More First Nations lock down borders, declare their own states of emergency to keep COVID-19 out

Chiefs are pleading for members to stay home to prevent spread of novel coronavirus

Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation Chief Lance Roulette says five key entry points into and out of the community will be “heavily monitored” to control traffic during the local state of emergency. (CBC)

More First Nations in Manitoba are locking down entry points to their communities and declaring their own states of emergency as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.

Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation leadership announced Saturday it is declaring a state of emergency and will patrol entry to the First Nation.

Chief Lance Roulette said staff will be “heavily monitoring” the five main access points to control the flow of traffic. The temporary rules went into effect on Saturday at 7 p.m.

He said leaders made the decision that day upon noticing an alarmingly high volume of vehicles going in and out of the reserve.

“For now, please, we want our membership to continue to stay home,” Roulette pleaded. He is asking people to consume the household supplies and food already in their possession.

Visitors from outside the community are not allowed in homes and public places, except for delivery trucks carrying important supplies.

Residents are being advised not to leave the First Nation, about 130 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, with the exception of staff reporting to work, getting items for essential needs and important medical appointments.

The strict measures were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sandy Bay has no confirmed cases at this time, although “this can change if people continue to congregate in large numbers,” Roulette said.

Sandy Bay is a community of about 3,650 people living on reserve.

“When it does hit the First Nations communities, and a lot of the chiefs are really taking those proactive measures as well to ensure that we can, you know, when our communities are hit, that we’re prepared for it,” he said.

“It’s very very clear that our members who do have chronic illnesses are also very vulnerable and are at high risk. We want to protect our children and our elderly.”

On Tuesday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called for a state of emergency in 62 First Nations. Its executive council of chiefs called on all First Nations that fall under its jurisdiction to close their borders to all non-essential travel, while ensuring food and supplies are still being delivered.

Individual First Nations have been following suit on their own terms. MORE

Pipeline fight is not over, and Canadians everywhere have a stake

A shot of Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2012. Photo by Kris Krüg from Flickr

The Trudeau government and the petrobloc (the fossil fuel industries and their political, financial and media allies) would like you to believe that the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX), intended to triple the flow of diluted bitumen from the Athabasca Sands to the port of Vancouver, is a done deal.

But the latest approval of TMX by the Trudeau government and the industry-friendly National Energy Board does not settle the issue.

There are significant legal challenges from six major First Nations whose territories include much of the proposed pipeline route through B.C. Ecojustice is litigating in the Federal Court of Appeal to defend the critically endangered southern resident orcas. The B.C. government is taking its case for jurisdiction over the transport of diluted bitumen within B.C. to the Supreme Court.

The Indigenous-led, grassroots place-based resistance that encouraged the Texas-based multinational Kinder Morgan (founded by two former Enron executives) to walk away from the project, is re-emerging, after the construction delay imposed by the Federal Court of Appeal in August 2018.

And the federal election in October could give the balance of power to two parties – Greens and New Democrats – which are opposed to the pipeline.

Now, a new front has opened up: a national campaign to halt fossil fuel subsidies on which projects like TMX depend.

B.C. residents in the sacrifice zones of the pipeline project know of its local, regional and global environmental risks, from tank farm fires, pipeline rupture, oil tanker spills and orca deaths, to intensified planetary heating. These concerns didn’t always resonate with Canadians elsewhere, facing economic insecurity and public service cutbacks.

But the federal government’s 2018 purchase of the pipeline has added an enormous new risk to Canadian taxpayers. While the petrobloc touts TMX as a route to economic prosperity, taxpayers may see more pain than gain.

Buying the pipeline alone cost taxpayers $4.4 billion, far more than analysts said it was worth, with a further nine to 12 billion dollars needed for expanding its capacity, locking Canada further into planet-heating infrastructure while creating far fewer permanent jobs than investment in renewable energy.

