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

Wet’suwet’en: Rule of Law?

Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’moks stands beside Paul Manly at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (Submitted photo)

Paul Manly MP, Green Party

On Saturday Feb. 8th I was invited to speak at a local rally in support of the Wet’suwet’en people. I was grateful for the opportunity because the situation in Wet’suwet’en territory is a complex one. Too often important parts of the story get lost in the public debate. I did my best to to highlight some important points that are not well understood, particularly by those who are citing the “rule of law”as justification for the injunction enforcement that has taken place, and the arrests and removals that were a part of that.

Wet’suwet’en: An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau and John Horgan (02/01/20)

Wet’suwet’en: Pipelines, Politics and UNDRIP (01/26/20)

Transcript:

Three weeks ago I went to Wet’suwet’en territory, and I traveled with Chief Na’Moks for two days. I listened to him for two days about the situation, what was happening in the Wet’suwet’en territory. I also met with the Smithers detachment commander of the RCMP, and the liaison officers there. They weren’t involved in this injunction enforcement. They’re connected to the community. They’re not necessarily happy about this political failure that the RCMP is having to deal with. I also met with the detachment commander at the Community Industry Safety Office, which is a police station in the middle of nowhere. Thirty kilometres off the highway, a series of Atco trailers and storage facilities. The police in there, the detachment commander there, is rotated in every week, and the RCMP are rotated in every week. And they have no connection to Wet’suwet’en territory. They have no connection to the people there. They’re also not happy with having to deal with the political failure of our prime minister and our premier.

This is a political failure. When I met with Chief Na’Moks one of the things that he told me was that they had proposed an alternate route for Coastal GasLink and when you read the injunction it recognizes that the Wet’suwet’en people had asked Coastal GasLink to take another route, and they proposed another route, and Coastal GasLink said no it’s too expensive we’re not going to go that way we’re going to go the way we want to go. And so they drove their pipeline through pristine territory, running right through the historic Kweese trail. This trail is thousands of years old, this trail has burial grounds on it, this trail has archaeological sites on it, this is where they do their cultural training for their young people, this is where they do their hunting and their trapping and their berry picking. This is where they built a healing centre, the Uni’stot’en healing centre, which is being attacked today. This is their territory, and these blockades that they have set up, they are asserting their sovereignty over their territory.

I want to talk a minute about the rule of law because we’ve heard this from the premier, about the rule of law and court injunction from the you know the colonial court system. The Wet’suwet’en have their law, they have the hereditary law. And in 1997 in the Delgamuukw decision the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the hereditary system and their laws. In that Supreme Court case it was the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitxsan that took this case forward. There was not one elected band council member or chief from the colonial imposed Indian Act system. This court decision, the plaintiff in this Court decision, were the hereditary chiefs, that was who was represented and who was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. This was affirmed in the Tsilhqot’in decision. That it is the people who bring the case forward, it’s the hereditary system, that determines the land and title rights of First Nations. This land was never signed over. It was never surrendered. This is Wet’suwet’en territory and they are asserting rights to their sovereignty here.

I want to tell you that we cannot blame anybody who signed onto these these agreements with these gas companies, because in all of these First Nations, in these reservation systems, the band councils that are part of the Indian Act system, they are dealing with poverty. They’ve been struggling with poverty since colonization. And they’re given a choice, this pipeline’s going through anyway, do you want the money or not? And we’ve heard with the Teck Resources mine, this huge oil sands project, the largest oil sands project that’s being proposed in Alberta right now, that First Nations have signed onto that. I heard a chief on CBC say they’re going to do it anyway, the regulator has never turned down one of these projects. So this isn’t consent, they are conceding, they are conceding this is not consent. When you have communities in poverty and, you know, take the money or don’t take the money. I can’t blame the Haisla either, the Kitamaat people, they’re the ones with the LNG facility going onto their territory. their land has been poisoned by Alcan. The Kitimat River was poisoned by the smelter there, their ooligan run is destroyed. Their salmon run is destroyed. The harbour, the Douglas channel, the end of the Douglas channel is poisoned. People have cancer in that community they need economic prosperity and they see that LNG is coming and it’s going to be there or it’s going be somewhere else if do you want the money or not? That’s their choice because they’re ramming this stuff through.

