HCLC stands in solidarity with Indigenous peoples to make decisions about their lands, calls upon governments to adhere to the rule of law and condemns rising hate towards Indigenous peoples.
“Truth and reconciliation begins by changing the way we talk to and about each other”: Senator Murray Sinclair, former Truth & Reconciliation Commissioner of Canada. We are alarmed at how far we are from this goal in this country, as illustrated by a recent Globe and Mail headline, “Indigenous people face racist backlash over protests” (February 29, 2020).
Indigenous people are hearing and reading racist rants and threats of violence in response to blockades and rallies in support of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
It is essential for Canadians to know and acknowledge the truth about our shared history when faced with the temporary inconvenience caused by road and rail blockades. This inconvenience, while immediate and real, pales in comparison to 150 years of colonialism and its legacy of genocide, apartheid and systemic racism.
At the heart of this current unrest is the government’s refusal to honour the rule of law, when RCMP arrested and removed Hereditary Chiefs from their land. Wet’suwet’en lands are unceded, meaning they are not subject to a treaty between the Crown and the First Nation. “Aboriginal title” has been recognized in Canadian law and the landmark Delgumuuku decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 acknowledged the Hereditary Chiefs as the representatives of this title. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was implemented in B.C. and it prevents the forced removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands.
Face-to-face discussions are underway between the Crown and the Hereditary Chiefs, as must be the approach when talking nation to nation. Respect and relationship building are necessary steps to generate trust and good will. This is how we do the hard work of reconciliation.