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‘Our ancestors knew’: Maskwacis Cree enact Treaty 6 Medicine Chest clause over virus outbreak

First Nations enact ‘medicine clause’ to call state of emergency.

EDMONTON — Several Cree First Nations have jointly enacted Treaty 6’s Medicine Clause to call a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band met Sunday to make the “difficult decision.”

The leaders fear present issues of overcrowding, lack of health care capacity and proximity to Alberta’s largest cities and outbreak centres make their nations particularly vulnerable.

“If the virus were to get into the First Nations communities, it could be devastating,” Marlene Poitras, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Tuesday at a conference and gathering of the chiefs on Ermineskin First Nation.

“The Maskwacis declaration is unique in that it specifically references the Famine and Pestilence Clause in treaty. Our ancestors knew that these days were coming.”

The Medicine Chest clause is not present in the treaties signed before Treaty 6, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Its famine and pestilence clause grants Treaty 6 nations protection from those things.

The chiefs did not expand on what commitment they were looking for from the federal government.

“We’re hoping that the government does their part now,” Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback said.

“They’ve got to follow through and respect their part of the treaty.”

According to Alberta Health, one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Wetaskiwin County, with which Treaty 6 territory overlaps.

Ermineskin Cree Nation activated its emergency operations centre on March 17, the same day the province of Alberta declared a public health emergency.

The nation has been limiting house service calls to top-priority calls and gatherings to 10 people or less, with physical distancing.

On Tuesday, the leaders pleaded for their youngest members to respect the precautions.

“Young people, you heard your leaders,” International Chief Wilton Littlechild said.

“Listen. Listen to their message that this is a very serious issue and you need to take care of yourself. Take good care of yourself.”

The office of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was also closed earlier in the month to ensure the safety of workers and minimize community transition, but has remained operational.

AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras joined the chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band on March 24 to announce their enacting of Treaty 6’s Medicine Chest clause. (Source: Facebook / Ermineskin Cree Nation)

By: Alex Antoneshyn / CTV Edmonton, published March 24, 2020.

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Warren Buffett’s exit from $9-billion Quebec LNG project after rail blockades ‘a signal’ to investors

‘We’re not going to find $4 billion tomorrow morning, and we sure aren’t going to find it in the region,’ says Saguenay deputy mayor

Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most influential investors, has pulled out of a proposed $9 billion liquefied natural gas project in Quebec over concerns about railway blockades and infrastructure challenges.

The domestic oil and gas sector was already reeling after Teck Resources cancelled its $20.6 billion Frontier oilsands project in Alberta last month, partly over fears about rail blockades, and as other strategic investors have avoided the industry.

“Over the last month, a clear signal has been sent to businesses across Canada that the rule of law will not be upheld and that major projects cannot get built,” Conservative MP for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord Richard Martel said in an email, adding that Quebecers “risk losing out” on a multi-billion project.

GNL Quebec confirmed Thursday it had lost a major potential investor as it seeks to build the $9 billion Énergie Saguenay project to export Western Canadian natural gas from a proposed facility in Quebec.

“This was a major private investor who left at the last minute,” GNL Quebec spokesperson Stephanie Fortin said in an interview.

“The reason is the recent challenge in the Canadian political context.”

She declined to provide the name of the investor or confirm the identity, but Montreal-based La Presse cited unnamed sources when it reported Thursday the investor was Omaha, Neb.-based conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which is controlled by Buffett.

The identity was confirmed by Saguenay deputy mayor Michel Potvin to the Montreal Gazette.

Potvin, who heads the local investment agency known as Promotion Saguenay, said Berkshire would have invested about $4 billion.

“We did not need this, especially at this stage of the project,” Potvin said. “We’re not going to find $4 billion tomorrow morning, and we sure aren’t going to find it in the region. So we have to roll up our sleeves.”

In recent weeks, rail blockades and protests have also snarled major infrastructure in Canada, disrupting port shipments and stalling the delivery of grains and other commodities across the country.

“Add it to the list,” Raymond James analyst Jeremy McCrea said of Berkshire Hathaway’s decision to pull out of the LNG project in Quebec.

Major resource companies such as ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Devon Energy Corp. have sold billions of dollars in assets in Canada in recent years as an exodus of investors have caused activity in the energy sector to plummet.