I want to talk for a second about the economics of this situation because we’re sold a bill of goods on this. We’re told that this is good for the economy, we’re told that this is good for the environment. I meet with people in the House of Commons, I’ll meet with any lobbyists, I won’t go to their receptions and drink their wine, but I met with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers this week and had a nice little debate with them in my office. Talked about the economics of this situation, they’re talking about about LNG replacing coal, and that it’s gonna be a transition fuel, and by the end of my argument with them they conceded that LNG has as much of a greenhouse gas footprint as coal does. When you take it from the fracking, and the leaking of fracking, all the way to when you turn on your stove and you release a little methane before it lights up. That is damaging our climate as much as coal burning coal for electricity is. Methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas in the first 15 years it’s released and in 100 years is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gases CO2. It is a climate killer, it is not a solution. And in my little debate with the Canadian Association for Petroleum Producers they admitted that. I wish I had it on video.

I delivered letters to Justin Trudeau, and I sent a letter to John Horgan. I told them that the RCMP should stand down, that we shouldn’t be pushing this project through. And Justin Trudeau said this is a provincial matter It’s not our problem. I said you’re responsible for the relationship with indigenous people, it’s a nation to nation negotiation. British Columbia is not a nation. Canada is a nation and they need to be talking to the Wet’suwet’en people.

I want to mention a couple of other things about this LNG nonsense. They say that it’s going to pay for hospitals and schools and whatnot. You know ten years ago we got 1.2 billion dollars in revenue from natural gas in this province. You know much we got last year? 108 million. And that is in spite the fact that production ramped up by 70 percent, so almost double the production, but we’re getting ten percent of the royalties. Why that is? Because they’re giving royalty breaks to the gas frackers because they’re horizontal drilling. All the fracking is horizontal drilling! They’re giving the resource away. The LNG plant, which is five foreign multinationals, have 5.4 billion dollars in tax breaks, including not paying the carbon tax, not paying PST, they’re getting power from the Site C damn, which is another incident where First Nations, some of them signed on to an agreement because they conceded. Fourteen of them opposed the project, twelve of them ended up signing on because that was their only choice, was to get money. Two of those nations are still fighting in court, the West Moberly and the Prophet River. That dam is being built to provide hydropower to the fracking fields and to the LNG plant. The federal government has put $250 million dollars into LNG Canada, five foreign multinationals, three of them are state-owned corporations from China, Korea, Malaysia, giving our resources away, giving them huge tax breaks, building a damaging dam and making ratepayers like you and me pay for it so that these folks can get to our resources for nothing.

We are being ripped off, the First Nations people are having their rights trampled over this. We’re talking about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, what does that mean? What does it mean? Where is the respectful relationship here? This is… there are so many layers to this, that need to be undone. I got into a 10 minute debate on this because in December, I brought up a question of what was the government’s response to the UN Human Rights office about the Site C damn. The UN has asked that the Site C damn be stopped. Stop construction until you have informed consent from the First Nations involved and they have not stopped. Since then the UN has written again and asked that the Coastal GasLink project be stopped until there’s informed consent. And that the Trans Mountain be stopped until there’s informed consent.

I got my ten minutes of debate in Parliament when I first got back after being up in Wet’suwet’en territory. I also asked the question on Thursday, where is this government on the nation to nation negotiation? Why don’t they respect the rule of law? Why not?

