There is a major issue which is getting surprisingly little coverage in the Canadian media. While we looked away to watch the impact of the climate crisis on farmland in southern British Columbia, 50 heavily armed RCMP constables raided a peaceful blockade in Wet’suwet’en territory in the north of the province. The police used helicopters, canine units and carried assault rifles as they arrested 14 unarmed individuals protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
If we look more carefully at the courageous efforts of our Wet’suwet’en neighbours, we see that they are part of an enormous global movement to preserve our planet, as well as the desperate attempts of a dying petro-chemical industry to amass as much profit as possible before they become obsolete.
If we do not heed the warnings of environmentalists, 50 years from now our beautiful Canadian landscape will look like the rustbelt of the northeastern United States, with its closed factories and polluted land and waterways. In fact, 450 000 abandoned oil and gas wells already scar our countryside and will cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars to remove.
One cannot say enough about the determination of Indigenous peoples around the world who stand up to the oil and gas industries. What is happening in Canada is happening in the United States where there are Indigenous led pipeline protests in North Dakota and Minnesota, and in Latin American where protests are taking place in Guatemala, Peru and Honduras, to name a few.
With the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) gaining greater legal acceptance throughout the world, efforts to work around it will be futile. UNDRIP states, “Indigenous Peoples have the right to protection and conservation of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.”
Thus far, British Columbia is the only Canadian province to have officially adopted UNDRIP, but the Trudeau government has done little more than give lip service to the declaration.
Of course, it is argued that there are Indigenous individuals and groups who want to see oil and gas infrastructure projects move forward. While there are differences of opinion in every healthy group, what may be perceived as internal disputes on these issues are in reality remnants of colonialism. Colonizers around the world maintained control through a method of divide and conquer, and the British were masters of this process. In Canada, the Indian Act made well-established Indigenous ways of governance illegal and imposed British methods upon our neighbours. Because these aspects of the Indian Act came into effect generations ago, it is going to take time for Indigenous groups to re-establish ways of forming consensus, and the rest of Canada simply needs to respectfully stand back and wait.
Not far from the Wet’suwet’en protests, the Lheidli T'enneh are joined by farmers and other residents of Prince George in making it very clear to the government and investors that they do not want a petro-chemical plant polluting their agricultural land reserve, airshed and watershed. They are very aware that this will lead to a conglomerate of plastics plants spewing toxicity near the residential area of the city. People simply do not want an industry that will be obsolete in the not-so-distant future destroying their community for generations to come.
One can expect desperate acts from the oil and gas industry. These are typical of an empire that is coming to an end. They will manipulate individuals, governments and the courts to enforce their wishes against the will of the people. The truth is, they are breathing their last carcinogenic breath and will be replaced by mid-century.
Clean, green energy systems are available. A net carbon neutral environment that will halt the climate catastrophe is possible. We simply need the courage of our Indigenous neighbours as we make this happen.