal reality is that band councils are a creature of the colonial Indian Act and have limited delegated authority tied to reserves,” she said. “They do not have inherent authority, nor are they self-governing or an expression of self-determination. They cannot simply represent the proper rights holder – the broader group that shares a common language, culture and tradition – and typically there is more than one band within a given territory of an Indigenous people.”

Nowhere in her article does it stress the imperative point – they are elected and those claiming to speak for the broader First Nation are not.

She doesn’t explicitly come out in favour of the hereditary chiefs over the elected band chiefs but she comes close – an extraordinary inclination from a democratically elected MP.

In the case in question, all the band chiefs in the given territory are in favour of the pipeline proceeding.

Most people would probably agree that it should be up to Indigenous people to decide on how they are governed. The government has suggested moving from 670 small bands to larger First Nations more capable of delivering services.

There are no simple answers to these tough questions

But one would hope that whatever structure evolves is based on universal suffrage and democratic principles, rather than on some form of feudal genealogy.

The hereditary chiefs contend that the Wet’suwet’en are represented by traditional governance structures and that, since the pipeline’s proponents were not given permission to enter unceded territory, they are in violation of Wet’suwet’en law.

The elected chiefs beg to differ, resulting in considerable tension between the two groups. Reginald Ogen, who is a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, contends his section 35 rights are being infringed by the blockade.

Further confusion has emanated from an internal debate about who qualifies as a hereditary house chief. The lead defendants in the B.C. Supreme Court case claim to represent the Unist’ot’en people, which is not a governing body of the Wet’suwet’en.

Madam Justice Church resolved that Indigenous customary laws are not an “effectual” part of Canadian law until they are somehow recognized in treaties or court declarations. As such, she said the idea that Indigenous laws supersede Canadian law and the B.C. government’s approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline does not stand up to scrutiny. Her ruling gives RCMP the right to arrest people and remove camps designed to block pipeline construction.

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and who oppose the Costal Gaslink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Jan. 10, 2020. Jason Franson/The Canadian Press/File

However, she did acknowledge that the question is complex and raises “significant constitutional questions.” Wilson-Raybould covered some of this terrain in her article, which called for a “foundational legislative shift through the development of a recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights framework”.

What does foundational shift look like? In her last act as justice minister, Wilson-Raybould issued a directive on civil litigation involving Indigenous people that promoted negotiation and settlement, instead of drawn out court battles. Critics in the justice department felt the effect was to instruct government lawyers to litigate badly.

Dwight Newman, the Canadian research chair in Indigenous Rights at the University of Saskatchewan, said the task of reconciling how Indigenous law intersects with Canadian law will be problematic.

“There are no simple answers to these tough questions,” he said.

But reconciliation means making one system compatible with another. As the B.C. Supreme Court rightly concluded, it does not mean Indigenous law trumping Canadian law at the behest of some self-anointed Indigenous aristocrats. SOURCE

Canada’s growing Indigenous prison population ‘a national travesty’

Opinion: Critics weigh in as federal correctional investigator says, figures show number of jailed First Nations people has reached historic highs

Since April 2010 the Indigenous inmates have increased by 43.4 per cent (or 1,265), whereas the non-Indigenous incarcerated population has declined by 13.7 per cent (or 1,549), according to the office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada. RATTANKUN THONGBUN / GETTY IMAGES

After 48 years of criminal defence work and advocacy for prisoners’ rights, Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy was staggered at the new numbers revealing the swelling tide of Indigenous people being kept locked up.

“I started practising in 1972 and I’m 72 years old,” he said. “How can things be worse? But they are. Here we are in 2020 and it’s worse than ever. I do not understand with the amount of attention and amount of information we have that we’re still in this situation.”

The appalling statistics suggest a modern, racially divided Bedlam.

Conroy pointed out “73 per cent of the men and 80 per cent of the women have the criteria for qualifying for a current mental disorder, 29 require follow-up with mental health services, 25 per cent have some kind of cognitive deficit, 10 to 23 per cent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), acquired brain injuries … it goes on and on and on.”

Indigenous people constitute less than five per cent of the population yet now they account for one-in-three of the men in jail, more than four of 10 incarcerated women.

On the Prairies, the numbers are worse — more than seven out of 10 are Aboriginal.

In 2017-18, Aboriginal adults represented three-quarters of admissions to custody in Manitoba (75 per cent) and Saskatchewan (74 per cent). Those provinces also have the highest proportion of Aboriginals, 15 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

Compared to 2007-08, admissions of Aboriginal males increased the most in B.C. (83 per cent), from 3,932 to 7,181.