This whole situation is disgusting. We stand in solidarity and support the Wet’suwet’en people, and all of those communities that are being destroyed in the fracking fields in northeastern British Columbia and those communities that are standing against the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline. We’ve got to keep on fighting folks. They are on the front line of this climate battle. They are on the front line of the defending the rights of Indigenous people. They are on the front line of the future of our children and grandchildren, and the future of their children and grandchildren. Thank you.  SOURCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dani Aiello@dani_elaaiello

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

Dani Aiello@dani_elaaiello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jess Housty@jesshousty

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

View image on Twitter

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

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

That military conflict dragged on for several more years.

Dani Aiello@dani_elaaiello

Respect. ✊🏼✨🔥 https://twitter.com/jorgebarrera/status/1227035011787972608 

Jorge Barrera @JorgeBarrera

Mohawks prepare to enter 6th day of railway shutdown in support of Wet’suwet’enhttps://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/tyendinaga-mohawks-wet-suwet-en-rail-shutdown-1.5458980 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNIST’OT’EN CAMP

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

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

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

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

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

Te Ara Whatu@TeAraWhatu

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

Full press release here: https://bit.ly/2OJunuZ 

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‘Rule of law’ isn’t only B.C., Canadian law: Bellegarde

(Perry Bellegarde is national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. APTN file)

Perry Bellegarde is not happy with B.C. Premier John Horgan’s spin on the “rule of law.”

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations said his members support the “governance and decision-making process of the Wet’suwet’en people. Canada and British Columbia must do the same.”

It’s the second time Bellegarde has involved himself in the pipeline dispute playing out in northern B.C.

Last January the national Indigenous leader told RCMP to stop their violent incursion on Wet’suwet’en traditional territory south of Houston, B.C.

Now Bellegarde said the “rule of law” cited by Horgan Monday as a reason Coastal GasLink construction should continue isn’t only Canadian law.

The “rule of law” includes honouring First Nations laws in their traditional territories,” Bellegarde told APTN News.

“The necessity of respecting those laws and traditions is further underlined by the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Right now, the federal government and BC government must meet with the Wet’suwet’en leadership and immediately work to resolve this matter through dialogue not violence.”

Horgan, whose NDP are in power thanks to a partnership with the B.C. Green Party, said adopting UNDRIP doesn’t give Indigenous opponents a veto over the multi-billion-dollar project to ship natural gas to foreign markets.

“I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation,” agreed Ellis Ross, a former Haisla chief in northern B.C. and now Liberal MLA.

Two types of law

“We don’t have two types of law…We can’t pick and choose which law we’re going to abide by today and just decide that, ‘OK, some certain groups of people can define their own laws.’”

But Kate Kempton, an Indigenous rights lawyer in Toronto, said Canada could absolutely have two parallel laws.

“Unless and until Crown governments recognize that or accept that a space needs to be carved out for an equal status Indigenous legal realm in Canada…you’re going to end up with a very imperfect and unfair set of answers.”

Kempton said New Zealand and Australia have made such a space.

“Suppose an Indigenous law was as applicable here as Canadian law. That would mean that Coastal GasLink would have to get a set of permits from the Crown government, but they’d also need a set of permits from the relevant Indigenous government.”

Kempton said Wet’suwet’en pipeline opponents are staring down colonial governments and corporations as part of Indigenous self-determination.

“What the Crown governments have to do instead of continuing to fund poverty, they need to find a way for real economic support in the trillions of dollars to go toward Indigenous governments to figure out for themselves how self-determination, self-governance is going to work.”

Then, instead of fighting each other in court or at barricades on the ground, Kempton said they would know “what is our government, who’s in it and who’s going to decide when there’s an external project within our Nation yes or no” – instead of elected versus hereditary versus Canadian.

“Right now, the support and structure isn’t there so you end up with this messy situation reflected in this case,” the lawyer added.

Watch Todd Lamirande’s story on the latest from Wet’suwet’en Territory

The ‘messy situation’ in B.C. has attracted the attention of  international and national civil and human rights groups.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, B.C. Human Rights Commission and B.C. Civil Liberties Association all released statements slamming the position of Canada’s elected politicians on Indigenous rights.

