Indigenous People will never Stop Defending Their Land

There are times when I feel disheartened as an Indigenous person. I think, doesn’t anyone listen to Indigenous people and uphold our values and knowledge? Doesn’t anyone care that our rights are being trampled on? That our grandchildren won’t know what a fish is and that the world as we know it will be so destroyed by climate change that they will only know stories of how our territories used to be.  As the news broke that the Pacific Northwest LNG was going to be approved, my heart sunk and I mourned for Mother Earth. Canadian laws and processes are not in favour of First Nations people and our constitutionally protected rights. 

I kept thinking, how does this keep happening? Mega development after mega development keep getting approved by governments who only care about jobs and money and could care less about indigenous people’s rights and way of life. These are governments who seemingly don’t care about pristine lands, waters and a healthy environment for all Canadians.

There was some hope by indigenous peoples across Canada when Harper went down in flames in the last federal election.  His years in power eroded our lands, resources and rights.  He cut environmental standards through adopting Bills C38 and 45.  Many people across Canada believe that the NEB and Environmental assessment processes have been gutted and any project going through these processes are suspect.  Many other acts were also downgraded like the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Act.  Yet this liberal government has gone full speed ahead and approved the Site C dam federal permits and now the Pacific Northwest LNG under those flawed processes. They have promised to fix these acts but it has been almost a year and nothing has been done except to launch a process to review these acts. 

A lot of people also felt that with Trudeau’s election promises that we would be living in a new world, a world where First Nations had a government to government relationship that was respected, where Free Prior and Informed Consent was implemented as promised. That is what Justin Trudeau said and that is what people believed.  Now they are waking up to the fact that Trudeau didn’t really mean what he said and life in Canada is basically the same old. 

What we got was a federal government who is doing business as usual.  Plowing ahead in the conservative agenda, using their defective laws and standards and justifying it as a “good opportunity” for indigenous peoples.  How can they be more blind? How can they be so two faced about what they said they would do and what they are actually doing?  I can only shake my head and hope that all people, not just indigenous voice raise their voices against decisions like Site C and Pacific NW LNG that will accelerate climate change and our quality of life.  That people will continue to demand credible environmental process that are truly rigorous and thorough and take into effect cumulative impacts and climate change amongst other things.

It is definitely fighting big bureaucracy with a limited vision.  I am glad Hunter Tootoo stepped down as Fisheries Minister. If he had to stand there yesterday and endorse the LNG plant that will surely impact the Skeena salmon, I fear his values as an indigenous person would have been stripped from him.  Just as Justice Minister Jody-Wilson Raybould has had to do on her own views of Site C.  Bury what you believe in because you have to tow the party line.  How devastating for her. Add onto this the insult by Minister Catherine McKenna trying to justify her decision by saying the decision for the LNG plant was based on both the best available science and Indigenous traditional knowledge.   I am sure indigenous knowledge did not approve the effects on the fishery. 

 Even as I feel disheartened in this moment, I reach deep within myself to prepare for yet another battle. I cannot allow myself to feel that way for more than a moment. I call on the strength of the ancestors who began the battle when the first colonizer arrived.  I remember my responsibilities to look after Mother Earth. My first tweet after the LNG decision was to “warrior up”.  Another battle faces our brothers and sisters in their lands and we need to stand with them and do what we can to help them fight for their lands, waters and resources.  In our Nuu-chah-nulth teachings:  Everything is connected and everything is one. What happens in their lands affects all of us.

Many experts say this LNG plant and others won't be built becauise of the glut of LNG on the market and the low prices.  We can hope this is the case. But we cannot rely on that to happen.

We will never be defeated as indigenous peoples unless we let ourselves be and our teachings would never let us do that.  Even as a handful of First Nations have embraced LNG as a chance to get money, those First Nations people who value the land, water and resources will defend them for future generations.  Governments need to understand they have worthy opponents in First Nations peoples and their empty promises will never deter us from fighting to protect for what is rightfully ours.

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