first nations

Moment of Truth As Harper Preps For Meeting With First Nations

This is a guest post by Michael Harris, originally published on iPolitics.ca

Keep the Indians off the front-page.

That, in a phrase, is the Harper approach to aboriginal issues in Canada. With the exception of former prime minister Paul Martin, that has pretty much been the playbook for all federal governments — out of sight, out of mind. Mostly, he’s succeeded.

As every special event organizer in Ottawa knows, feathers, beaded shirts and drums are excellent grace notes on state occasions — provided there is no debate about who’s in charge in every part of the country or why aboriginals remain the poorest people in the land.

The current PM’s preferred method is to deal with native “leaders” in the posh, official backwaters of Ottawa — bureaucracy-to-bureaucracy. Nation-to-Nation exists only in nightmare form for Stephen Harper. After all, that notion implies equality. The PM prefers a venue where he gets to play with his own dice, a place far from the bad water, poor schools and third-world housing of reserve life.

Whether it’s Canada’s natives or its health ministers, Stephen Harper’s preferred place for his opponents is under his thumb. He has replaced the alternating current of democracy with the direct current of oligarchy. Ordinary people remain as invisible to him now as they have been since 2006.

For that reason, Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike has been a disaster for the man who doesn’t like to negotiate, let alone negotiate with a nobody, especially a nobody who has managed to put him under the gun. Remember, this is a guy who wouldn’t even talk to Canada’s premiers. Now they know the drill: stop eating.

Interview: Filmmakers Explore Enbridge Tanker Route Along BC's Rugged Coast

British Columbian filmmakers Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello are leading a grassroots campaign to protect BC's waters from Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. In an effort to bring awareness to all sides of the pipeline battle, the duo documented the tanker route destined to carry diluted tar sands bitumen along rugged coastal shores if the pipeline is approved.

Concerns over the construction of the pipeline are only half the story, according to the film's trailer released last week. The other half begins where the pipeline ends, with pristine coastal waters and the life - both ecological and cultural - that depends upon it.

Following stand up paddler Norm Hann as he paddles the 350 kilometers that stretch from Kitimat to Bella Bella, the film, called STAND, showcases the region's biodiversity as well as its treacherous waterways. The documentary also tells the story of coastal communities through the creative protest of Bella Bella high school students and legendary surfer Raph Bruhwiler.

DeSmog caught up with Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello to learn more about their experience along the tanker route and inspiration for STAND.

Rush to Ratify: FIPA May Violate Constitutional Protection of First Nations Rights

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) may be ratified as soon as tomorrow, November 1. This despite a massive demonstration of Canadian opposition to the investment trade deal that will lock the federal government into a dangerously undemocratic agreement with China and Chinese investors for 31 years

The proposed agreement, signed by Stephen Harper in Russia on September 9 and kept secret until September 26, is being strong-armed through the house of commons after the required 21-day session in Parliament. Political action and environmental groups, opposition party leaders and experts in the field of international trade law are urging the Harper government to reconsider the agreement's immediate ratification, demanding an open parliamentary debate before the trade deal's future is decided.
 
So far all requests to throw out the deal, host a national debate, investigate the deal in emergency Parliamentary discussions, or indefinitely delay the deal's ratification, have gone unheeded by the Harper government.
 
Under FIPA the federal government is obliged to protect investor rights and profits, even to compensate for lost profits. That means when it comes to disputes involving Chinese investors, like the one over the future of Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Canadian government will have a duty to protect investor profits and not necessarily the jurisdictional rights of the British Columbian government, people or First Nations. 

BC Coastal First Nations Appeal For Help In Enbridge Pipeline Battle

If there was one message that stirred me during Monday's Defend Our Coast action, it was this: First Nations need you to join the fight to protect British Columbia's forests and coast from tar sands pipeline and tanker threats. 

The message came loud and clear from Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt in his speech delivered to thousands spread out on the lawn of BC's legislature building in Victoria. Addressing the crowd he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, today is all about you. Coastal First Nations and all of the tribes of the interior, we've been stating our opposition for a long time now. But we're so happy that 3000 of you have come out to join with us today, 3000 people. And it's your voices that are important today, not ours. It's your voices that we need to join with us.”

Sterritt asked the crowd, “Who is going to lay down in front of the bulldozers?” To which the crowd resoundingly replied, “We will!”

Monday's Defend Our Coast rally demonstrated the extent to which First Nations and other British Columbians are prepared to stand together to protect the province's right to refuse the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The overwhelming emphasis during Monday's event was “the people, united, will never be defeated,” a line sung in unison across the crowded square.

BREAKING: Northern Gateway Pipeline Decision Delayed Until Late 2013

The Calgary Herald reports that the decision on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was delayed today until late 2013, a year later than planned. The three-member panel said it “would anticipate releasing the environmental assessment report in the fall of 2013 and its final decision on the project around the end of 2013.”

