Not so much.
As Nikiforuk recently explained, colonialism is once again the order of the day.
On Thursday, the RCMP and the Canadian state came to a moral crossroads on a snowy country road and looked briefly down a pathway to reconciliation. Then it said, “Fuck it.”Not surprisingly, Ottawa and Victoria are also trying to throw shade on the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en people. They are, after all, not the "elected" chiefs who've thrown in with Coastal Gaslink. These hereditary chiefs are just a troublesome anachronism, a throwback to an earlier time - you know, before those indians became civilized. Those hereditary chiefs don't speak for the Wet'suwet'en people, just a small faction of cranks. How dare they set up protest camps?
As reliable agents of the Canadian state and defenders of resource extraction, the RCMP let it be known that the Trudeau government puts highly subsidized methane projects ahead of reconciliation and UN declarations.
That's the picture our governments are working to spin into our minds. They're trying to blow smoke up your ass. Fortunately Amber Bracken, writing in Macleans, has cleared the air.
The opposing positions of the two sets of chiefs has been represented by B.C. Premier John Horgan and in the media, as a fight within the nation between the equal actors of hereditary chiefs, who defend the land, and the band chiefs, who seek escape from poverty. Premier Horgan told the CBC he doesn’t think “a handful of people can stop progress and success for people who have been waiting for a break like this for many, many years.”
But this simplification obscures the fact that both sets of chiefs are on the side of their people, working against a colonial system that seeks economic certainty and the surrender of Indigenous land.
The Wet’suwet’en are not a nation divided, they are a nation with differing opinions on the best route to a better future after history of oppression. The band councils have sought opportunity, and funding, where they can find it. But based on Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law, it’s ultimately the hereditary chiefs who have jurisdiction to the territory, and they have been clear about their aim—to assert self-governance over their land and demand a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada. It’s a move that would benefit all Wet’suwet’en.
Each set of leaders has unique jurisdiction, in the same way that municipal and provincial governments do. The band chiefs, who were imposed by the Indian Act, govern their reserves, while hereditary chiefs predate Canada, and govern the entire Wet’suwet’en territory. It’s worth noting that they are not anti-industry and have long held logging agreements.
A key point that project proponents emphasize, is that 20 elected band councils signed benefits agreements, a phrasing that relies on Canadians’ social conditioning—one that assumes democratic systems are fundamentally more fair.
While talking about benefits agreements, duress is inherent in the process—First Nations can’t actually say no to any project in Canada. In addition, most councils are cash-strapped, and some reported that they were told the project would go ahead with or without their consent—they might as well get on board for a payout. Leaked examples of Coastal GasLink agreements show evidence of large provincial subsidies to get First Nations on board, attempts to muzzle pipeline dissent, and to limit Aboriginal rights.It's an important article and I urge you to read it in its entirety. It puts paid to the bona fides of our governments and the pipeline police force. All this talk about "reconciliation" is just that - talk.
Some years ago I was talking with an Australian acquaintance, a mild-mannered sort of guy, about a legal victory achieved by his country's Aborigines that was in the news. I was floored, absolutely gutted, when this fellow said that Aborigines were entitled to "anything a white man doesn't want." At first I thought he was making an outrageous joke. He wasn't.