Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood quietly with his head down Wednesday as families expressed extreme anger toward him about the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Trudeau must reset the inquiry led by four commissioners, Maggie Cywink from Whitefish River First Nation said in a speech to an annual gathering on Parliament Hill.
“If you want to be remembered as a prime minister who is healing ties with First Nations, then you must start with our women and families,” said Cywink, whose sister, Sonya Cywink, was found slain near London, Ont. in 1994.
“Will you be seen as yet another politician, in the very long list of politicians, who simply peddled in the age-old craft of empty promises?
The government’s version of reconciliation looks a lot like colonization, said Connie Greyeyes from Fort Saint John, B.C.
“How do you come out here and say that you support families?” she said.
“How dare you come out here and say these things?”
Before Trudeau began to address the audience, someone in the crowd urged that he “go home.”
He went on to thank family members for sharing their frustration and for challenging him to do better.
“The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry is something that I have long believed in, long supported,” he said. “It was never going to be easy.”
His wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, told family members she can’t imagine what it is like to lose a loved one for “senseless reasons.”
“I stand here before you as a woman, as a mother, as a fellow Canadian, as a human being,” she said. “We are suffering with you.”
One of the inquiry’s commissioners, Michele Audette, attended the Hill event.
Members say their intention was to bring the teepee on to the Hill and begin four days of prayer by indigenous groups to raise awarenesss about their treatment by the Canadian government.
“We understand that as a country, people have pride that they’re living here,” said Candace Day Neveau, one of the lead organizers. “We’re taking a stance to simply educate and raise awareness about celebrating Canada Day and how it’s deeply impacting indigenous people.”
A protester is detained by Parliamentary Security and the RCMP after she attempted to go through a barrier during a demonstration on Parliament Hill, Monday October 24, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
The Canadian Press, Oct 24 2016
OTTAWA – The Liberal government’s conflicting climate and pipeline policies were thrown into sharp relief Monday as more than 200 protesters marched on Parliament Hill demanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reject any new oilsands infrastructure.
The protest resulted in the brief detention of 99 individuals, all of them issued citations by the RCMP for trespassing after climbing over police barricades near the foot of the Peace Tower.
The immediate focus of the demonstration was the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C., which the Liberals have said they’ll decide upon by mid-December.
But the larger theme was keeping fossil fuels in the ground, as many signs proclaimed, and urging Trudeau to keep his word on Canada’s international emissions-cutting promises.
On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization released its 2015 inventory of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and found that, on average, there were 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere. That compares to about 278 parts per million before the industrial revolution.
The report predicts that “2016 will be the first year in which CO2 at the Mauna Loa Observatory remains above 400 ppm all year, and hence for many generations.”
It is that cumulative increase that pipeline protesters insist doesn’t allow for more expansion of fossil fuels such as Alberta’s oilsands.
“Climate Leaders Don’t Build Pipelines,” said a giant banner carried at the front of the protest group, which was dominated by university students from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Protest organizers called it the largest act of student climate civil disobedience in Canadian history, but the boisterous rally was a polite affair.
After some initial pushing and shoving at the police barricades, the protesters began individually climbing over the gates, often with police assistance, where they were then charged. The first dozen or so were handcuffed before being led away, but most of the detained protesters were not.
Andrew Stein, a McGill University environmental sciences student, said forcing the police to arrest them was the point of the exercise.
“It gets attention and it gets the word out there that climate leaders do not build pipelines,” Stein said in an interview shortly before climbing the barricade himself.
Protest spokeswoman Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, a third-year University of Toronto student, said pipeline approvals are a deal-breaker for many younger voters who helped propel the Trudeau Liberals to a majority government in last October’s general election.
“If Trudeau wants us on his team in 2019, he cannot approve this (Trans Mountain) pipeline,” said Harvey-Sanchez.
“We’re coming here to the capital to call on Trudeau to reject Kinder Morgan.”
Protest organizers said the 99 detained individuals, including Stein and Harvey-Sanchez, were issued citations that bar them from Parliament Hill for three months, but they were not fined.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr shrugged off the protest, saying “dissent is the hallmark of democracy.”
“We’ve been saying all along that environmental stewardship and economic growth go hand-in-hand in Canada,” he said.
“We have already announced — and we will continue to announce — very aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, always mindful of job opportunities for Canadians in the clean technology sector and in the energy sector overall.”
Katzie First Nation Chief Susan Miller (left) and her sister, Debbie Miller, stand with protesters outside the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain hearings in Burnaby, B.C. on Wed. Jan. 20, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.
First Nations in opposition of Trudeau government’s approval of pipelines
By Elizabeth McSheffrey | National Observer
First Nations chiefs across Canada haven’t discussed the details of the plan yet, but they aren’t ruling anything out if the Trudeau government approves the construction of a major pipeline project that crosses their territory without their consent. Several are still waiting on the results of court cases before they make their move, and others are already preparing for the worst.
