The following is a blog written by Leah Gazan, an active organizer for Indigenous sovereignty and social justice organizations and programs, including Idle No More. Leah also holds an M.ED degree and teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg.
This week, I will be attending the Climate Welcome in Ottawa to communicate to Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government the urgent need to freeze the expansion of the tar sands The message is clear. We can longer base our economy around industries that wreck havoc on our environment, causing permanent damage to our lands and waters. It is no longer ok for the Canadian government to invest in an aggressive resource extraction industry that disrupts our ability to live off the sustenance on our ancestral lands. It is not ok that the resource extraction industry has caused irreversible damage to our lands and waters, making our animal and plant life sick while compromising our access to clean drinking water. It is no longer ok to support industries that contribute to violence against Indigenous women and girls by failing to regulate the activities of employees residing in man camps within or close by Indigenous nations.
With the ousting of the Harper government, there is a possibility to move forward in a manner that’s respects our Mother Earth. There is also the potential to truly develop a nation to nation relationship with Indigenous peoples that honours agreements that are stipulated in Treaties, affirmed within the Canadian Constitution, and supported by United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP. The new government needs to honour promises made in their platform to ensure that a nation to nation relationship with Indigenous peoples is realized. This includes ensuring ongoing consultation with indigenous leaders and grassroots members about all developments that occur on our ancestral lands.
What is concerning, however, is that the new Liberal government has spoken out in support of Keystone Pipeline. The new Liberal government has also recently revealed their close ties to TransCanada pipeline when their campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, was caught sending an email advising the company on how the new Liberal government could best be lobbied to support Energy East. If Prime Minister Trudeau truly honours the nation to nation relationship highlighted in the Liberal platform, they will consult with our nation’s first before supporting developments by large oil companies. This also means respecting our nations’ decisions about whether or not we wish to proceed with any resource developments on our ancestral lands.
It is becoming clear that many Indigenous leaders, Elders, youth, and grassroots peoples from nations across Turtle Island oppose further pipeline development. In the Spirit of Treaty and in recognition of our inherent rights on our ancestral territories, I hope that Prime Minister Trudeau honours his promise of recognizing our nation to nation relationship by ensuring any development adheres to our rights as Indigenous nations, even if it means stopping further pipeline development. This is crucial at a time when tensions between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government are fragile as a result of aggressive actions, particularly over the last ten years, that almost completely disregarded of the legal obligations of the federal government to consult and accommodate Indigenous Nations.
Our Mother Earth is in crisis and our waters are at risk. There is no life without water. I look forward to my time in Ottawa and supporting Prime Minister Trudeau in move towards making economic investments that support building the economy, while sustaining our environment for our further generations. The time is now to end our dependence on aggressive resource industries like the tar sands. It is possible to build a green economy that will benefit all peoples on Turtle Island.