Independent analysts like Andrew Nikiforuk and J. David Hughes argue that optimistic pro-pipeline estimates of Asian demand for Canadian bitumen downplay such factors as escalating construction costs, the completion of two other pipelines by 2022, high transportation costs, alternative supply sources and lower-quality product.

“Trans Mountain has been losing money since Ottawa overpaid for it, leaving taxpayers on the hook,” economist Robyn Allan told me. “Revenues from tolls on the existing line are insufficient to cover all the interest expense or any of the principal amount the government borrowed to finance the acquisition of the 66-year-old pipeline. Billions more in taxpayer-funded subsidies will be required to finance the expansion since shipper tolls will not cover the cost of building it.”

This is why Kinder Morgan walked away: capital costs were too high and Trans Mountain’s expansion ceased to be commercially viable. Any reasonable cost-benefit analysis reveals that there are no net economic benefits from the expansion, either, and the obvious environmental costs are staggering.”

So why did the feds bail out such a toxic investment?

A senior researcher at Alberta’s Parkland Institute told me that TMX has become a political symbol. Serious climate action means ending fossil fuel subsidies (as Trudeau promised in 2015) and investing directly in sustainable energy and infrastructure.

Yet Canadian governments continue to pour about $3.3 billion annually (according to the International Institute of Sustainable Development) into direct support for an industry whose business model entails knowingly jeopardizing the habitability of the planet. That amount would fund job retraining for 330,000 workers, including in greener industries with potential for exporting technology and energy. MORE

The government agency at the centre of B.C.’s old-growth logging showdown

BC Timber Sales has become a lightning rod for controversy, with many expressing dismay over the NDP’s ‘business as usual’ approach to logging

A BC Timber Sales old-growth clearcut in Thursday Creek, Upper Tsitika Valley. Photo: Louis Bockner / Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee

The expanse of ragged stumps, stretching up a steep slope beside Schmidt Creek, on northeast Vancouver Island, serves as a graphic example of controversies over old-growth clearcuts approved by BC Timber Sales and a growing push-back from those who want better protection for intact forests.

The clearcut, above the world-famous Robson Bight orca rubbing beaches, has drawn the ire of conservation groups, whale biologists and First Nations provoking questions about how BC Timber Sales is assessing parcels of old growth for auction.

BC Timber Sales, which was created in 2003 by the Liberal government, manages 20 per cent of the province’s annual allowable cut, making it the biggest tenure holder in B.C. This year, the government agency plans to auction off about 600 hectares more old-growth forest on Vancouver Island, an area about 1.5 times the size of Stanley Park.  The agency has plans to auction off another 8,800 hectares in future years.

Old-growth trees are at least 250 years old and are prized by timber companies. As they become increasingly rare, BC Timber Sales is auctioning off parcels close to communities or recreation areas, meaning conflict is more likely, said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner.

“They are running out of places to find timber where they can log without conflict, so they end up pursuing what I call extreme old-growth logging,” Wieting told The Narwhal.

Floods, droughts and fires are also shining a spotlight on the impacts of climate change, made worse by logging.

“These forests provide clean water, clean air and carbon storage,” Wieting said.

The mandate for BC Timber Sales puts the standalone agency in a straitjacket, Wieting said.

“Auction 20 per cent of B.C. volume no matter what. So, instead of using BC Timber Sales to develop and implement best practices in the midst of climate and species emergencies, they behave like a machine designed with a single purpose: find the fibre,” he said.

That is not how BC Timber Sales sees its mandate and, in an emailed response to questions from The Narwhal, a spokesperson said forestry practices are rooted in the precautionary principle and failing to auction off 20 per cent of the allowable annual cut would “put the integrity of the timber pricing system at risk.” MORE

Doug Ford cuts 70 per cent of money for centre helping First Nations protect wildlife and resources

Perhaps the Ford Government was best described by T. S. Eliot in 1925:

“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. “

Ontario Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at his swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario government has cut 70 per cent of provincial funding to a non-profit organization that helps more than three dozen Indigenous communities protect endangered wildlife and natural resources, National Observer has learned.

