Opposition attacks on Royal BC Museum rebuild are some of the most repugnant in BC political history.

See update

Opposition attacks against against the proposed rebuild of the Royal BC Museum coming from the BC Liberals and Greens are sad, but predictable. It’s opportunist too. They both attempt to create a wedge issue (for which they are attempting to be on the right side of) by arguing that it’s a binary choice. They cast it as ‘Museum or healthcare’; or, ‘Museum or education’; ‘Museum or climate change’. You get the picture.

The reality is, and the BC Liberals know it – as they have served in government before (Greens too, in a supporting role in the 2017-20 confidence and supply arrangement with the NDP) – that government can do more than one thing at a time. In fact, we expect it; its literally their job.

Government doesn’t run its books like a household – it cannot do that…and it rightly shouldn’t.

As we continue to climb out from the effects of the pandemic, we go from high unemployment to not-enough-workers. Wages are finally moving up. Net effect? More tax revenue from more people working and at higher wages. BC’s economic performance is the best in Canada; better than most jurisdictions in North America.

This allows us to do things. Such as rebuilding a museum that has been asking for help since 2006 – and put on a shelf in favour of other vanity projects like the new Trade and Convention Centre, BC Place roof replacement, Port Mann bridge (and more, and all were grossly over budget).

What burns me is that in this era of recognizing the collective impact of European settlers harm to the First Nations of BC, this museum project allows a more accurate re-telling of what really went on.

This previous year (and more recent headlines) have showcased the thousands of unmarked graves of children who died while in care at the various religious/church operated, government sanctioned residential schools.

Were these children murdered? Neglected? Sick and died from natural causes? I don’t know. Their cause of death is important, but these children deserve to be known by name, their extended families deserve answers, and we must be accountable to this. All of it.

The lost children (the tens of thousands of them), the many complicated matters which need addressing in our delicate walk to full reconciliation, are journeys that need telling in a renewed museum.

Imagine a new museum that finally tells the (living) story of our collective failure in our relations with our first nations – not only to ourselves in BC, but to the world? That would be a good start.

The cost? Government says it will cost $768 million. But, like other large projects, expect it to go over budget. That’s just the reality of things. Especially in todays world where products needed for rebuilding and the highly skilled labour needed are in short supply.

The cost to refurbish? More. Asbestos removal, remediation of the current structure would clearly be a different cost structure than removal of the old, building new.

Over-spending on large projects is nothing new, and hardly controversial anymore. Taxpayers are used to this by now.

The opposition casts this as a thing that should be cancelled; possibly delayed into the future. But given the facts, this will inevitably be required, and there is no delay possible that makes the costs go down any.

I mean, I expect this from the BC Liberals. They cast the museum rebuild as a vanity project. Unfair, especially when the project moves forward in partnership with first nations. And who are the BC Liberals to lecture anyone on vanity projects? Have we forgotten already about ‘quickwins’, ‘om-the-bridge’, Port Mann fiasco, TransLink tinkering?

Oh I know; calls from those saying “that’s in the past, your guys need to worry about now and into the future”. They’re right! Voters are well aware of BC Liberal duplicity and hypocrisy here, but there is little to gain by rehashing it – they lost the election…electoral mileage made from their dismal failings is a credit well cashed in.

But this is about today and the future too. The proposal would only be finished its construction process in 2030 – two whole electoral terms away from now.

Every sign is pointing to a looming recession; a general hangover from the insanity over the pandemic crash – then its rocket-speed ‘recovery’.

Housing prices and general inflation has caused economic problems of their own. By pricing out working people from participating in a housing market (or rental market for that matter), there will be a huge underclass of folks unable to support the small and medium businesses who need free flowing, disposable income from paycheques from workers in order to survive. Folks are just trying to survive.

Government can sit back and do nothing, letting the chips fall where they may…or they can be proactive about it. BC needs a new museum as the old one can’t do it anymore.

The build, the narrative change and the location all serve an economic-health sensitive industry in Victoria well and would bolster the private sector; at a time when they could use it the most. Of course, Victoria isn’t the only place that matters in BC – but as I’ve mentioned, government is capable of handling more than one thing at a time. That’s what they’re supposed to do.

Opposing the museum rebuild is a knee-jerk conservative reaction that I expected from the BC Liberals, I did not expect it from BC’s Green Party. They seemingly have taken on the right wing talking point that funding a new museum is a binary choice ‘at the expense of..’ when it clearly is not.