The joint review panel of Environment Canada and the National Energy Board announced that it will take the additional year to review the widespread public concern over the proposed pipeline, which would cut through First Nations lands in order to shuttle the dirtiest oil on the planet, Alberta tar sands, to Asian export markets.

The delay is not a good sign for Enbridge or KinderMorgan, the two major tar sands pipeline interests hoping to enable the export of Alberta's climate-killing product overseas. As we learned last week, the oil industry will face a powerful adversary since BC’s First Nations pledged, as a united front, to halt construction and prevent the proposed pipelines from crossing their territory.

Marking their commitment against the pipeline projects, 55 First Nations leaders from across BC signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.  “These First Nations form an unbroken wall of opposition from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean,” said the group in a statement. 
 
In response to the firm commitment of First Nations leaders, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said today that Northern Gateway “shouldn’t be held hostage by aboriginal and environmental groups threatening to create a human “wall” to prevent construction,”according to the National Post article, “Oil industry’s ‘nation-building’ pipeline won’t be stopped by protesters.”
 

Photo Essay on Canada's Filthy Tar Sands - This Is Why Keystone XL Must Be Stopped

Robert van Waarden, an excellent photographer and friend of DeSmogBlog, has compiled this great visual essay on Canada’s filthy tar sands to show people just a few of the reasons why the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline must be rejected by the Obama administration. 

Robert’s photos are accompanied by quotes from First Nations’ people whom he interviewed on a recent trip to the Alberta tar sands. First Nations communities living near the industrial tar sands development suffer the worst of the impacts, a fact often overlooked by the mainstream media. 


View the tar sands photo essay below:

Legislation Introduced To Ban Oil Tanker Traffic On B.C.’s North Coast

Today, Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP and former B.C. Environment Minister Joyce Murray introduced legislation in Canada’s House of Commons that would formally ban oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s North Coast.  Bill C-606 comes days after a successful House of Commons motion demonstrated support for a legislated ban on oil tankers.

Though the motion carried, the victory was only bittersweet because the motion passed is not binding, and merely calls on the Tory government to legislate a formal ban.  The Conservative government maintains that a ban is unnecessary since a long-standing, informal moratorium on oil tanker traffic and all offshore oil and gas activity has been in effect since 1972.  Yet last year, the Harper government quietly affirmed that it is not legally bound to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the coast of British Columbia.  The government determined that the 1972 ban doesn’t technically apply to oil-tanker traffic.  To date, eight Canadian prime ministers have upheld the moratorium, but that could all change.  The B.C. government is currently lobbying the federal Conservative government to revoke the ban.  Opposition parties fear the Tory government will allow the ban to be lifted in order to profit from growing Asian energy markets.

Alberta Tar Sands Have Irreversible Impact on Indigenous Culture

The Alberta tar sands are increasingly recognized as a major threat, not only moving us in the opposite direction from where we need to go to solve the climate crisis, but also with the enormous environmental and public health risks that tar sands development entails.  However, another major negative and irreversible consequence of the tar sands’ gold rush is often overlooked - the tremendous impact on the culture and legacy of northern Alberta’s indigenous peoples.

As this amazing multimedia presentation by acclaimed climate change photographer Robert van Waarden demonstrates vividly, the tar sands are leaving an indelible mark on First Nations’ communities, whose livelihoods and culture are threatened by the tar sands.  Watch this, then please share it with your family and learn more about the tar sands.  This destruction can be stopped, but not without major public pressure.

Toxic Tar Sands Coming to a Community Near You: Profiles From The Front Lines

Many Americans who have never heard of the Alberta tar sands soon will. The tar sands is one of the largest, dirtiest, and most destructive projects on Earth, and is likely coming to a community near you.  The oil industry is expanding facilities to process toxic tar sands oil in the U.S. through a network of refineries and pipelines.  With plans to triple refining and transportation of tar sands by 2015, there is no question that air pollution and health problems in communities from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast will increase.

Public health in several U.S. states is already under threat from dramatic increases in refining pollution, and massive pipelines are planned to cross the United States’ largest freshwater aquifer, which supplies one-third of U.S. agriculture.

Tar sands crude contains heavy metals, and refining tar sands releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons linked to pre-natal brain damage, and smog and ozone-depleting chemicals and compounds.  Exposure to these toxics is linked to asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases.  That says nothing of the devastating impacts on air, water, and soil.

With the environmental and health impacts of the tar sands well known, but no sign of an end to the environmental trauma, the Sierra Club’s latest report shows the personal side of the impacts of dirty oil in North American communities. Americans and Canadians are worried about Alberta’s tar sands expansion poisoning their water, destroying their farmland, and contaminating their air. 

Highway dustup in British Columbia highlights gap between talk and action on climate change

One only has to go a few miles northwest of B.C.’s capital in Victoria to see what governments are really doing about global warming.

While provincial Finance Minister Carole Taylor was finalizing her “go green” budget, governments at the federal, provincial and local level were taking steps that guarantee sprawl, gridlock and greenhouse emissions will continue to spiral.

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