“You may see hordes descending upon Parliament Hill,” said Chief Susan Miller, of the Katzie First Nation in B.C. “We have had some discussion around what civil action would look like, and I think the more we work together, that’s what brings out the hordes. It’s an impressive sight, to see thousands of people coming out for a common cause.”
Last year, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to renew nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous communities, and has repeatedly told Canadians since then that “governments grant permits, communities grant permission.” And after thehistoric signingof a pan-continental Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, Indigenous leaders have renewed their resolve to hold him to those promises with all resources available to them.
“In that crowd, you’re not just going to see First Nations people, you’re going to see your neighbour next door who doesn’t support this either,” Chief Miller, whose community is fighting Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, told National Observer.
“We’re just the vessel to push that all through, and I think when the numbers speak like that, the government can’t continue to disregard [us].”
Tsleil-Waututh spokesperson Rueben George, Coun. Charlene Aleck, and manager of cultural relations Gabriel George open the signing ceremony for the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion in Vancouver, B.C. on Thurs. Sept. 22, 2016
Youth action in Ottawa in October
Nearly 90 Indigenous leaders in Canada and the U.S. have already signed the Treaty Alliance, which aims not only to protect their territories from pipeline, tanker, and rail projects, but to move society towards cleaner, leaner, living as well. Major proposals they take issue with include Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion (from Alberta to B.C.), TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline (from Alberta to New Brunswick), and Enbridge Northern Gateway (from Alberta to B.C.)
But the presence of non-Indigenous allies, including a number of environmental organizations, at its signing ceremonies in Montreal and Vancouver, add weight to Chief Miller’s claim: Indigenous activists in North America are not alone.
“We strive to act in solidarity with Indigenous folks,” said Gabriel D’Astous, a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia and pipeline protest organizer for Climate 101. “They’ve been on the front lines and blocking tar sands projects that threaten the earth and water, and have been defending their rights and lands for years and decades now.”
D’Astous and his team are organizing a youth rally in Ottawa on Oct. 24 to urge the Trudeau government to reject the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion, which has been opposed by at least 21 municipalities and 17 First Nations in Western Canada. He said he, and many of the other protesters, are willing to be arrested in what he hopes will be the largest youth civil disobedience action of its kind in Canada.
Youth have been a powerful force in pipeline protests across the country, including this demonstration against the Trans Mountain expansion in Vancouver, B.C. on Aug. 17, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.
Preparing for pipeline protests
While First Nations, environmentalists and other key stakeholders across North America argue that oilsands expansion increases the risk of catastrophic oil spills, threatens critical marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and pushes international climate targets out of reach, energy companies argue that they will revitalize struggling Canadian economies by bringing energy to overseas markets. Industry also argues that they are using state-of-the-art technology that promotes responsible development of resources such as the vast oilsands deposits in Alberta – considered to be the world’s third largest reserve of crude oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
All of the major pipeline companies say they are also trying to work collaboratively with First Nations. For example, Kinder Morgan says it has signed more than 20 “mutual benefit agreements” with Indigenous communities along the route of its Trans Mountain corridor. These would be confidential agreements that could include education and training for pipeline construction jobs as well as improvements to community services, infrastructure and other benefits.
Greenpeace — one of the loudest environmental organizations speaking out against pipelines — doesn’t buy industry’s logic. Since the start of the year, it has trained 800 protesters across Canada with new skills in non-violent action, civil disobedience, and media communications during 40 training sessions conducted in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Nunavut, and Quebec.
Calls requesting the training sessions peaked after the National Energy Board (NEB) conditionally recommended the Trans Mountain expansion in May, said trainer and organizer Earyn Wheatley, and have been steady since the conflict of interest scandalinvolving former Quebec premier Jean Charest, TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, and the NEB was brought to light over the summer.
“I think there could be unprecedented mobilization and action in opposition to these pipelines if the projects go forward in the way that they have been,” the Greenpeace staffer explained. “That’s definitely a core interest of people who are coming to participate in these trainings — they’re very concerned about those pipelines, and many are saying that the NEB process has been very problematic.”
The organization plans to hold 15 more protest training sessions before the end of the year, with those in Quebec targeting Energy East, and those in B.C. targeting the Trans Mountain expansion, which is due for a decision from the federal government on Dec. 19. Teagan Stacey, a graduate of these trainings, has even started her own non-violent ‘kayaktivist’ group called the BC Seawolves, which will stand in solidarity against Trans Mountain with Greenpeace and First Nations.
“We’re showing the government that we’re not going to let this go through, and if they think they can push it through where members of this oppose it, we’re going to make sure it’s stopped,” she told National Observer. “We recognize this has huge implications for the rest of our country, and the rest of the world through tar sands expansion. All of that we bring with us out in the water.”
Kayaktivists target the Kinder Morgan terminal in Burnaby, B.C. during a protests against the company’s Trans Mountain expansion on Sat. May 14, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.