The organization, the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (A/OFRC), provides independent scientific information to the communities in order to help them manage both resources and wildlife. But the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told it on April 12, the day after the Ford government delivered its first budget, that “the Ministry is seeking changes to the existing three-year Transfer Payment Agreement.”

The money was part of a critical program designed to help about 40 First Nations participate in government decision-making related to conservation policies.

The payment agreement was in its second year, providing a budget of $860,000 for the arms-length organization to continue to provide independent, non-partisan information relevant to resource management in First Nations territories. This involves providing scientific recommendations to sustain the health and habitat of Ontario’s fish population and other species like moose, turtles and wild rice, and offering technical support to First Nations to help protect their natural resources. MORE

First Nations leaders at odds over potential pipeline ownership

Is the Trudeau government cynically trying to pass over liability to First Nations?

‘The bottom line is that there is no certainty in this investment,’ says Judy Wilson

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Trans Mountain expansion project at a stockpile site in Kamloops, B.C. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

An Indigenous group is urging other First Nations to not invest in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, arguing it is not a sound investment.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has penned an open letter to some leaders who are exploring the idea of partial ownership in the project.

It warns of potential financial risks tied to the proposed pipeline expansion if it gets the ultimate green light from Ottawa.

“The bottom line is that there is no certainty in this investment,” said Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer with the UBCIC. She co-signed the letter with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

“A lot of the communities may not have the full financial information and a lot of things they should know if they are going to be investing.”

Chief Judy Wilson with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says that she chooses the health of the southern resident killer whales over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The letter outlines concerns around ballooning constructions costs of the project, citing total cost estimates upwards of $15 billion.

“When people start doing the actual number crunching they’ll see there’s no real return,” said Wilson, referencing last year’s buy-out by the federal government. MORE


Letter: Trans Mountain poses significant financial risks for First Nations

First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

This warning by Russ Diabo posted in Ricochet, July, 2015 is even more timely today.

Image result for Ricochet: First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

For the past several weeks, I have observed with increasing frequency a call for First Peoples to get out for the upcoming federal election. The mainstream media and now the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, are urging Indigenous people to vote, particularly since it is looking like a three-way race between the federal leaders and their parties (sorry, Elizabeth May).

…I took particular notice of an opinion piece by Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post. Kheiriddin was responding to Regina Crowchild, a councillor with Alberta’s Tsuu T’ina Nation, who said that she would not want to see “an alien government’s polling station” on her reserve, adding that “if we join Canada in their election system, that’s a part of genocide.”

Here was Kheiriddin’s counterargument:

The reality is that, paradoxically, if First Nations are truly interested in more autonomy, they will never get it without cooperation from the federal government. That means electing a government that is sympathetic to their perspective — and they will never do so unless they go to the polls. Voting is not capitulation, but a recognition that in a democracy, you need to participate if you want your voice to be heard.

Despite the mainstream media’s pleas, we must remember as First Nation individuals we are connected to our families, communities and nations. Therefore we have collective or group rights, which Canadian citizens — whether founding settlers or recent immigrants — cannot claim.

In fact, Canada (including the Supreme Court of Canada) bases its asserted sovereignty and territorial integrity on the racist, colonial Christian doctrine of discovery. Kheiriddin’s argument makes sense only if Indigenous peoples already consider themselves as “Canadians.” MORE

Fishers, First Nations fight Northern Pulp mill’s proposed effluent pipeline into ocean

After half a century of discharging contaminated waste into Boat Harbour, the Nova Scotia mill is proposing a new plan to pipe 85 million litres a day of warm treated effluent further into the ocean — where locals fear risks to a critical seafood industry

Northern Pulp mill Nova Scotia
The Northern Pulp mill in Pictou, Nova Scotia, pictured December 6, 2018. Photo: Darren Calabrese

Greg Egilsson, who is chair of the Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation, has been fishing here in Caribou Harbour for more than 30 years. He says Caribou Harbour is an important spawning ground for herring and lobsters, a nursery area for rock crabs and scallops.