Decades of well-meaning Indigenous legal policies have produced the opposite of what was intended — increasing incarceration rivenrac by racism — a visible disconnect between years of compassionate rhetoric and hard-hearted practice.

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy, lead counsel in the Allard vs. Canada case that led to the new regulations.

Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy: ‘There are judges who are sending these people to prison and they seem to be disproportionately sending them to prison compared with non-Aboriginal people.’ HANDOUT

Having an Indigenous federal attorney general didn’t help — the numbers went up on Jody Wilson-Raybould’s watch as well.

The shocking report by the country’s correctional investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, asserts that the number and proportion of imprisoned Indigenous individuals has reached historic highs.

Providing independent oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada, with some 19,000 full-time employees and 53 institutions, Zinger says Indigenous custody rates have accelerated!

“The Indigenization of Canada’s prison population is nothing short of a national travesty,” Zinger added.

Since April 2010 the Indigenous inmates have increased by 43.4 per cent (or 1,265), whereas the non-Indigenous incarcerated population has declined by 13.7 per cent (or 1,549).

“There are judges who are sending these people to prison and they seem to be disproportionately sending them to prison compared with non-Aboriginal people,” Conroy noted. “Why are so many being sentenced to prison?”

Year after year, Zinger has documented that Indigenous inmates are disproportionately classified and placed in maximum security institutions, over-represented in use of force and self-injurious incidents, and historically were more likely to be placed and held longer in solitary.

Indigenous offenders serve a higher proportion of their sentence behind bars before being granted parole.

Worse, a national recidivism study shows it doesn’t help — Indigenous offenders reoffend at much higher levels, as high as 70 per cent on the Prairies.

When you look at the cases coming down the pipe, it isn’t hopeful.

Numbers from the Legal Services Society of B.C. indicate Indigenous people account for about one-in-three legal aid criminal cases and about one in four in family cases before the courts.

For some reason, in spite of all the hopeful and aspirational rhetoric, legal stakeholders refuse to recognize the reality of Indigenous Canada or the circumstances in which many Aboriginal people live.

“When you read the facts of the case, you can’t help but shake your head and say this guy never had a chance,” Conroy said.

A fundamental problem is that few native communities have the resources, the infrastructure or the capacity to handle violent offenders, so it’s very difficult for them to make a claim in court that they shouldn’t be jailed or argue for early release.

As a result, more and more Aboriginal men are “banished” across Canada — a medieval punishment legally meted out by Indigenous communities to keep away members it cannot control.

Similarly, detailed accounts ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada on the effects of colonialism and the social-economic circumstances of an Aboriginal offender — so-called Gladue Reports — are seen by some Indigenous advocates as valuable tools to assist judges in crafting appropriate sentences but in the prison bureaucracy they can be detrimental.

A report showing a history or prevalence of violence can cause a minor offender to be sent to a maximum instead of medium institution.

“Over my 25 years dealing with prison law, I have seen a big change from focus on helping a prisoner rehabilitate to managing potential PR problems,” veteran Vancouver defence lawyer Donna Turko said.

Various concerns are in play, she explained — judges can’t be too easy on violent offenders as native communities need protection, too, sentencing circles and diversion-style programs are scarce and parole boards seem increasingly afraid of public opinion and reluctant to release offenders. 

Vancouver defence lawyer Donna Turko: ‘Over my 25 years dealing with prison law, I have seen a big change from focus on helping a prisoner rehabilitate to managing potential PR problems.’ ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG FILES

Mostly, though, a shadow has always fallen between the rhetoric about and the reality of Aboriginal crime.

Consider a case in central B.C. involving an older native man who endured residential school and became a dysfunctional alcoholic living off the land. One day, he got very, very drunk and shot a woman.

He spent months in pre-trial custody, went in-custody alcohol treatment, took counselling training and, while out on bail for more than two years, acted as a counsellor in his community.

But he is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of four years and the Crown wants six years in a federal pen.

Instead, the defence wants a provincial sentence of less than two years with an additional conditional term in the community — that way he would be incarcerated close to his family, not shipped somewhere across the country.

Which will have a better outcome for the individual, which for the community?

If your aim is to punish and exact a measure of vengeance, a six-year term makes some sense — but if it’s long-term healthier citizens and communities, well …

“Bold and urgent” action is needed, Zinger said.

