Category Archives: Maliseet

Fishing Industry Raises Concerns over Oil and Gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

July 21st, 2015

Press Release, July 21/2015

In a powerful show of unity, First Nation communities and fishing industry representatives call on the Federal Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment, and Fisheries to suspend petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until it can determine that these activities would pose no risk to commercial fisheries.

The Gulf’s Aboriginal Communities, Harvester, and Processor Associations, call on the federal government to hear public concerns and evaluate the risks of drilling in a semi- enclosed body of water that supports hundreds of coastal communities in 5 provinces.

“The government is ignoring that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is partially landlocked and one of the most sensitive and productive marine breeding regions in Canada with over 2,200 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year around. Due to the sensitive nature of the St. Lawrence it unlikely that a billion dollar fishing industry could withstand oil and gas development,” says Marilyn Clark, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association.  Although Strategic Environmental assessment (SEA) have been undertaken by both Newfoundland and Quebec, these inadequate assessments failed to look at the Gulf as a whole, she said.

“We know there is very little capacity to respond to an oil spill due to high winds and counter clockwise currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year, leaving NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL coastlines vulnerable to contamination. Despite this, the environmental assessment process has been downgraded to allow companies to drill exploratory wells without consulting people depending on these waters for their livelihoods,” states fisherman Leonard Leblanc of Cheticamp, Nova Scotia.

Spill simulations undertaken by the Rimouski Institute of Ocean Science demonstrate that fish and plankton critical to the Gulf’s food chain would have to migrate through oil at both the Laurentian Channel and Straight of Belle Isle, which are entry and exit regions critical to the Gulf’s entire eco-system.

Even Corridor Resources, who wants to drill at Old Harry, acknowledge in their EA report that: “There are environmental and technological constraints to response and cleanup. High sea states and visibility are examples of typical environmental constraints, while technological constraints include pumping capacity of oil recovery devices and effectiveness of chemical dispersants.” Furthermore, several months of ice coverage in the winter escalate these important limitations.

Nearly two years ago, First Nations formed the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Alliance and signed an agreement to protect the Gulf from Oil and Gas Development. They have recently renewed this commitment and reiterated their request for a 12 year Moratorium.

To date, they have yet to be consulted on the Old Harry project.

“Quebec’s Environment Assessment (SEA) detailed many gaps in knowledge and understanding of the Gulf of St Lawrence.  We have existing Aboriginal rights and constitutionally protected Treaty Rights as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. We will do all that is necessary to protect our way of life and prevent any exploratory plan to be carried out in the Gulf,” explains Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

In the event of a spill, Canadian law demands a company to have a measly 1 billion dollars of compensation monies. This is deeply inadequate when you consider that Gulf fisheries are worth more than one billion each year. Investments in boats, licenses, and fish plants dependent on renewable resources for their operations are worth far more than these proposed damages. The BP Macondo disaster cost BP over $40 billion dollars so far and could cost the company over $60billion due to ongoing litigation.

“How do you quantify damages to living species that have been around for thousands of years if you are not even taking into account ecological value?” asks Clark. “In short, the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishing industry will accept no less than a full, independent expert review panel, acting in the 5 provinces, as is warranted by public concerns in section 38 (2) b of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act”, she concludes.

For further information contact:

Marilyn Clark 902.774.0006 (French/English)
Director Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association

Troy Jerome 506.759.2000 (French/English)
Executive Director
Nutewistoq, Mi’gmawei, Mawiomi Secretariat

Leonard LeBlanc 902-302-0794 (French/English)
Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition

Ian MacPherson 902-566-4050 (English)
PEI Fishermen’s Association

Jean-Pierre Couillard 418-269-7701 (French)
Association des Capitaines Propriétaire de la Gaspésie

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Groups band together to fight oil exploration on Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ APTN news

July 21st, 2015

July 21, 2015

by Danielle Rochette

APTN National News

Eighteen organizations spread out over four provinces are banding together and calling on the federal government to stop any kind of oil exploration work in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The group sent a letter Tuesday to Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq. [See press release here]

“As fisheries representatives active in all parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we are writing to inform you that we will oppose any petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence without prior consultation and a thorough understanding of the impacts to our seafood industry,” the letter states.

It’s not clear who penned the letter.

The Nutewistoq M’igmawei Mawiomi Secretariat is one of the organizations that is part of the coalition.