I’m not going to pretend to be able to sway the opinions of those who hate the NDP and just found a new reason to bolster their hate.

No.

To the overwhelming of rational people in BC however, do not be swayed by the negative nellies on the opposition side. This is a government as you know that isn’t engaging in one-off populist things. Building a new museum – regardless of rhetorical nonsense – is a bold and justified program that will benefit our province in the near term and well into the future.

This is what coherent leadership is supposed to do.

my2bits

Edit: To anyone suggesting that the Royal BC Museum rebuild is a surprise that nobody wanted or talked about, this is incorrect. The earliest I have discovered that the RBCM board had discussed in public the notion of renovations or major structural concerns was in 2005 as part of their 2005/06 annual report.

Here’s the 2008/09 – 2010/11 service report with even more explicit references to the project idea now so controversial.

And this Tom Hawthorne, on twitter, reminding folks of this.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Update:

Well it looks like the museum project is shelved for now. Blowback in the public space was overwhelming as many folks argue that now is not the time for such an endeavor.

That’s too bad. I was in favour, and I believe that the museum rebuild would have been a net positive for the capitol region and BC in general.

But I am no expert and certainly not in control of policy here.

John Horgan, as leader and Premier having to back down from a major initiative like this – is a setback to be sure. Instead of blaming others – he owned it personally.

If I understand one thing about BC voters, they’ll respect and support a political leader who comes across as human as we all are; including accepting mistakes as they come along.

So, with that, I note that from the folks who demonized the NDP and John Horgan for proposing the museum rebuild – now demonize him for cancelling it.

Folks are watching.

I won’t be celebrating Canada Day this year

Canada is going through some things lately and its very troubling to watch as some folks deny and dismiss what we are; how we became us.

Ours is a story of European exploration and proxy battles that led to a nation being settled on land where nobody bothered to ask those who lived here if it was ok to do so. But it didn’t matter. The imperialists who set policy for the ‘new world’ were certain that any land in the west was theirs to take and those already here were savages and would accept their new rulers. If you wanted to know where white supremacy comes from, its what founded North America.

I write this as a white person who is learning the cold truth about what those who built Canada (and America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc) did to lay claim to their new nations. We tried to destroy those already here.

Our first nations were subjected to a legal and imperialist system they were never intended to be an equal party to. Our country, Canada, passed the Indian Act which was the inspiration for South Africa’s apartheid model.

Our government granted license to the church, largely the Catholic Church, to operate Indian Residential Schools. They were, by design, an attempt to force assimilation of first nation peoples into the society of Canada. We’re learning of thousands of newly discovered, unmarked graves of children, buried at sites owned or controlled by said schools.

Forget any qualifier questions of ‘well, how did they die?’ (though that is very important to know). Consider that these were unmarked graves – which means that someone made decisions that those children should be buried without knowledge of their existence.

Who goes out of their way to hide dead children?

Criminals.

I’m unmoved by anyone arguing that these kids might have died from natural causes. This might be true – even for a majority of cases, but more importantly – WHO are these children and WHY did they die.

I’ve written before that these kids deserve to have their names and a cause of death that they may finally rest in peace. But if you’re going to argue that such an investigation would cost to much – well fuck you. There are adult survivors walking around today from these schools who have no clue what happened to their sister or brother. There are elderly first nation peoples today that never knew what happened to their sons or daughters – except to be told that she or he ‘ran away’ from school.

What if this was your relative? Wouldn’t you want to know the truth?

My country did this. My country engaged in genocide and genocidal activities. We tried to eradicate a people because they were ‘different’. How does that make us any better than those we fought against in WW2?

Our last residential school closed in 1996.

No. I won’t be celebrating Canada Day this year. I’m not at all happy with how Canada became ‘great’. It was built upon the bodies, hidden in the dirt, a foundation of shame and lies.

Not anymore.

my2bits

My heart aches for the Pacheedaht

I must start out by reminding readers that I am neither first nation, nor a member of the Pacheedaht first nation. That being said, the recent chain of events has me wondering the mindset of the Pacheedaht who were outnumbered by the protesters blockading their lands in an attempt to stop a duly signed logging agreement from being acted upon.