People such as Conroy have been ardently arguing that since the 1970s. It obviously hasn’t mattered. SOURCE

 

The Colonizer Always Comes Out

Extractive industries and governments have gotten smarter about how they talk about Indigenous rights—but the bottom line stays the same.

Martin Ouellet-Diotte/AFP/Getty Images

A soft piano tune twinkles in the background. The words “Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project” appear and then fade to white. Edward, a member of the Gitdumden clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and a construction monitor for the project, introduces himself as the scene cuts to a series of picturesque shots of snow-topped trees. Speaking to the middle distance off camera, Edward talks about the preservation efforts of the pipeline project and his ancestors’ desire “to build a better life for themselves and their family.” Speaking of his CGL co-workers, he says, “Well, I guess they are my family.” Cue a final shot reading “Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project.” This is the face of the pipeline that TC Energy and its investors want the public to see.

Coastal GasLink@CoastalGasLink

Meet Edward, a member of the Clan. He’s one of many proud people working on the project. Let’s listen to his perspective.

SEE THE VIDEO

The TC Energy-backed Coastal GasLink Pipeline is a 416-mile project designed to carry natural gas through northern Canada and on out to Kitimat, on the western coast of British Columbia. There, at the heavily subsidized LNG Canada plant, the gas will be refined and shipped overseas to customers in Asia. The project, which snakes across the province like a cobra with its head raised to strike, also cuts through the unceded traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

On TC Energy’s website for the project, the company, in bold font, boasts the claim, “more than one-third of all field work conducted by Indigenous Peoples,” adding, “we listen to and value Indigenous voices and their connection with the land.” As noted in nearly every other article on the pipeline, CGL has the approval of both the Canadian federal government and B.C.’s provincial government. It also has the backing of 20 elected First Nations councils, including the Wet’suwet’en’s elected band councillors, a body of local politicians with authority over the municipal functions of their villages. It is, by all appearances, the ideal scenario: a pipeline developed in partnership with the Indigenous stewards of the land.

Except that beyond the soft focus ads and hollow pledges about partnership, there remainsthe violence of the project—a violation of the land itselfand the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the matrilineal leadership of the First Nation, who have not given their consent to the project.

At its heart, this is the story of another pipeline devouring culturally significant and sacred Indigenous lands. But it is also a story of the ways that extractive industries and seemingly liberal governments are evolving in response to highly visible land disputes with Indigenous communities and growing public alarm over a looming climate disaster. TC Energy and multiple layers of government are trying, often successfully, to take advantage of distressed First Nations economies, a slanted legal system, and a biased media atmosphere to present themselves as reformed—environmentally conscious, broadly respectful of Indigenous sovereignty—while they quietly and violently seek to demolish Wet’suwet’en resistance to the pipeline.
Earlier this month, the hereditary chiefs—seven citizens who represent the five clans and, under Wet’suwet’en law, have the ultimate say over what happens in the traditional territory—evicted all CGL workers on their land. Later that same week, the Wet’suwet’en leaders allowed CGL workers to return to the land in order to winterize their equipment, in what Hereditary Chief Na’Moks of the Tsayu clan told The New Republic was meant to be a “sign of good faith.” For a brief moment, it seemed like a rare victory might be in store for First Nations leadership fighting to protect its ancestral homelands.

 

The Radioactive Colonialism of BWXT

Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson’s 1938 painting “Radium Mine” pictures Great Bear Lake on Dene Territory, just out of view is the El Dorado radium and uranium mine which produced ore for the Manhattan Project. Image via Wikipedia.

According to BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada’s ten-year license application, the company has joined the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business to become “Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certified.”

That doesn’t sit well with the Committee for Future Generations, a group of Dene and Cree people in so-called northern Saskatchewan. The richest deposits of uranium in the world are found in the Athabasca basin which supplies 20 percent of the global market and generates up to $1 billion annually. The Committee for Future generations is devoted to “Fighting the continued destruction of lands by uranium mining and tailings as well as the under-handed tactics of the nuclear industry to sell the storage of high-level nuclear waste on First Nations territory by bribing the weak links in our governance systems.”

BWXT Peterborough currently shaves down uranium fuel pellets and inserts them in zirconium rods that become fuel for CANDU nuclear reactors. And if they get their way they will soon process 53 percent of the nuclear fuel used in Canada by baking uranium yellowcake dioxide fuel powder into pellets. The proposal would significantly increase uranium air and water pollution in Peterborough. In response local group Citizens Against Radioactive Neighourhoods (CARN), formed to oppose the move to process the uranium 30 metres away from the Prince of Wales Public School.