“Reported news of a large investor pulling out of a major LNG project echoes what we have been independently hearing from other investors,” Alberta Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally said in an email to the Financial Post. “It’s undeniable that weeks of railways and ports being blockaded would deter international investors from doing business in Canada.”

Quebec Premier François Legault has frequently called for action to end the rail blockades in recent weeks as they hurt his province and much of Eastern Canada. His office declined a request for comment Thursday about how the blockades affected investment in the LNG project proposed for Saguenay.

Berkshire Hathaway did not respond to a request for comment.

Financial analysts, investors and energy executives say losing funding from Buffett is a major blow to the industry, which has already seen other investors quit, because other fund managers take cues from the so-called Oracle of Omaha’s investment strategy.

Buffett is the fourth-richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of US$81.2 billion and he built Berkshire Hathaway into a $508-billion conglomerate over the past few decades.

Berkshire Hathaway continues to own shares in Calgary-based oilsands producer Suncor Energy as well as U.S. energy companies Occidental Petroleum and Phillips66.

But the company’s decision not to invest in Énergie Saguenay “sends a signal that all governments and particularly the federal government should pay attention to,” said Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, which represents mid-sized oil and gas companies.

“We have to have foreign investment,” Goodman said. “We do need to ensure that major infrastructure projects can be built across the country.”

In addition, Berkshire Hathaway’s reported decision not to invest in a Canadian infrastructure project – even when other firms like Teck have pulled out of major projects – is particularly troubling because the company has a history of spending money when other investors are fearful.

“He’s a contrarian, which makes it even more of a message,” said Martin Pelletier, chief investment officer with TriVest Wealth Counsel Ltd. in Calgary.

GNL Quebec’s Fortin said the company is looking for additional investors for the project, which is expected to create 6,000 direct and indirect jobs across in Quebec during construction.

“I cannot say where our new investor will come from,” Fortin said, noting that publicly losing a strategic institutional investor “will make it harder” to find more investors.

She said the company still has 15 other unnamed investors in the project but will continue looking for more investors.

Still, she said, the company’s timeline for Énergie Saguenay has not been compromised. GNL Quebec is planning to make a final investment decision on the project at the end of 2021.

By Geoffrey Morgan, the Financial Post, March 5, 2020.

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Photo credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

As Quebec rail blockades come down, supporters demand Indigenous rights be respected

After dismantling the rail blockade, Mohawks from Kahnawake built a new barricade in a green space near Montreal’s Mercier Bridge on Thursday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Encampments blocking lines through Kahnawake, Listiguj had been in place since early February

The remaining blockades halting rail traffic in Quebec were taken down Thursday, putting an end to three weeks of protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia.

Supporters in Kahnawake, a Mohawk territory on Montreal’s South Shore, and in Listiguj, where Mi’kmaq activists had blocked a rail line that connects the Gaspé Peninsula with New Brunswick, dismantled their encampments Thursday afternoon.

But they stressed their fight isn’t over.

In Kahnawake, people marched through the streets, temporarily blocking traffic, with a banner that read: “Protect our future. No more pipelines.”

Roxann Whitebean, a filmmaker who lives in Kahnawake, said the decision to take down the blockade on a CP Rail line should be seen as a message of “good faith to all of Canada.”

“Depending on how Canada moves forward, we are ready to react and we will ensure that our rights and lands will no longer be violated. We will not back down until these standards are met,” she said.

Roxann Whitebean, a Mohawk writer and filmmaker, addressed reporters in the middle of the highway. She said Indigenous rights must be respected.

The encampment was relocated to a green space near the Mercier Bridge, a heavily trafficked connection between Montreal and the city’s South Shore.

“We want the fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge, to show that we are here to stay for as long as the Wet’suwet’en need us,” said Whitebean.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation in Wet’suwet’en as well other Indigenous communities.”

The blockade in Listuguj, Que., was taken down soon after. Raquel Barnaby, a spokesperson for Mi’kmaq activists, said their goals had been met.

“Our goals were for the RCMP to back away from the Wet and for hereditary chiefs to be at the table,” she said. “We just want to end it on a positive note.”

Supporters in Listiguj took down their encampment Thursday. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada)

Other blockades across Canada have already come down.

Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in an ongoing dispute over a pipeline that would run through traditional land.

