A major issue is getting surprisingly little coverage in the Canadian media. While we looked away to watch the impact of the climate crisis on farmland in southern British Columbia, 50 heavily armed RCMP constables raided a peaceful blockade in Wet’suwet’en territory in the north of the province.
The police used helicopters and canine units and carried assault rifles as they arrested 14 unarmed individuals protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Looking more carefully at the courageous efforts of our Wet’suwet’en neighbours, we see that they’re part of an enormous global movement to preserve our planet in the face of the desperate attempts of a dying petrochemical industry to amass as much profit as possible before it becomes obsolete.
If we don’t heed the warnings of environmentalists, 50 years from now our beautiful Canadian landscape will look like the rustbelt of the northeastern United States, with its closed factories and polluted land and waterways. In fact, 450,000 abandoned oil and gas wells already scar our countryside and will cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars to remove.
One can’t say enough about the determination of Indigenous peoples around the world who stand up to the oil and gas industries. What’s happening in Canada is happening in the United States – there are Indigenous-led pipeline protests in North Dakota and Minnesota – and in Latin American, where protests are taking place in Guatemala, Peru and Honduras, to name a few.
With the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) gaining greater legal acceptance throughout the world, efforts to work around it will be futile. UNDRIP states, “Indigenous Peoples have the right to protection and conservation of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.”
Thus far, British Columbia is the only Canadian province to have officially adopted UNDRIP. The federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done little more than give lip service to the declaration.
Of course, it’s argued that some Indigenous individuals and groups want to see oil and gas infrastructure projects move forward.
While there are differences of opinion in every healthy group, what may be perceived as internal disputes on these issues are, in reality, remnants of colonialism. Colonizers worldwide maintained control through a method of divide and conquer, and the British were masters of this process.
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In Canada, the Indian Act made well-established Indigenous ways of governance illegal and imposed British methods upon our neighbours. Because these aspects of the Indian Act came into effect generations ago, it’s going to take time for Indigenous groups to re-establish ways of forming consensus, and the rest of Canada simply needs to respectfully stand back and wait.
Not far from the Wet’suwet’en protests, the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation people are joined by farmers and other residents of Prince George, B.C., in making it very clear to the government and investors that they don’t want a petrochemical plant polluting their agricultural land reserve, airshed and watershed. They’re very aware that this will lead to a conglomerate of plastics plants spewing toxicity near the city’s residential area. People simply don’t want an industry that will be obsolete in the not-so-distant future destroying their community for generations to come.
One can expect desperate acts from the oil and gas industry. These are typical of an empire that’s coming to an end. They will manipulate individuals, governments and the courts to enforce their wishes against the will of the people.
The truth is that they’re breathing their last carcinogenic breath and will be replaced by mid-century.
Clean, green energy systems are available. A net carbon-neutral environment that will halt the climate catastrophe is possible. We simply need the courage of our Indigenous neighbours as we make this happen.
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. For interview requests, click here.
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