“All of your governments have recognized that significant shifts are required to move forward with reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and show full regard for their rights in the Constitution and under international law,” said Amnesty’s English and French secretaries general Alex Neve and France Isabelle-Langlois.

“If promises to do so are not met with concrete action, very much including tough and challenging decisions such as those required here, then the words remain empty.  That is the shameful history that Canada absolutely must leave behind.”

Ross, who supports the pipeline project and the jobs it offers Indigenous communities, was critical of the UN alleging Canada’s resource projects are racist.

“The UN is highly irresponsible in not talking to everybody to get a complete picture of what’s happening here in B.C. over the past 14 years,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“They took one story out of B.C. and they figured that all the Aboriginals in B.C. are being trampled on and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

In a replay of last January, RCMP took control of a section of unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation land Monday in what they termed a safety measure.

They are blocking traffic from moving in and out of the narrow Morice West Forest Service Road south of Houston that winds its way through snowy forest land to camps operated by the Gidimt’en and Unist’ot’en clans.

CGL claims camp members interfere with its ability to construct the pipeline and won an interlocutory injunction from a B.C. Supreme Court judge. It said it was up to the RCMP to enforce the injunction.

Preserve the safety

“Our duty is to preserve the safety of everyone involved in this dispute, and to prevent further contraventions to the BC Supreme Court ordered injunction,” said Dawn Roberts, in a release from B.C. RCMP.

“As a result, an access control checkpoint has been established at the 27 kilometer mark of the forestry road. The purpose is to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway, as well as to allow emergency service access to the area.”

The felled trees and tire piles were discovered last week by CGL workers and reported to the RCMP.

“We remain committed to facilitating the ongoing dialogue between Indigenous communities, Coastal GasLink and Government, in the hopes that these efforts will result in a safe and peaceful outcome,” Roberts added in the release.

She said people allowed to pass the police checkpoint were:

-All hereditary and elected chiefs;

-Elected and other government officials;

-Journalists with accreditation from recognised media outlets;

-Persons providing food, medicine or other supplies or services required for the well-being and safety of persons behind the blockades;

-Other persons as approved by the RCMP operations commander or delegate.

“For purposes of safety, all persons entering must indicate their specific destination, estimated time of return and indicate their understanding of the hazards present. Vehicles and persons entering will be logged to ensure awareness of who has entered and safely exited. All other vehicles will be turned away,” the release added.

“All occupants of vehicles exiting the area who were not already spoken to on their way in will be briefly detained per paragraph 10 of the BC Supreme Court injunction, asked for identification, and provided a copy of the court order before they are permitted to go on their way.”

Meanwhile, the interim leader of the B.C. Green Party was not available for an interview Tuesday.

And the president of CGL again asked for a meeting with the hereditary chiefs.

“We believe that by working together, we can address the interests of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en while continuing to provide significant benefits to the Wet’suwet’en and other Indigenous communities,” David Pfeiffer said in a letter posted to the company’s website Tuesday.

The chiefs, who don’t want the pipeline on their unceded territory, were in meetings Tuesday. SOURCE

The Problematic Legal Tools Party Leaders Would Use To Build Pipelines

Declaratory powers, constitutional powers and rule of law can be used to push projects through in the national interest.

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Kamloops,...
Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Kamloops, B.C. on May 29, 2018.  DENNIS OWEN / REUTERS

Many Canadians can recall the $4.5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline that Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s government purchased in what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to save the expansion project from B.C. opposition. What those living outside Alberta may forget is that Trudeau’s government also cancelled the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline at an expense of nearly $15 million.

It was this Northern Gateway Pipeline, that would have stretched across the northern part of the Alberta-British Columbia border, that Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer invoked during the first MacLean’s/CityTV leadership debate. When the debate focused on Conservative senators’ attempts to kill C-262, which opposition view as giving Indigenous communities the final say on resource projects, Scheer said, “We cannot create a system in this country where one group of individuals, one Indigenous community, can hold hostage large projects that employ so many Indigenous Canadians.”

