Before I get into the gears of my post, I want to be clear that I am no expert on first nation reconciliation and UNDRIP; certainly as it pertains to natural resources on land controlled by a first nation.
I also want to stress that I am not first nation. My family lineage extends into northern Europe so far that a recent DNA test from one of those ancestry-type websites proved me to be over 75% viking.
So what is upsetting me? The seemingly illegal blockades and protests at Fairy Creek on the south Island here in BC. Why is that? Because the first nation who controls the land has signed deals with a forestry company and government – in a joint decision making exercise that is largely consistent with how deals ought to be done under BC’s UNDRIP legislation.
Where did this begin? The Pacheedaht leadership signed a deal.
Enter the environmentalists.
To be sure, many of BC’s more well known movements have large buy-in from various first nation peoples. There are strong cases to be made about protecting the land from gross exploitation and from damaging plots of land that have major cultural and/or spiritual significance to a particular first nation. I get that..I might not understand why, but its not my place to adjudicate the legitimacy of such a claim.
The argument from environmentalists is that the plots of land subject to a logging proposal are in old-growth areas. They claim that it is the last stand of major old growth forested areas on the island. I’ll take that as granted only because I don’t have the information to dispute it.
What I have learned is that from the 1200 hectares of Fairy Creek, 200 hectares is accessible to Teal Jones (the forest company) but only plan to log 20 hectares.
The The Pacheedaht have clearly indicated that they wish the project to go ahead as they can rightly use the revenue for the benefit of their community. UNDRIP and reconciliation means that they should and must have a shared decision making role in this. So why are environmentalists determined to stop them from catching up here?
When the protesters refused to dismantle their blockades, the Pacheedaht and Teal Jones sought out a court injunction to remove them.
Before the enforcement order was granted, the elected and hereditary chief signed a letter demanding the protesters and other 3rd party activists leave the area. This matter itself has drawn criticism as it turns out that the Pacheedaht and government were in communications with this letter; and the protesters have seized upon this to de-legitimize the first nation’s demand.
Now, I don’t know what was said between government and Pacheedaht officials, but I can reasonably assure you that if the first nation leadership felt they were being manipulated or cajoled into writing certain things in their statement, they likely would have gone full-court press with outrage. For the environmentalist side of this, to attempt to nullify what their elected and hereditary leadership say – well that’s a whole side of colonialism that I didn’t see coming.
The Pacheedaht have their own negotiators and legal team who have served them well, and UNDRIP calls us to respect the shared decision making that rolls out of that process. EVEN if you don’t like it.
There are some privileged white protesters who come from their well-off, upper middle class neighborhood in the big city who would demand a total halt to logging regardless of the damage done to the small communities who rely on the jobs and revenue from this renewable resource.
There is an attempt to paint this in the same light as the 1993 ‘war in the woods’ that had everyone upset and most certainly did not have first nations buy-in.
Forestry has gone through major changes in the last three decades and is still in flux. It isn’t the job producer it used to be.
We’re at a place where more and more the first nations rising up to take part in an economy and decision making process that has excluded them for our entire history of European ‘settlement’ of the west. A decision is made to log and process less than 2% of the trees in the Fairy Creek basin – which is traditional territory of the Pacheedaht.
I’m pro-NDP and make no apologies for that. I know that many in our party and support base are philosophically opposed to clear cut logging and logging old growth forests. But many of us also are big supporters of UNDRIP and reconciliation; doing the right thing that is. The Pacheedaht forestry deal might end up doing all of the above; logging in old growth areas and a business deal struck by the first nation in question.
The thing about respecting the independence and the right of first nations to make their own arrangements and deals as the Pacheedaht have done is key to UNDRIP, even if we don’t personally like what that might look like. After centuries of being held back and told “you can’t do that” by powerful white leaders, I’m certain that they’ve rightly heard enough from you and I.
To close, I’m attaching a set of images and screenshots related to this file; more powerful white people telling the Pacheedaht what to do.