Indigenous Land Protectors

Globally, there have been two methods for governments and business to deal with Land Protectors: kill them as was done in 19 countries around the world in 2018 primarily in Columbia, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and the Philippines resulting in 164 deaths:

Or as Global Witness has reported, “across continents, governments and companies are also using their own countries’ courts and legal systems as instruments of oppression against those who oppose their power and interests”. This is how Canada, the United States and other countries where the rule of law is well established and sufficiently evolved allow the vested interests of the state – for the most part – to prevail.

Given that context, what do Andrew Scheer, current leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Peter McKay running to replace him and Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta all have in common?

They all assert that Indigenous land protectors, along with their “solidarity supporters” across the country are all anti-pipeline, anti-oil and gas and anti-resource development. They each assert as well that the Indigenous agenda has been taken over by climate activists and eco-terrorists that needs the state to intervene and restore “the rule of law”. Unfortunately, according to Global Watch, this approach is a common tactic used by governments and companies around the world to eliminate opposition to resource projects: leverage existing legal frameworks to stifle dissent, outlaw protests and “criminalize” protestors.

The ultimate objective of the above approach is to shift the dialogue away from the legitimate Indigenous concerns around Indigenous title and rights to a more basic “rule of law” agenda where the economic interest of the state trumps any land and/or treaty rights that Indigenous stakeholders have. “Despite section 35 saying that Indigenous rights are “recognized and affirmed”, successive governments have explicitly chosen to not recognize or affirm them – and, in so doing, have forced conflict and confusion about Indigenous rights. Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Speech to the BC Business Council, April 13, 2018.

And then we had the dismantling of the Unist’ot’en Camp and the stand-off with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. We had two diametrically opposed views on how to defuse the conflict: the use of force to restore the “rule of law” as advocated by conservative politicians and some voices in the media versus the more tempered voices of those for whom reconciliation was and still is the only option i.e. the Liberals. We have all seen what the use of force has accomplished in the past: Oka (1990), Gustafsen Lake (1995), Ipperwash (1995), Caledonia (2006) Idle No More (2012)

Violence never resolves a problem. Dialogue does. Hence the importance of patience, a willingness to listen and a commitment to find the right people to mediate a solution.

The next blog post will continue the focus on the “rule of law”, specifically on the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the conservative opposition to its implementation in Canada.

Global Witness is an international NGO established in 1993 “to end environmental and human rights abuses driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system.

The following links provide additional information on relevant Calls to Action that provide useful background context

Call to ActionDescription
Call to Action #27Ensure Lawyers receive cultural competency & Indigenous rights training
Call to Action #28Mandatory law school course on Aboriginal people and the law
Call to Action #42Commit to recognize and implement Aboriginal Justice Systems
Call to Action #43Fully adopt and implement UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation
Call to Action #44Develop national action plan and strategies to achieve UNDROP goals
Call to Action #51Publish legal opinions on Aboriginal and Treaty rights
Call to Action #52Adopt “acceptance & burden of proof” principles on Aboriginal title claims
Call to Action #92Adopt UNDRIP as a reconciliation framework, apply to policy and operations

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