He points along the shoreline to a fish plant he says employs about 100 people during fishing season.

Egilsson — like hundreds of others who fish the waters of the Northumberland Strait from Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick — is eagerly awaiting May 1 when lobster season starts, and after that, seasons for all the other seafood treasures that come out of these waters.

But this year, the fishers and all the local industries that depend on the inshore fishery, are also waiting for something else — albeit nervously.

On March 29, Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister Margaret Miller will deliver her verdict on the plan by the 52-year-old Northern Pulp mill on Abercrombie Point for a new effluent treatment facility. The minister can either accept it as is, reject it outright, or ask for more information about the planned project. MORE


Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – The Pied Piper Strikes Again!

Source: ‘A Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors’ (NRCan, November 2018).

Without any adequate consultation with Canadians,
including First Nations, the Government of Canada is
unilaterally moving ahead with the development and
deployment of a whole new generation of nuclear reactors
all over Canada, especially in the north, directly impinging
on indigenous lands and rights.

These “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMNRs, or SMRs) will ALL generate post-fission radioactive wastes of all varieties: the high
level waste which is the irradiated nuclear fuel, and the
low & intermediate level wastes such as decommissioning
wastes (radioactive rubble from dismantling shut-down
reactors or — more likely — just grouting them in place.)

Meanwhile we have learned that the CNSC has been trying
to “rig the game” by getting the Canadian Government to
EXCLUDE most of these new reactors from the requirement
of having a FULL PANEL Environmental Assessment
Review. This has been done by CNSC lobbying government
officials behind closed doors without any public process,
debate, oversight or discussion. MORE


Cost to US taxpayers to clean up nuclear waste jumps $100 billion in a year

Rights Recognition Framework” Delayed For Now

Russell Diabo (right), pictured here with Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde, is warning all First Nations in Canada about dealings with Ottawa. (Courtesy Russell Diabo)

During the 2015 federal campaign the Liberal party of Justin Trudeau made a number of big promises in their Indigenous Platform, notably that a Liberal government will:

  • establish a new Nation-to-Nation relationship;
  • establish a reconciliation process;
  • conduct a law and policy review to “de-colonize” Canada’s laws;
  • establish an inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG);
  • implement the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action;
  • implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and
  • remove the 2 percent cap (which has been in place since 1995) on First Nations programs.

Aside from the MMIWG inquiry, which has been handed off to a federally-appointed commission that, according to critics, seems to be floundering, the Trudeau government has operated in secret and in a top down unilateral approach to interpreting and implementing the Liberal 2015 Indigenous Platform promises by entering into agreements with the three National Indigenous organizations (First Nations, Metis, Inuit). 

The First Nation rights holders – the people – have been bypassed and misled in the process for the past three years by a Liberal public relations campaign of slogans and funding announcements. MORE

Canada Chooses Oil Over People (Again)

The confrontations with the Wet’suwet’en Nation show the Federal Government isn’t interested in real reconciliation

Photo Maggie McCutchen

The relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples continues to be one of reconciliation only when it serves federal interests…

The nearby ecosystem, as well as the 20 First Nations surrounding the pipeline will constantly be at risk of pollution and environmental destruction from normal use and from accidents, but that’s not all.

The aggression shown by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police demonstrates just how hypocritical Canadians are when people brag about Canada’s human rights record. While we uplift this idea that we are everyone’s “friendly and progressive neighbors to the north”, it is finally becoming increasingly clear that it is a very selective kind of progressivism. The kind that inexplicably still does not extend to the peoples that have lived on this land for centuries longer than the oldest of colonizers. MORE


‘No consent, no pipeline’: UBCIC President says Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been ignored