It’s telling that the “one group” Scheer singles out are Indigenous communities opposing pipeline projects. These conversations about energy and pipelines, and who decides how, when and where they get built, highlight the need for clarity about the federal government’s constitutional powers to push projects through.

Constitutional powers and rule of law

You’ll often see terms like “declaratory powers,” “constitutional powers” or “rule of law” thrown around by politicians like Trudeau, Scheer and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Confusing at best, all three fall under the heading of constitutional law, but look or operate differently. They are legal tools that could potentially allow federal or provincial governments alike to rely on the vague concept of the public interest (sometimes a purely economic test) when companies seek approval for projects.

In the context of resource projects, the outcome is that the rights of groups directly impacted by the thousands of kilometres of pipelines running or planned across our country are ignored as politicians seek to assert their jurisdiction over an issue. This jurisdiction that political leaders refer to is found in Canada’s Constitution, section 92(10).

Justin Trudeau  @JustinTrudeau

Canada is a country of the rule of law, and the federal government will act in the national interest. Access to world markets for Canadian resources is a core national interest. The Trans Mountain expansion will be built. https://twitter.com/jimcarr_wpg/status/983109315958484992 

Jim Carr @jimcarr_wpg

See my statement regarding the Trans Mountain Expansion. https://www.canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2018/04/minister-carr-issues-statement-regarding-trans-mountain-expansion.html 

Relying on their declaratory powers, the federal government may use legislation to declare specific works as being to the general advantage of Canada — particularly when there is uncertainty over infrastructure or networks, or the interprovincial works have an international component or connection. Canada’s constitution provides that Parliament can exercise its declaratory power over works, like pipelines, that extend beyond a province’s boundaries or connect with another province. This can prevent a province declaring its jurisdiction over a pipeline, possibly providing some certainty over the project.

Indigenous groups and others demonstrate against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project...
Indigenous groups and others demonstrate against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project in Burnaby, B.C. on March 10, 2018. JASON REDMOND VIA GETTY IMAGES

While the federal government is free to declare a pipeline such as the Trans Mountain expansion under its declaratory powers, the remainder of the Constitution does not fade away. Other sections in the Constitution include Canada’s duty to consult and accommodate, or Section 35. To non-Indigenous Canadians and politicians, the duty to consult and accommodate may be seen as a barrier to completing projects. In theory, this shouldn’t be the case if relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, including companies, are built meaningfully before projects are granted approval from their respective regulators.

The federal government is using declaratory power to sidestep its duty to consult.

The federal government might desire jurisdiction over a pipeline, relying on its declaratory powers, because there is some international component with some integral element involving an interprovincial work. This would be similar to the Trans Mountain Pipeline connecting Canada’s products to an international market, together with the pipeline’s interprovincial infrastructure. Yet, the rule of law says that no one is above the law. One power seems to operate at the bidding of another.

Sometimes, declaratory powers are confused with the rule of law, chiefly when talking about pipelines. Political leaders may cite the rule of law to say that no group, like those Scheer refers to, is above the law — opposing groups must fall in line with the federal government’s objective to complete a work. At the same time, the federal government is using declaratory power to sidestep its duty to consult, a law which applies to everyone.

Indigenous consent is nuanced and necessary

Indigenous peoples and communities are best suited for understanding their communities’ needs, but often left out when it comes to resource projects. They want a seat at the table. Consent is key. MORE

 

Lawless Trump-Canada Connections

Canada recently seized and sold $30 million worth of Iranian properties in Ottawa and Toronto, a gross hypocrisy explains Yves Engler in light of oversights of more flagrant US and Israel terror victims. See this.

But the behaviour of Canada Foreign Affairs in joining the lawless US war of sanctions, embargos and military threats against Iran goes deeper than hypocrisy.

