Letter: Canada, the railroads and colonialism

A response to the March 4 Tim Vine letter

To the Expositor:

In the fall of 2019, as I was checking into a small hotel in Kincardine, I found myself in conversation with the girl working the desk. She had an interesting accent which I couldn’t place so I asked her about it. “I’m from Brazil,” she stated. I then asked her about the small and delicate maple leaf tattoo on her wrist. She responded that she had it done on the same day that she, her husband and their infant daughter received their Canadian citizenship. Her animated response spoke for itself as she said how lucky they were to be able to bring their child to Canada and to be able to offer her a better life. At the end of our conversation I told her that it is Canada that lucked out.

Now compare this individual, full of enthusiasm for Canada with the self-loathing and destructive thinking of Tim Vine. Another attempt at the rewrite of history with the “let’s burn it all down” approach that is the calling card of the extinction rebellion zealots (March 4, ‘Peoples, place and process and the madness of colonialism’).

Regarding the railroad, John A. MacDonald had the vision to understand that a railroad was necessary for Canada and he had the drive to get it done. He also knew that the railroad would get built one way or another. Across Ontario and west from Thunder Bay was one way. North from the Dakotas and then west was another.

This exchange of course is the result of the events surrounding the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The events are somewhat confusing and it is difficult to determine with certainty what the actual situation is so I will simply use statements from various Wet’suwet’en people in an attempt to shine some light on the issues.

Extinction Rebellion (ER) has been called out on several occasions for protests not sanctioned by any Indigenous authority. Beecher Bay First Nation objected to ER passing through Indigenous lands to protest at the home of the BC Premier. “It is disturbing that you would ignore our rights and titles, you have come into our territory without permission, putting yourselves above our traditional protocols and have insulted our community and terrorized a private citizen in our neighbouring community.” The K’omoles First Nation disavowed an ER blockade of Highway 19 on Feb 10 saying that the nation was not involved. Ellis Ross, a BC member of the legislature and former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation said there is ignorance over rights and title. “Nobody actually understands the facts—how we got a permitted pipeline in the first place, I think a lot of First Nations are starting to get frustrated with these groups speaking on behalf of First Nations interests.”

The most interesting and perhaps informative comments came from Theresa Tait-Day. She and two other women, Gloria George and Darlene Glaim are founders of the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition. All three were hereditary chiefs who supported the pipeline and were stripped of their titles because of this stance. Here is some of what Tait-Day had to say during testimony before the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs on March 10 in Ottawa.

“The hereditary chiefs were being supported by environmentalists who were disrespecting the rest of the community.” Regarding the negotiations with the federal government: “The decision to meet with the current hereditary chiefs was a mistake. The government has legitimized the meeting with the five chiefs and left out the entire community. We cannot be dictated to by a group of five guys.” She had this to say about support in the community: “The vast majority of the people in Wet’suwet’en territory want the project to go ahead, over 80 percent of the people said they wanted LNG to proceed. The project has the support of elected band council chiefs. Bennett met with only people who oppose the project when there were so many people in support of the pipeline.”

And the benefits for the community: “The community needs economic prosperity to build a more sustainable community.”

What does she think of ER? “We feel like we’ve been hijacked by the protesters who have their own agenda on this, they have used our people. There is a feedback system between the protesters and the hereditary chiefs—the protesters have their own agenda and the chiefs have used those protesters to prop themselves up. The protest organizers are conveniently hiding beneath our blanket as Indigenous people, while forcing their policy goals at our expense.”

Interesting and stressful times for the Wet’suwet’en people. I wish them well in the struggle to get this sorted out and a solution will come from them and not the likes of Tim Vine. The girl from Brazil and the likes of Tait-Day are the type of people that will continue to make Canada the wonderful county that it is.

Shane Desjardins