I believe that aboriginal peoples are the best hope Canadians, and perhaps also Americans, have of correcting our primary environmental concerns, such as that of Kinder Morgan’s proposed threefold expansion of its oil pipeline through theoretically protected wilderness in the Greater Vancouver area.
The numerous Canadians justifiably worried about current inadequately regulated and even reckless mass natural resource extraction and shipments desperately need aboriginal protesters getting themselves involved with peaceful demonstrations against enormous threats to planetary ecosystems.
First, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was arrested in late November at the Burnaby Mountain blockade of Kinder Morgan work. Furthermore, aboriginal nations from Vancouver Island have recently joined the fight against the Trans Mountain expansion project. They point out that the much more wave activity resulting from increased oil tanker traffic along the island’s coast will quickly erode sacred midden sites and burial grounds. They wisely point out that the National Energy Board is little more than a politically compromised rubberstamp entity.
Aboriginal nations and activists have been justifiably emboldened by the June, 2014, Supreme Court of Canada William decision. The top court’s ruling recognized the aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in nation to 1,750 square kilometres of their land in central British Columbia; and although it does not hand them outright ownership, it does give them the right to use and manage the land and to reap its economic benefits.
The ruling affects all “unceded” territory in Canada—those lands never signed away through a treaty or conquered by war. It means that over an enormous land mass—most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots—a new legal landscape is emerging that offers the prospect of much more responsible land stewardship.
Provincial and federal governments in Canada risk rightful shame showering upon them when caught in the worldwide news-media spotlight as they disregard aboriginal nations’ merited distrust in and great concern over the often-meaningless limp-noodle tokenism offered by so-called environmental risk review and assessment entities.
In a nutshell, although there are many decent non-aboriginal protesters willing to get arrested for blocking the big industrial interests, I sincerely believe that it will be the aboriginal voices in this most crucial ecological battle that will truly count the most.