It is another vassal-state violation of international law on behalf of US rogue policies around the world against majority world societies not fully subjugated to US corporate-profit rule – now against China, against Venezuela, and against Iran and Yemen most ec0-genocidally.

The US backed and armed Saudi bombing of Yemen and mass famine as a weapon of war is more brutal to civilians than in Vietnam, and on behalf of the more despotic and anti-democratic Islamic theocracy of Saudi Arabia.

Yet how many know that it is this same illegal US embargo war against Iran and accompanying armed terror against its oil trading partners that has caused Canada’s disastrous rift with China and its refusal to purchase long-time major Canada agricultural exports to China now ruining Western farmers?

We have been told the story-line by Canada’s government and the media that the now long imprisonment of lead China businesswoman Meng Wanzhou is “strictly abiding by the rule of law” and “China cannot or does not want to understand how the rule of law works”.

In fact, the detention is of the CFO of China’s world-leading telecommunications giant, Huawei, occurred as Huawei was surpassing the long US monopoly giants in global sales, and while the Trump administration was – and remains – in the midst of other strong-arm trade sanctions on China to recover lost market shares to now more competitive Chinese industries.

The fact that it is US corporations themselves which have shipped American jobs en masse to China – predicted by critics of the borderless transnational corporate trade regime throughout – is reverse-blamed on China as the US is silently in trouble even in cell-phone communications where it has long dominated world trade.

Trump has implicitly acknowledged that the US demand for extradition of Meng Wanzhou is part of his trade war with China, and that – mighty white of him – he might work for the release of two Canadians imprisoned in response (for which pervasive Foreign Affairs  Minister Freeland, who has presided over this whole disaster for Canada, unctuously – and futilely – thanked him for nothing).

Minister Freeland has long pretended the fit-up arrest and detention of Huawei’s CEO Meng Wanzhou in transit at a Canadian airport has been to uphold ‘the rule of law’ as sacred. Yet the extraterritorial state arrest is in fact only obeying a US extradition warrant for Huawei’s alleged violation of the US’s illegal trade war on Iran!

That this extra-territorial demand is for no offense committed under Canada or international law is not reported even by the press. That the offense alleged is against an illegal US embargo of Iran by export controls to which Canada is not a party is deleted across government accounts and the media.

At the same time, Trump’s royal love-in with new Saudi tyrant Muhammad bin Salman (with Boris Johnson joining in) backs and arms the eco-genocidal destruction of neighboring Yemen, now the poorest and most war-oppressed country in the world

Needless to say, background editors of what can be spoken on the public stage ensure at every level that no joining of the dots here is allowed.  That Canada has supplied the Saudi war of aggression and mass starvation with billions worth of armored trucks, once a front-end issue, disappears from what accounts there are of the genocidal war presented by acting Saudi-king bin Salman as quick national victory.

Even although the establishment media and politicos may hate Trump, they know that US bully and vassal Canada waging corporate state war on poorer, not-fully-capitalist countries is taboo to know even for them.

It is one more dirty-secret accumulation of interconnected evils and lies out of sight under which the Creation increasingly groans. SOURCE

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US Enemies and the Lawless ‘Rule of Law’

Andrew Coyne: The question of what is Trudeau hiding is not going to go away

The issues involved in the SNC-Lavalin affair are too important to be treated flippantly. This isn’t some question of policy on which people of goodwill can differ

Another campaign begun in the shadow of scandal. The first weeks of the 2015 election campaign were dominated by the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy, at much subsequent cost to Stephen Harper’s re-election chances. Whether or not the latest revelations in the SNC-Lavalin affair prove to be as consequential to the current campaign, the implications are deeply troubling.

Not only is the RCMP reported to have been inquiring into the affair, in which the prime minister and other government officials attempted to interfere in a criminal prosecution, as a possible case of obstruction of justice, but investigators have apparently been prevented from gathering evidence from key witnesses — obstructed, if you will — by the government’s continuing refusal to release them from the bonds of cabinet confidentiality.