First Nations happy to have cross-Canada allies
While not all Indigenous nations in Canada are opposed to oilsands expansions, and some have signed on in support of pipelines crossing their territories, those who oppose the energy projects are happy to have allies across the country. They’re also happy to serve as allies to others, said Tsleil-Waututh First Nation spokesperson Rueben George, who recently visited the Standing Rock Sioux fighting the Dakota access pipeline in North Dakota.
He said their movement, which has recently prompted a halt in construction of the controversial pipeline, has been guided by their elders, cultural, and spiritual values, and the movement in Canada will be too.
“I know [our] elders, community and leadership have been doing the same thing,” he told National Observer. “Campaign promises were made to boost not only the health of First Nations and nation-to-nation negotiation, but economics as well. Doors are opening for that. I’m excited about that.”
Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in Prince George, B.C., who met George at the Treaty Alliance signing in Vancouver on Thursday, said he too, is excited about the shifting relationship between First Nations, governments, and the rest of Canada. What’s happening in North Dakota at the Standing Rock Sioux camp will most certainly be replicated across the provinces, he explained, “if it comes to that.”
“I think [pipeline approval] will be for I believe, many First Nations, a tipping point of our relations with government and corporations where we’ll have to stand up for what we feel is right, and protect our rights and title, and Mother Earth,” he said at the signing. “We very much appreciate the outside help. It feels great knowing we have allies out there.”
This article was originally published by By Elizabeth McSheffrey in the National Observer on September 27th 2016
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‘We really need to find a good place,’ says Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leader
The grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is preparing for a four-day ceremonial fast on the island below Parliament Hill next month, so that he can arrive at a “good place” spiritually before he and other indigenous leaders start working with the new Liberal government.
Derek Nepinak says it’s not about him or a specific cause. It’s about the power of ceremony.
“I myself had received a vision of myself fasting in Ottawa,” he said.
“I observed protocol and I spoke to some of my spiritual leaders, and they gave me guidance.”
He said he’s been getting encouragement from those spiritual leaders in recent weeks, telling him the time is now.
“I think it’s important that people understand that this isn’t my fast … I’m just announcing it,” he said.
“I’ve been identified as someone who can announce this and start to draw people to the centre of the ceremony and where the fire will be.”
Nepinak plans to head to Ottawa in the beginning days of December. So far three others have committed to joining him there, and 15 have expressed interest. The group will stay in a teepee, likely setting up on the island at the base of the Parliament Buildings.
A fire will burn around the clock to keep them warm. Anyone can participate.
‘This is for everybody’
“Ceremonies don’t really know the politics of identity, or the politics of race … this is for everybody,” he said.
The fast will involve the total deprivation of food and water. Nepinak said he’s participated in several before.
He’s been preparing for the fast by exercising and maintaining a diet of traditional foods, including elk, moose and blueberries, as well as exercising to build up his strength.
This particular fast is special, he said, as it was prompted in part by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s expressed interest in consulting with Canada’s indigenous peoples.
“We have to take it upon ourselves to define who we are as nations of people, and we can only do that from a good place,” he said.
“So we really need to find a good place. I think it starts with ceremony, and then go from there.”
Nepinak added that he feels this is a special time in Canadian history.
“I would certainly say that there’s a spirit of reconciliation that’s in the air amongst indigenous people and non-indigenous people, and I believe that spirit of reconciliation creates outcomes,” he said.
Nepinak highlights the issues of missing and murdered indigenous women and aboriginal children being taken into care as issues that have angered him and other indigenous leaders in the past decade.
He said the ceremony will bring about emotional healing through prayer.
“We have a tendency often times to lash out, to say, ‘Do this or face this consequence.’ And to me, that doesn’t garner the energy or the support that’s going to be needed to overcome these things. We have to turn inward and we have to consider what is our contribution to moving forward in a good way,” he said.
A reminder about access to food, water
Nepinak said the fast is also a reminder that some in Canada are living without clean drinking water or access to affordable food, and “everyone” must do their part.
“You begin to realize the deep relationship you have to food and water, and in that deprivation state you begin to go through a process of mourning the loss of that and recognizing how important water is in everybody’s life,” he said.
Nepinak’s Facebook post about the ceremonial fast has already been shared hundreds of times, with words of encouragement coming in from across Canada.
He said some who can’t go to Ottawa next month have told him they’ll be fasting from their own home fires. There’s strength in that, he added, especially during the days of deprivation.
“You get very tired and very weak very quickly, and what carries you through is your connection to your prayers and your songs,” he said, adding that the shared experience brings him closer to those participating.
“Then we come out at the other end of it.”
Nepinak says a camp day will soon be announced. He encourages others who “want to ensure that there is a place for your children and our ways in our collective future, maybe you can fast too.”
He said, “It’s our turn to participate or begin our processes and begin to really start to enrich that dialogue about what reconciliation might be … and we have to follow spiritual paths to do it.”