The Pacheedaht, like every other first nation in BC have been under the thumb of the colonial system from the first arrival of their European masters several hundred years ago. Generations of indigenous folks have had to endure unspeakable things as the rulers took land, took children and tried to eradicate cultures and societies which have existed beyond memory.

To make a long story short, first nations in BC have won successive court cases and political battles that have allowed them to emerge again as nations’ within Canada.

This places us on the path we’re on today of reconciliation. That is to say; coming to terms with our horrible past and the terrible things we did to our first nations; a path forward. What that looks like for each and every first nation is complicated and presumably highly technical…but that’s a discussion for people smarter than me and elders of the various first nations.

Where the Pacheedaht’s role is here is that they’re well down the path to a modern treaty and an established business plan to get major improvements for their people.

As a nation that claims as its traditional territories on the pacific, several mountains and valleys, rivers and all the wildlife in between, the Pacheedaht know a thing or two about managing a forest…as they’ve done for thousands of years.

I suppose it was a natural leap for these folks to branch into a modern, professional local forest industry as a source of revenue and job creation for their people. Its worked well. Read this.

Now we arrive at the Fairy Creek event. The background comes from this deal. In short, the Pacheedaht signed a deal with Teal Jones (logging company) to log a tiny blip of trees above the Fairy Creek basin and outside the established protected area. 20 hectares of a total 1200 hectares of the valley…or 1.67%.

This was too much for the Rainforest Flying Squad who declared that they would set up blockades to stop any logging and road building to the affected area. The standoff began.

Teal Jones had a legal right to build a road, access the trees, cut and remove and pay the Pacheedaht a handsome sum of cash for that right. The court said so, the Pacheedaht said so. So the blockade was declared illegal and police moved in to start removing protesters by arresting them.

To their credit, despite an illegal blockade, the protesters political cause is easier to defend than logging in old growth areas. But what was missing from the discussion was the fact that the Pacheedaht leadership signed a deal to log trees from land they control and some environmentalists were trying to stop them. The protesters were determined to make this a political matter to directly attack the NDP government – who was trying to let the Pacheedaht remain as the deciders in this matter – as the new UNDRIP legislation intends.

I try to imagine myself in others shoes in a conflict. How would I feel?

I imagine that the Pacheedaht are probably feeling under siege right now. Their voices are being completely ignored by the protesters. The Pacheedaht leadership signed a perfectly legal agreement to land some provincial cash (a share of the stumpage fees collected) and the deal through the Teal Jones contract. They were perfectly asserting their rights to make substantial decisions on the fate of their territory and they’ve been undermined and ignored.

So they caved. They have been successfully bullied out of their land for the next couple of years through this deferral they sought out. To think that a group of self identified left-wing activists sidelined the wishes of an area first nation and ignore them completely is outrageous.

So this deferral is enough to have the protesters back down and leave Pacheedaht territory?

Nope.

Having ‘won’, the protesters have moved the goalposts. They want more.

Haven’t the Pacheedaht seen this movie before? Outside Influences showing up to their lands dictating what they can or cannot do with their lands and territory? I thought reconciliation and UNDRIP were supposed to move past that.

This is Pacheedaht territory and they have a right to self determination and the right to act in the best interests of their people.

Leave them alone.

My2bits

Divide and Conquer

I posted an image to my facebook and twitter that was largely critical of the Fairy Creek protesters. They appeared to be basking in the self promoting they were doing of stopping all logging on Pacheedaht territory on the same day that the country was reeling from the news of 215 bodies of native children found buried in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The point wasn’t to suggest that the protesters were somehow insensitive to the families and communities who are connected to the 215 lost childred; it was to highlight an ironic hypocrisy of those folks who would claim to be defending first nations at Fairy Creek.

I got my first blowback from that.

See here.

Now, I blacked out the name of the person since I’m not here to humiliate or mock them, but the challenge needs to be answered.

This is not the last stand of old growth trees on the coast. Its nothing like that. Its 20 hectares of a total 1200 hectares of the Fairy Creek basin, or, 1.67% of the available trees.

I’m sure there were other first nation people there. But unless you’re alleging that the business deal that allowed for this project to go ahead was done so illegally or without the authority of the Pacheedaht’s recognized governance and leadership framework, the protesters – including the various first nation attendees aren’t speaking for the Pacheedaht.

To argue that the Pacheedaht leadership – both elected and hereditary – should be ignored in favour of unilateral actions from outside influences is a page out of the book of the very colonizers everyone should be opposing.

