Wet'suwet'en way

The crisis created by the blockades supporting the Wet’suwet’en has finally put government at all levels under every stripe where Indigenous people have been. The purpose of the Indian Act and government created bands and council has perpetrated the conflict in many First Nation communities. The imaginary boundaries created by the forefathers of Canada has finally come to roost on the step of government.  

What Canadians are witnessing and many being impacted is what Canada’s First Peoples have had to endure for centuries. Unlike the two-week shortage some Canadians are experiencing, the indigenous people have endured shortages of essential services and items in their communities for over 200 years.  

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The Conservatives are working hard to make the blockades about a small group of radicals and people who have no business partaking in these protests. There is not a First Nation community in Canada who hasn’t had to bend to industry and government for jobs to lessen the impacts of severe poverty on reservations. This is part of the history of people whose land was taken over and resources extracted for the greater good of a country. Andrew Sheer and his followers are just coming within a hair of repeating history of John A. MacDonald.  

For those who lack the knowledge of this part of Canada’s history – the first prime minister is quoted as saying the Government needed to “get rid of the Indian problem."  This was the beginning of reservations, the RCMP, residential schools, the Indian Act, Child Protection Services and the 60s scoop, denying status to hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples and lack of land for native people to live within their communities.  

The provincial governments created modern day treaties to intentionally disregard traditional hereditary governance in place of the government mandated chief and councils.  The new partners of government are industry who have no legal ground to trespass on unceded territories but the B.C. government gave them the green light so CGL could basically call in the legal system, using the RCMP to once again repeat history. 

The issues are complex and require heads of leadership to enter into trusted dialogue.  Unfortunately what we are seeing is tried and failed solutions from the past. A refusal by the federal government to deal with CGL illegally occupying native land. The Crown has been sent a letter to honor sovereignty with the Indigenous people but we don’t hear this covered in the press or in the House at Question Period. Why? Maybe what we are witnessing is a reckoning that is 200 hundred years overdue?   

I have voted no twice to B.C.’s modern-day treaty because government chose to ignore Indigenous people collectively with shared territories governed by multiple chiefs and councils and hereditary governance. Our people saw, if we give up the land – what do we have? Short-term jobs for some? A bag full of money to fix 200 years of neglect by government with no sustainable economies? How far will $10 million over 10 years go fix the water; sewer; housing; education and health on reserves? Where does this leave our people who had to leave reserves because of lack of housing? 

We are selling 280,000 square miles of land rich in resources for more trinkets, then what?  What government does at this point will be viewed by many as too little, too late. The creation of the problem is our dependency on fossil fuels not the Indigenous people. Climate change is real and future generations will inherit our problems, so Mr. Sheer denouncing protesters is not only ignorant but irrelevant.

Jo-Anne Berezanski

Elder, Lheidli T'enneh First Nation


North Saanich


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