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

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