The group pointed out that the process that will allow companies to explore for oil, will also allow them to circumvent the environmental or consultation process.

“Given that exploratory drilling has been downgraded to a simple ‘screening exercise,’ which does not necessitate consultation with existing users, we demand that the Old Harry prospect be put to a full review panel as is warranted by public concern under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act” the letter states.

A Mi’kmaq group out of Quebec is already lobbying the Quebec government to put in place a 12-year moratorium on exploration work in the Gulf. [See APTN story here: Nations band together to fight future oil exploration in Gulf of Saint Lawrence]

There is also a coalition made up of environmental groups and First Nation communities fighting any kind of oil work. They’re concerned that thousands of fisheries and tourism jobs will be at stake if there is a spill in the Gulf.

“We would also like to remind the federal government that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a common body of water and that spills occurring in one area cannot be contained by provincial delineations,” they say in the letter.

The Gulf waters touch five provinces, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Source: Groups band together to fight oil exploration on Gulf of St. Lawrence – APTN National news

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Native groups seek oil and gas moratorium in Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ CTV news

July 10th, 2015

CTV News
July 8/2015

MONTREAL — Quebec must impose a 12-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to give time for a comprehensive assessment on possible risks to the ecosystem, the chiefs of three native groups said Wednesday.

The waters of the St. Lawrence are vital to the livelihoods of the Innu, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet nations and should be protected, they told a news conference in Montreal as the Assembly of First Nations continued its annual meeting.

They also asked federal party leaders to tell voters ahead of this fall’s election where they stand on the protection of the Gulf from development.

Mi’kmaq Chief Scott Martin said he feared an environmental catastrophe in the St. Lawrence similar to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that devastated parts of the southern U.S. coastline.

Martin added there are currently “numerous knowledge gaps” within oil-industry reports on risks associated with drilling along the waterway.

“The gulf is a highly productive body of water and diversity is very rich,” he told reporters. “No one can tell us what effect a blowout like a Deepwater Horizon can have on the food chain.”

Martin said he wants an “integrated assessment” of all the risks involved with resource exploitation in the area before Quebec grants exploration or drilling permits.

The chiefs said they decided the moratorium should last 12 years after calculating the time they thought it would take to conduct studies, write reports and consult the public.

Resource exploitation along the St. Lawrence River cannot be carried out without their consent, the chiefs said, adding the Supreme Court of Canada ruled native people must be consulted and accommodated before their territory can be used for commercial development.

Some chiefs were more hard line than others.

Innu Chief Jean-Charles Pietacho said his people won’t be silenced with petrodollars.

“Never will I accept royalties that come from (the oil and gas sector),” he said.

Anne Archambault, grand chief of the Viger Maliseet First Nation, was more nuanced in her comments, saying she needed to consult her people before deciding on royalties.

She said her people’s ancestral rights to the Atlantic salmon “take precedence over oil,” adding 95 per cent of her community’s revenue comes from the salmon industry.

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/native-groups-seek-oil-and-gas-moratorium-in-gulf-of-st-lawrence-1.2459801

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Innu-Maliseet-Mi’gmaq demand protection of Gulf from oil and gas development ~ The Telegram

July 10th, 2015

Native groups demand protection of Gulf from oil and gas development
The Telegram
July 8/2015

Chiefs from the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations are demanding that federal party leaders tell voters whether they will protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s unique and vital ecosystem.

With Québec proposing to open the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oil and gas exploration, Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Innu of Ekuanitshit said in a news release, “This is an issue that affects the livelihoods of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in five provinces and it is the federal government’s responsibility to protect them.”

The release notes that last month, Québec announced it would lift a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf and begin granting permits once legislation is in place. Newfoundland has already granted an exploration permit at the Old Harry Prospect, northeast of the Magdelen Islands, but drilling has not yet been allowed.

It says both Québec and Newfoundland’s powers are from the federal government and they will need federal government approval for major decisions. Old Harry is at the boundary used by Canada to assign each province its regulatory authority.

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago was an exploration well, like what the provincial governments want to allow,” said Chief Scott Martin of the Mi’gmaq of Listuguj. “We want federal party leaders to tell the people of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Québec whether they are willing to risk that kind of catastrophe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

A strategic environmental assessment by Québec concluded that a catastrophe on the scale of Deepwater Horizon is “plausible” if exploration goes ahead. The native groups stress in their news release that results would be devastating for a commercial fishery around the Gulf worth $1.5 billion annually and a tourism industry that generates another $800 million per year.