Quebec Premier François Legault’s government had expressed growing impatience with the Kahnawake blockade, arguing it was hurting the province’s economy.

Injunctions were obtained against both barricades, but never enforced.

Legault told reporters last week Quebec provincial police hadn’t moved in because there are AK-47s in Kahnawake. The comment was decried as “reckless” by leaders in the Mohawk community.

After the blockades came down, the premier said on Twitter the “negative effects that these blockades had, particularly on public transport users & on the economy, are deplorable. Solutions must be found so that it does not happen again.”

Highway 132 near the Mercier Bridge was briefly blocked after the barricade in Kahnawake was dismantled. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

In a statement on its website, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake said Thursday the blockade was a “sincere and peaceful expression of support” for Wet’suwet’en chiefs.

“Even in 2020 it seems that it takes a crisis for governments to truly engage,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton.

“We have been advocating for meaningful dialogue in the interest of peace and safety for all people.”

Supporters of the blockade in Kahnawake say they want Indigenous rights to be respected. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

By: Benjamin Shingler · CBC News · Posted: Mar 05, 2020

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Indigenous youth arrested for refusing to leave B.C. legislature

Victoria police say five Indigenous youth were arrested Wednesday night for refusing to leave the B.C. legislature: (CTV News)

VICTORIA — An intense scene played out on the lawns of the B.C. legislature late Wednesday night as police removed five Indigenous demonstrators from inside the government building.

Victoria Police confirm five Indigenous youth demonstrators were arrested for mischief after they refused to leave a planned meeting with Indigenous relations minister Scott Fraser.

The Indigenous youth, who have been occupying B.C.’s legislature for weeks, were invited in for a meeting with Fraser when they allegedly demanded he condemn the Costal GasLink pipeline project that crosses through the Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory in northern B.C.

When demands were not met, the demonstrators refused to leave.

“Our lives are more valuable than an economic bottom line which is why we are occupying this office currently,” said Indigenous youth leader Ta’kaiya Blaney on a live stream she posted to social media Wednesday night.

“We had a good conversation, but we know these meetings cannot set the tone for a history, and ongoing history, of colonization in this country.”

Victoria police say five Indigenous youth were arrested Wednesday night for refusing to leave the B.C. legislature: (CTV News)

Victoria Police say they arrested five demonstrators at around 9 P.M. Wednesday. Police say that because Wet’suwet’en supporters crowded outside of the legislature, it took hours to get everyone out of the building.

“The protesters actively obstructed officers,” said Bowen Osoko, VicPD communications office.

“With the large crowd, it took several hours for our officers to be able safely transport the protesters to VicPD Headquarters,” he said. “Officers who were responding to the scene were surrounded by over 100 protesters and were unable to respond to emergency calls for service.”

Five Indigenous youth were arrested by Victoria police for refusing to leave the B.C. legislature: (CTV News)

The activists were transported to cells and released on conditions not to return to the legislature grounds.

A mischief investigation continues. According to police, no one was injured.

By Scott Cunningham, CTV News, published on March 5, 2020

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965 Indigenous artifacts found in Kitchener during road construction

Phase 1 of road work on Fischer-Hallman between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek was set to begin in May of this year and run throughout the construction season. (Region of Waterloo )

An archaeological assessment that involves hand excavation will be conducted on Fischer-Hallman Road

Indigenous artifacts and evidence of a longhouse and First Nations village have been found at a location in south Kitchener where road construction is set to start on Fischer-Hallman Road this spring.

The Region of Waterloo has ordered what’s called a stage 4 archeological assessment after 965 items were found in an area of Fischer-Hallman Road between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek.

The latest stage, which will be led by an environmental company and a First Nations field liaison will “involve hand excavation to identify, document and salvage all archeological artifacts.”

A stage 4 archeological assessment is estimated to take about six to seven months according to a regional report and cost $1.6M.

During stage 3 of the assessment by an environment company, evidence of a First Nation village and a longhouse was found at the site. A First Nations field liaison representative has been working with the organization hired to do the archeological work.

The work to widen Fischer-Hallman Road between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek was set to begin in May of this year and last through the end of construction season in November.

The roadwork is part of a four-phase road project in the area that will be completed by 2025.

By: CBC News · Posted: Mar 04, 2020

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Photo credit: Dan Lauckner / CTV Kitchener.