According to the Committee for Future Generations, “Each segment of the nuclear fuel chain is presented as a compartmentalized island which is not accountable beyond a small set of parameters.”

“We can hear the Earth crying Kuh-t’ah! A ku se!” says Susnaghe Neneh in Dene. Kuh-t’ah! A ku se! means “enough”. Neneh’s grandfather passed on the teachings from his elders that forbid touching “the black stone” and warned that disturbing it would unleash demons upon the Earth. His grandfather’s trap-line is now obliterated and in its place is the world’s largest uranium mill owned by Cameco Corporation, formerly known as El Dorado.

El Dorado began extracting uranium in the 1930’s in Sahtu Dene territory on Great Bear Lake. Bags of uranium were transported by Dene men on river boat and rail to Port Hope Ontario where it was processed for use in the Manhattan Project which culminated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in 1945.

In 1998 to mark the 53rd anniversary of the bombing, a group of ten Dene travelled to Hiroshima to apologize to the survivors and take responsibility for how the material taken from their territory was used to create such violence.

In 2013 Kirstin Scansen from the Nahithaw Woods Cree First Nation confronted BWXT (formerly GE-Hitachi) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) at a meeting to review the operation of the Toronto uranium processing plant which holds a dual licence with the Peterborough facility. Scansen said, “The Denesuline men, who carried sacks of your beloved ‘natural uranium’… died horrible, painful deaths by cancer and bone cirrhosis, a condition where bone tissue dies and bones collapse.”

Scansen called out the “bullshit,” “lies,” and “propoganda” of BWXT and the CNSC who claim nuclear is safe. Scansen said she opposed the operation of BWXT because “it is a key cog in the machine that creates low, medium, and high level nuclear waste that humanity has absolutely no clue what to do with but is currently seeking to situate on Indigenous territories.”

It was when Scansen accused BWXT and the CNSC of hiding the connection between uranium mining, processing, and the proliferation of depleted uranium weapons and nuclear warheads – that CNSC president abruptly declared the meeting over and the commissioners walked out.

The uranium stolen from Dene and Cree territory that has coursed through downtown Peterborough for decades now sits on the shores of Lake Ontario at the Darlington and Pickering nuclear reactors. The high level spent fuel waste will be lethally radioactive for thousands of years. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is now attempting to bury Canada’s supply of nuclear waste in a deep geological repository on Indigenous territory. NWMO has narrowed down its search for a “willing host community” to the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation Territory near the Bruce Nuclear Power generating station and Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake First Nation) territory.

As the people of Peterborough-Nogojiwanong consider BWXT’s request to expand their operation and renew their operating licence for ten more years, they may want to consider not just the local impacts of uranium pollution but also the ethical implications of colonialism and radiation exposure along the nuclear fuel chain from mining to processing to power generating to weapons and waste.

Unist’ot’en camp awaits RCMP after injunction enforced at Gidimt’en anti-pipeline checkpoint

Mounties enforcing court order to allow pipeline company access to northern B.C. road and bridge

The Unist’ot’en camp is one of two set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to prevent TransCanada Corp from gaining access to the road near Houston, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

It remained to be seen Wednesday how the RCMP would enforce a court injunction that would grant the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project access to a road and bridge near Houston, B.C., that have been blocked by opponents of the project from the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

The Unist’ot’en camp is one of two set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to prevent TransCanada Corp., which owns Coastal GasLink, from gaining access to the forest road in northern B.C., about 300 kilometres west of Prince George.

The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction.

On Monday, RCMP entered the fortified checkpoint at the Gidimt’en camp on the forest service road to enforce the injunction, granted in December, ordering people to stop preventing workers from gaining access. Fourteen people were arrested.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation established the camps with fortified checkpoints, saying Coastal GasLink workers can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders.

An RCMP officer speaks with a driver at the ‘exclusion zone’ police have set up on a forest road near Houston, B.C., as they enforce an injunction allowing pipeline workers access past Wet’suwet’en checkpoints. Mounties were headed to a second camp Tuesday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

TransCanada, now known as TC Energy, said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to the $40-billion LNG Canada facility being built in Kitimat, B.C., but some hereditary chiefs say those agreements don’t apply to the traditional territories.

RCMP Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said the people arrested on Monday were brought to the Houston detachment.

