The illegal road and rail blockades perpetrated by Indigenous radicals across the country are not about pipelines or fossil fuels. It’s an existential threat to Canada and its sovereignty — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is to blame.
Five years of pandering and subsidizing 632 First Nations leaders has led to this catastrophe, which is being spearheaded by five unelected hereditary chiefs in British Columbia who claim their nation — the Wet’suwet’en — is exempt from Canadian laws and regulations. They claim sovereignty over a 22,000-square-kilometre swath of land, an area the size of Israel, and have successfully invoked nationwide solidarity protests that have crippled portions of the country’s rail system.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders and their accomplices have defied court orders and ignored agreements signed by 20 band councils, including their own. The issue at hand is the building of a 670-kilometre gas pipeline to a $40-billion LNG plant on the coast, but at stake is the future of Canada itself.
On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court ordered protesters to allow workers access to a remote logging road in northern B.C. But Wet’suwet’en activists continued to block the road and, days later, 28 were arrested (six of whom were released without charges). Now, dozens of arrests have followed across the country.
Such lawlessness has been emboldened since 2015, when Trudeau decided the federal government would not enforce the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The law requires Indigenous leaders, often inherited chiefs, to be accountable and transparent by forcing them to publish audits of band expenses, including their compensation. Along the way, Ottawa has also sidestepped disputes involving corruption, rigged elections, no elections, nepotism and charter rights violations.
By ceding its oversight powers to band chiefs and councils, without checks and balances, or any semblance of accountability, the feds have allowed the rights of the Indigenous people who fall under the control of these chiefs and councils to be trampled upon, according to Indigenous lawyer and activist Catherine Twinn. Now, the rights of all Canadians are being trampled on.
These self-appointed potentates are not only thumbing their noses at the rule of law, but at their own members. For example, Wet’suwet’en member Philip Tait told CTV that he is hoping to get a job with the project. “Right now, this is probably got one of the biggest job creations in the province here, and we want to be part of it,” he said. “The hereditary chiefs’ office, they don’t speak for the whole clan.”
Another member, Bonnie George, added that, “A majority of our people do want to see this project go through. The reason why it’s not out there is because people are afraid to speak up, but that’s starting to change.”
This week, faced with a propane shortage due to the blockade, Quebec Premier François Legault demanded Ottawa must get “involved, because it (the blockade) doesn’t only concern Quebec. It concerns all provinces.”
Yet the federal government’s response has been irresponsible at best. Transport Minister Marc Garneau said enforcement of court orders is up to provinces. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Crown-Indigenous relations minister referred media calls to the natural resources minister’s office, which, in turn, said the matter was a provincial issue. When asked, the prime minister merely said the protests were “an issue of concern” and that he is encouraging “all parties to dialogue to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
In the absence of federal intervention, the crisis will escalate. The chiefs are now demanding that B.C. cancel all permits for this and other resource projects and that the RCMP and provincial authorities vacate the territory. They also invoked a groundless report by the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, which urged Canada to stop the Site C dam project, the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and this Coastal GasLink pipeline, on the basis that the rights of indigenous people have been ignored.
Now a full-blown secession crisis is underway, thanks to the the Liberal government’s abdication of its responsibility to uphold the laws, democratic rights and courts of Canada for all Canadians. It’s a disgrace.