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LETTER: Crucial issues of environment, land and Indigenous governance can no longer be ignored

letter-sta

Blockades are bad because these people have no right or authority to hijack the rail lines causing very real problems for our country and its citizens. These actions are illegal. Showing tolerance is only going to lead to bigger problems. These people are acting without regard for our livelihood and wellbeing. Jobs are being lost and families are at risk. The economy is threatened and national and international trade are in jeopardy. Shortages of basic supplies are imminent. A scarcity of vital pharmaceuticals and medical supplies will be life-threatening. Leaders say this is a national crisis.

“For the sake of the economy, safety and security, something must be done.” (Ken Kobly, Alberta Chamber of Commerce CEO)

These are just some of the comments I've heard over the last month.

Try reading the first paragraph again but substitute the first sentence with this one: “Colonization is reprehensible because people who have no right or authority appropriate land that isn't theirs, causing disastrous effects for the Indigenous Peoples.”

This is tragic irony. Our recent fears have been only a shadow of the fears faced by the First Peoples, fears they are still realizing hundreds of years later. To echo Arthur Manuel: the catastrophic loss of life, massive land disposition and resultant dependency are not only a humiliation and an instant impoverishment, they have devastated the social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual lives of Indigenous People, leaving grinding poverty, broken social relationships and too often, life-ending despair.

The month-long blockades and protests that were modeled after the civil disobedience of respected human rights heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi made us indignant, demanding forceful response. Many felt vindicated when vigilante tough guys dismantled an Edmonton-area blockade and silenced protesters. We expect thanks from Indigenous People for patronizing them with dialogue, promised reconciliation and the odd apology. We ignore as Canada's treatment of First Peoples has been vilified over and over on the international stage and by the United Nations, sullying the respect with which we pride ourselves.

Now, we're being called on all of it. The crucial issues of environment, land and Indigenous governance can no longer be placated or ignored. Prompt and genuine negotiations with recognized Indigenous authorities, not neo-colonial pawns, are essential to establish and execute binding decisions, precise actions and abiding nation-to-nation treaties.

Debbie Hopchin, St. Albert