No, it’s not yet a formal criminal investigation, and yes, whatever else you want to call it has been “paused” until after the election — a protocol installed after the 2006 campaign, which was knocked sideways by the revelation that the RCMP was investigating the then minister of finance. No doubt that will be of some relief to the Liberal campaign, but it does leave the public in a bind: it would be a hell of a thing to re-elect the government only to have its top officials charged afterward with serious crimes.

And the questions — the first from a reporter, immediately after Justin Trudeau’s opening statement: “what is your government trying to hide?” — are not going to go away. Seven months after the scandal first came to light, they boil down to one: why not lift the obligation to keep cabinet conversations secret if it will help police get to the bottom of the matter?

This is not, after all, the first time the subject has come up. While the prime minister made a great show of waiving cabinet confidentiality earlier this year with regard to his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the waiver applied only to discussions that took place while she was still in the job, and only to those in which she took part. The ethics commissioner reported last month that nine witnesses with evidence relevant to his inquiry had been kept silent by the same restriction.

Cabinet confidentiality is an important principle — ministers could not otherwise speak frankly on sensitive matters — that ought not to be taken lightly. But it is not as important as the rule of law. It might be invoked for reasons of state — or, more often, to spare governments political embarrassment — but it cannot be extended to cover discussions of potential crimes.

Or at any rate it should not. Maybe Trudeau, as he insists, did nothing wrong, legally or ethically. If so, the witnesses will presumably exonerate him. But if not, all the more reason why they should be allowed to tell police what they know.

Former Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives to give her testimony about the SNC-LAVALIN affair before a justice committee hearing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019. LARS HAGBERG / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Certainly it is within his power to do so. The explanation, offered both to the ethics commissioner and the RCMP, that it was a decision of the clerk of the privy council, even if true, will not wash. The clerk works for the prime minister, not the other way around. Whatever power the prime minister chooses to delegate he can also choose to take back.

The prime minister, in any event, long ago undermined any principled defence of his position by his readiness to go public with his side of the same conversations. It is no part of the doctrine of cabinet confidentiality that it should be strictly applied to material that might incriminate government officials, but may be relaxed where it shows them in a better light.

I say all this in the vain hope that the question will be considered on its merits, and not merely as a matter of optics, or polling, or tactics. We have an unfortunate tendency in our trade to cover the campaign, rather than the election — who’s up, who’s down, how the parties are or should be positioning themselves on a given issue, as opposed to what’s right, what’s wrong, and which party’s position is closest to the truth.

Cabinet confidentiality is an important principle. But it is not as important as the rule of law

But the issues involved in the SNC-Lavalin affair are too important to be treated so flippantly. This isn’t about whether to raise or lower taxes or some other question of policy on which people of goodwill can differ, but whether we are to have an impartial system of justice, or one in which powerful corporations can wriggle out of prosecution by lobbying the right politicians. MORE

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Pacific Islands States Commit to Advancing International Criminal Justice

 

Laying the groundwork to make ecocide a crime against humanity under the authority of the International Criminal Court

Group Photo

On 31 May 2019, more than 40 members of parliament, government representatives, and senior diplomats convened at a strategic high-level event in Port Vila, Vanuatu, to promote the advancement of international criminal justice in the Pacific Islands region. The Roundtable was hosted by the Government of Vanuatu and organised by Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), a worldwide network of legislators committed to promoting justice and the rule of law, with the invaluable cooperation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Republic of Korea, and the European Union.

The Pacific Islands Roundtable on the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court brought together representatives of the executive and legislative branches of the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu; senior ICC officials; representatives of the diplomatic community; academic experts and members of civil society, united in their objective to promote international justice, including through the universality of the Rome Statute system.