“Any of those who were arrested in violation of the injunction or any of the orders in the injunction have to be taken before the justice who issued the injunction, which happens to be in Prince George,” she said.

She said she did not know when that would happen.

About a dozen Unist’ot’en supporters gathered in front of the Prince George courthouse Tuesday.

Watch footage from outside the courthouse:

Unist’ot’en supporters outside Prince George courthouse
Unist’ot’en supporters outside Prince George courthouse 0:38

Some people who weren’t arrested Monday at Gidimt’en retreated to the Unist’ot’en camp. It was established in 2010 in a remote part of the Wet’suwet’en​ Nation’s traditional territory.

Media are not being permitted to pass the RCMP exclusion zone established on the forest service road at the 27 kilometre mark.

ChantelleBellrichard

This is as far as we could get today. Police exclusion zone still at the 27km mark of the road. RCMP chopper took off while we were there. A few people on site at a fire.

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Hereditary Chief Namoks spoke at a rally held in nearby Smithers, B.C., Tuesday in support of the Unist’ot’en camp. He and other leaders have been meeting with RCMP and he said police want to bring in people from the Assembly of First Nations and the Union of British

Columbia Indian Chiefs to foster “dialogue.”

“They need to build trust with us,” he said.

“We have no trust right now. We understand the RCMP was doing what they were ordered to do. I don’t hold animosity against any human being but I do have an issue when industry is steering a government which orders the RCMP to do what they did to our people yesterday.”

Rallies were held across Canada on Tuesday in support of the Wet’suwet’en camps.

ChantelleBellrichard

Chief Namoks talks a bit about their meeting with the RCMP today re

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In an open letter posted on the company’s website, he wrote it was “unfortunate the RCMP were forced to take this action.”

Elder Carmen Nikal speaks at a rally in Smithers, B.C., Tuesday. She was among 14 people arrested Monday at the Gidimt’en camp for defying an injunction. She was released overnight but the others were held in custody. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“We took legal action as a last resort and only after six years of unsuccessful efforts to find a mutual solution,” the letter reads in part.

“We respect the rights of individuals to peacefully express their point of view, as long as their activities do not disrupt or jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees, our contractors, and even themselves.”

Murray Rankin, MP for Victoria, also posted an open letter on the NDP website, writing that the party is calling on the prime minister “to engage immediately with the Wet’suwet’sen and demonstrate his commitment to real and meaningful reconciliation.”

“If Prime Minister Trudeau is serious about his commitments to Indigenous Peoples, he needs to help facilitate a peaceful resolution that respects the rights of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation,” Rankin wrote. SOURCE

‘Monstrous’: Docs Show Canadian Mounties Wanted Snipers Ready to Shoot Indigenous Land Defenders Blockading Pipeline

In response to the exclusive Guardian report, critics called the actions of Canadian authorities “abhorrent and unconscionable.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Polic

Royal Canadian Mounted Police parade following the Last Post ceremony in front of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing on April 6, 2017 in Ypres, Belgium. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

In an exclusive report Friday that outraged human rights advocates worldwide, The Guardian revealed that Canadian police wanted snipers on standby for a January 2019 crackdown on Indigenous land defenders who were blocking construction of a natural gas pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Guardian reported on official records—documents as well as audio and video content—reviewed by the newspaper related to the police “invasion” that led to 14 arrests:

Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation show that commanders of Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that “lethal overwatch is req’d”—a term for deploying snipers.

The RCMP commanders also instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock which had been erected by Wet’suwet’en people to control access to their territories and stop construction of the proposed 670km (416-mile Coastal GasLink pipeline (CGL).

Indigenous land defenders established the Gidimt’en checkpoint—where the police operation took place—as part of a broader battle against pipeline builder TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada. The RCMP action was an attempt to enforce a court injunction that came in response to the Unist’ot’en camp established on Wet’suwet’en territory in opposition to the pipeline.

Some critics highlighted how police conduct contrasted with the Canadian government’s truth and reconciliation efforts launched under Conservative former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and continued under the country’s current Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau.

Frances Moore, operations and national outreach manager at the Indigenous youth-led Canadian nonprofit group We Matter, wrote on Twitter that she is “saddened that it’s taking leaked documents from the RCMP for Canadians to believe” that police were prepared to show force against land defenders.

