Governments come and go. But life endures, as long as earth, water and air can sustain it.
All of these face escalating assaults by powerful corporations whose twin obsessions, power and profit, are fundamentally, irredeemably anti-life.
People who defend the essentials of life from theft and degradation need and deserve any support the rest of us can offer. On Turtle Island/North America, often it’s indigenous peoples who live on the front lines, and thus are called to lead some of the most intense struggles.
Standing Rock has the highest profile right now, but there are others just as crucial, though less widely known. Some context:
In Canada last week the federal Natural Resources Minister announced that his government does not require First Nations consent to proceed on natural resource projects.
This arrogant statement directly contradicts the Liberal government´s promises to follow Supreme Court rulings and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which require “free, prior, and informed consent” of Indigenous Nations to any natural resource projects affecting their traditional and treaty territories.
At the behest of its partners in the oil/gas industry, this government is poised to approve, among other dangerous pipelines (see below), the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to carry toxic crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific coast for shipping abroad. It would pass through – invade, really – the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
The Minister’s casual dismissal of the government’s legal obligations provoked strong reactions from First Nations, including this one from Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon: “Consent, it’s what we are demanding, and he will never get our consent, not for something like this. What if we gave Canada 20 Standing Rocks? I wonder if his position will change then.”
In late November this issue will be tested at the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of yet another pipeline, Enbridge’s Line 9. It is due to carry tar sands bitumen and fracked oil to Montreal, crossing more than 120 vital waterways and 830 kilometers of land along the way, including territory of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, without their consent. (Neither does the project have consent from millions of Canadians who live along the route, the most densely populated in Canada, but the government blithely ignores this too.)
Since the Supreme Court agrees to hear only a small fraction of the cases submitted to it, clearly it considers this one vital to the people it is meant to serve. So should we all. Given the catastrophic impacts of mining and transporting tar sands and fracked oil, the fate of this case has profound implications for First Nations, for Canadians, and ultimately for all life on this earth.
Details on the case and how to support it are here.
For an eloquent view of why these struggles keep happening, meet Seneca First Nation biologist Henry Lickers, chapter 1 in Bold Scientists. An excerpt is here.