We, as (mostly) white people, after centuries of imposing our will on first nations, should not be the final adjudicators of how first nations govern themselves. To undermine them as this challenger has (and the remainder of the protesters), undercuts decades of reconciliation and treaty-making progress. This is very dangerous.

I’m no ally of big corporations, but to imply that one is the big bad guy looking to take advantage of the poor hapless Indian is insulting, twice. It suggests that ‘Indians’ don’t have the smarts to make a business deal to the benefit of their community and that they cannot be trusted to govern themselves.

The Pacheedaht have governed themselves and had done so for ages before the arrival of white saviors from Europe. We took that away and nearly destroyed them and many other first nation communities along the way. We tried hard; just the other day, we discovered that 215 of them were buried in unmarked graves near Kamloops.

But they have persevered and fought back. Legally, judicially and in the political arena. The Pacheedaht are rising; and they’re becoming a success story.

Just look: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/forests-forestry/state-canadas-forests-report/successful-indigenous-industry-partnerships-forest-sector-people-seafoam/21197

The final chapter is far from written for these rightly proud people, but now as they assert themselves and try to stand among equals (government to government), along come outside folks who know better.

This is the opposite of reconciliation and UNDRIP…and it might work. These folks might bully the Pacheedaht right out of this deal; they’ve already managed to blockade their local sawmill and marina to demonstrate their ‘point’.

I understand that its politically sexy to oppose cutting trees in forests. Its not as easy to promote it. But this is the world of the Pacheedaht (and others on the coast who might suffer the same fate). They have managed their communities, the forests, the rivers and creeks, the mountains and wildlife far longer than we have been here; and they’ll do fine without our interference.

If we’re genuine about truth, reconciliation and UNDRIP, we’ll respect the Pacheedaht and the decisions they have made on behalf of their people. They have won (back) the right to do so, and we’re out of line to try and stop them.

Leading isn’t easy. Everyone loves a good headline when you’re in charge, but leadership means you take the tough ones too.

Leave the Pacheedaht alone, folks.

My2bits

Justice and Dignity

Did you get sick at the headline that the bodies of 215 indigenous children were discovered buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School? Good. Its awful, and its yet another genocidal act that Canada has inflicted on our first peoples as they tried to assimilate them into Canada. Canada didn’t include first nations cultures and languages, and to a large degree, it still doesn’t.

I’ve already had it white-splained to me that ‘there’s no way to know yet how these children died that they would have been buried there’.

Just. Fucking. Stop.

We don’t even know who is buried there. These were children taken from their family homes and ‘raised’ in a religious state-sanctioned residential school. If there were records kept, nobody knows where they’re located.

Of course we don’t know how these kids died. But here we are, 215 children buried in the dirt, in unmarked graves that nobody has seen fit to discover until now. It sounds like some powerful people knew shady things were up and didn’t want the truth to be known.

Well the truth will be known, and not just to the Creator (of whatever faith you accept). Because nothing less than the justice and dignity of a name and cause of death will come close.

On the other, more significant manner. Its genocide. We’ve been killing our first nations ever since we got here aboard wooden ships from Europe and beyond. Say it with me, “genocide” and “systemic racism”.

I want to say that we’ve made progress. Have we? I mean, we don’t scoop otherwise healthy and happy kids from their households to “educate” them in church run schools (to indoctrinate them out of their traditions and home-spoken languages), but we sure do treat them shitty.

We’re still in the habit of telling first nations how to act, how to law, how to career, how to tradition and generally manage their affairs – in societies that managed for tens of thousands of years, long before white folks like my ancestors…thank you very much.

If truth and reconciliation, the UNDRIP are to mean something, then we have to change.

Our first nations don’t need to be told how to grieve this horrible news. Sadly, they’ve heard this sort of thing before. Its not my place or yours to manage their grieve and anger of this to mitigate ‘our feelings’.

First nations are more than capable of self governing in Canada, they’re more than able to manage their lands and act within their rights.

They’re able to do these things because they’ve been telling us that all this time. If you’re listening.

Are you?

I am trying.

I mourn with you. I am angry for you. I hurt for you. And I am truly sorry that Canada has done this to you.

My2bits

This isn’t sitting well with me. At all.

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.

Worlds collide.

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.

My2bits