Specifically, according to The Guardian

The documents show that ahead of the raid, the RCMP deployed an array of surveillance, including heavily armed police patrols, a jet boat, helicopter, drone technology, heat-sensing cameras, and close monitoring of key land defenders’ movements and social media postings.

Police established a “media exclusion zone,” blocking reporters from accessing the area. They took care to hide their carbine rifles on the approach to the roadblock because the “optics” of the weapons were “not good,” according to one of the documents.

The documents also show close collaboration between the RCMP and TC Energy: police officers attended company planning sessions and daily “tailgate” meetings, and were privy to CGL’s legal strategy.

The RCMP were prepared to arrest children and grandparents: “No exception, everyone will be arrested in the injunction area,” a document reads. Another makes reference to possible child apprehension by social services—a troubling disclosure given the violent history of residential schooling in Canada and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children currently in the child welfare system.

Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson (Howilhkat) connected the RCMP’s militarized approach to the early 2019 operation to a lengthy record of colonial violence.

“In our experience, since first contact, RCMP have been created by the federal government to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands,” Huson told The Guardian. “They have proven [that] through their harassment of my people to support Coastal GasLink in invading our territories.”

Although an RCMP spokesperson declined to comment on the specific content of the records reviewed by The Guardian, they told the newspaper that while planning the raid, police took into account the remote location and “the unpredictable nature of what we could face.”

The Guardian noted that its report came as the Wet’suwet’en camps are preparing for a court ruling on an injunction sought by TC Energy that would permanently restrict the Indigenous land protectors from blockading pipeline sites. SOURCE

A burning case for a radical future: Naomi Klein says UBC needs to get with the program


Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26 Chan Centre

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26, presenting at UBC’s Chan Centre for a sold out venue as part of the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Klein opened the event with a discussion on her new book and was joined by Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous land defender from the Secwepemc territories as well as event moderator, UBC School of Journalism Professor Kathryn Gretsinger.

Klein’s seventh book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, focuses on the interconnectedness of what she refers to as simultaneous planetary and political “fires.” These fires are both literal in reference to rising temperatures and climate crisis, as well as in a metaphorical sense; With references to global political crises and the rise of fascism under figures like Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India and Kashmir, and Duterte in the Philippines, to name a few she touched on.

“A clear formula is emerging between many of these fascist figures who are trading tactics,” she said.

In her opening address Klein emphasized themes from her book, particularly that climate destruction systematically intensifies pre-existing societal inequalities and vulnerabilities. She cited the historic 2017 wildfires in BC as an example, sharing that while smoke hung over the entire Lower Mainland for weeks on end, it was Indigenous communities whose wellbeing was disproportionately affected, along with undocumented migrant workers working in BC’s interior.

Klein brought hope to the on-stage conversation by addressing that while political and planetary fires are raging, metaphorical ‘personal’ fires are also on the rise, and continue to spark global social movements, from Haiti to Chile to Lebanon and beyond.

From racism to colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism, extractivism, eco-fascism, climate destruction, poverty and despair, in Klein’s words, these struggles can be tackled all at the same time rather than as single-voter issues.

“The fight for Indigenous rights and title is absolutely inseparable from the fight for a habitable planet. They are one and the same,” Klein stated emphatically in the two hour event.

Klein’s book is dedicated to the late Secwepemc leader and activist Arthur Manuel. His daughter, Kanahus Manuel — founder of the Tiny House Warriors movement in BC — joined her on stage for the event. Manuel reiterated the interconnectedness of Indigenous land rights as central to movements for climate justice, particularly as the Canadian government has repeatedly stated it’s intent to go on with Trans Mountain Pipeline construction despite a lack of Indigenous peoples’ consent.

Image result for kanahus manuelBearing a broken wrist and a defiantly raised fist, in a voice that was calm and contained, Manuel recounted a chilling incident of police violence from the week before.

“As I stand here today, I have this cast as proof of what Canada does to Indigenous people when they stand up for Indigenous land rights. There are mothers and children on the front lines.

“I don’t want anyone here to ever have to feel how this feels — for the RCMP to come and break your wrist at your home and take you away for three days without medical attention.”

Manuel was referring to her arrest the week before, when she and other Secwepemc land defenders had been resisting as federal pipeline developers encroached onto unceded Secwepemc territories.

“We expected them to deal with the matter in a diplomatic way; this is supposed to be a first world country,” said Manuel.

As Manuel handed the microphone back to Klein, she received a standing ovation from the packed Chan Centre audience, members of the audience joining her in standing with fists raised in unison with her own stance. MORE
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