Universality of the ICC: Moving Closer

“Now, more than ever, it is the time for our great region to join this universal system of international justice and take a decisive stand in the world fora. We are very hopeful that the example of my country will inspire all the remaining States that have still not taken this step.” — Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade of Vanuatu

The universality of the Rome Statute and effectiveness of the ICC system are essential prerequisites for accountability and lasting global deterrence for the most serious crimes of international concern; namely, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, which shall not be left unpunished. Of the 16 independent and self-governing States that comprise the Pacific Islands Forum, only eight are States parties to the Rome Statute and only three have effectively implemented the provisions of the Statute of the ICC on complementarity and cooperation with the Court. MORE

RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en Nation territory breaches Canada’s ‘rule of law’

“Canada is not a country that follows the rule of law. Canada makes and breaks laws to suit its own economic and political interests, which run counter to those of Indigenous peoples. It is time to be honest about it, and call out Canada as an outlaw, and take action to support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who have occupied their lands since time immemorial.” – Prof Pam Palmater

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes flowery public speeches about respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and reassures the international community that there is no relationship more important that the one with Indigenous peoples, Canada invaded sovereign Wet’suwet’en Nation territory. When questioned about this aggressive move at a Liberal fundraiser in Kamloops, British Columbia, he responded: “No, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation… But at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.”

Canada’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory through its national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is an example of the blatant violation of the rule of law in favour of corporate interests. Canada has consistently failed to follow the rule of law when it comes to Indigenous peoples, and the violent arrests of the Wet’suwet’en people at the Gidimt’en checkpoint, set up in support of the Unist’ot’en homestead, is a glaring example of Canada’s lawlessness.

The people of Wet’suwet’en Nation, as represented by their traditional government, have long asserted their sovereign jurisdiction over their Nation’s lands which span about 22,000 square kilometres in northwest British Columbia. These lands have never been ceded, nor have their rights to use, manage, protect or govern these lands been extinguished in any way. The Nation has never signed any treaty or constitutional agreement that has specifically surrendered their sovereignty as a Nation. While there have been many federal and provincial laws that have interfered with First Nation laws in general, there has never been an explicit extinguishment of Wet’suwet’en laws and jurisdiction over their Nation’s sovereign territory. Their land rights are not only recognized in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, but they are also protected in numerous international treaties and declarations, like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). In other words, there was no legal basis for Canada to invade their territory. MORE

Wilson-Raybould slams feds for ‘incremental’ progress on Indigenous rights recognition

 

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Former justice minister Jody Wilson-RaybouldOTTAWA — Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is slamming the federal government she was once a part of for making only “incremental” progress on the Indigenous justice file and their promise to “decolonialize” Canadian laws and policies.

“My fear and disappointment is that despite sounding the alarm, providing the advice, pushing and challenging, sharing perspectives of lived Indigenous experience… the federal government has fallen back once again into a pattern of trying to ‘manage the problem’ with Indigenous peoples and make incremental shifts rather than transforming the status quo,” Wilson-Raybould said during a keynote address on Wednesday at the First Nations Provincial Justice Forum in Vancouver. They were invited by the B.C.-based First Nations Justice Council.

She appeared alongside fellow newly-Independent MP Jane Philpott to deliver a joint address called: “From denial to recognition: the challenges of Indigenous justice in Canada.”

“Since I spoke to the leadership of British Columbia this past November, there have been a few developments, things have changed a bit,” Wilson-Raybould said early in her remarks, to laughter. “Perhaps not fully unexpected but certainly an eventful time,” she continued, appearing to reference the months-long controversy surrounding her allegations that she faced a sustained effort from senior government officials to attempt to pressure her to interfere in a criminal case against the Quebec engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould framed her comments as her reflections and insights from her nearly three years as Canada’s first-ever Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, presented with the aim of informing these Indigenous leaders’ ongoing efforts to change the current justice system.

She said that she had “no illusion” about the reality of the system she was taking the helm of, but said that over the course of her time in cabinet she fought to challenge the way things had been done. MORE