The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq communities of Québec formed an alliance in 2013 for the protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Halifax in 2014, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq chiefs from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined them in calling for a moratorium.

“The salmon has sustained our peoples since time immemorial and it migrates through the Gulf before it returns to our rivers to spawn,” said Grand Chief Anne Archambault of the Viger Maliseet First Nation. “We have rights protected under the Constitution to harvest what the Gulf gives to us and those rights take precedence over oil and gas.”

Source: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-07-08/article-4207843/Native-groups-demand-protection-of-Gulf-from-oil-and-gas-development/1

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The fight to stop drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence grows

December 18th, 2014

APTN NATIONAL NEWS – 16. OCT, 2014

APTN National News
A First Nations alliance says legal action may be the only way to stop oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Alliance is teaming up with other coalitions.

They met Thursday to brainstorm ways to continue their fight to protect what scientists call an ecologically sensitive area.

APTN’s Trina Roache has the story. View here: http://aptn.ca/news/2014/10/16/fight-stop-drilling-gulf-st-lawrence-grows/

 

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Statement of Support for First Nations’ Call for Moratorium

July 18th, 2014

The PEI Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS) would like to offer its full support to the Innu, Maliseet, and Mi’gmaq First Nations of Eastern Canada as they call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These First Nations communities are right to protest a lack of adequate consultation during the planning of offshore petroleum development in the Gulf.

“Public consultation for Newfoundland’s recently released Strategic Environmental Assessment Update was wholly inadequate and had no discernible influence on the conclusions made” according to SOSS PEI member Colin Jeffrey.

“The silence around the issue of drilling for oil at the Old Harry site is deafening.  The health of the Gulf’s fragile ecosystem is vital for sustaining marine life and livelihoods here in PEI, as well as in our neighbouring provinces. We must insist on more effective public engagement and consultation during the decision making process to give voice to those who wish to protect the integrity of the Gulf and our way of life for generations to come” according to lobster fisherman and SOSS PEI member Ian Forgeron.

The PEI chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores will continue to support all who stand against degradation of this fragile ecosystem through offshore petroleum development.  Together we can protect this important inland sea for the benefit of all Atlantic Canadians.

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Media Coverage of Historic First Nations’ Call for 12 Year Moratorium

July 18th, 2014

Here is a selection of the nation-wide coverage of the Alliance of Innu, Maliseet, and Mi’gmaq First Nations calling for their rights in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to be acknowledges and a 12 year moratorium on oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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APTN – Indigenous leaders call for 12 year drilling moratorium in Gulf of Saint Lawrence

CBC News – Aboriginal groups want oil and gas moratorium in Gulf

CTV NewsLeaders Demand Protection

Global TV – Halifax Evening News (9:50 min.) – Innu, Maliseet, and Mi’gmaq Chiefs Call for Protection

Halifax Media Co-op – First Nations say no to oil exploration in Gulf of St. Lawrence

Huffington Post, Canada – Aboriginal groups want oil and gas moratorium in Gulf

Le Devoir – Les autochtones à la défense du golfe du Saint-Laurent

The Chronicle Herald – Chiefs seek 12-year gulf moratorium

 

 

 

 

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Innu, Maliseet and Mi’Gmaq Nations Unite to save the Gulf of St. Lawrence

July 18th, 2014

HALIFAX, July 16, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ – Chiefs from the three Aboriginal peoples that have always occupied the waters and shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence called today for a moratorium on oil and gas development they say could endanger the region and infringe on their rights.

Chiefs representing the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations, whose communities straddle the borders of Québec,New Brunswick and Nova Scotia gathered in Halifax to call on the federal and provincial governments to conduct an integrated environmental assessment for the Gulf as a whole before considering any exploration.

“All of us, Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq, depend on the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for our livelihoods,” said Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit in Québec.

As the Chiefs spoke in Halifax, where they were meeting for the Assembly of First Nations annual general assembly, boats belonging to the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gewa’gi (Gaspé) were set to arrive at the proposed drill site at Old Harry and leave a buoy to mark their presence.

“Our intention is to show that together, we own and occupy the Gulf,” said Chief Claude Jeannotte of the Mi’gmaq community of Gespeg in Québec.

Currently, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) is conducting the environmental assessment of an exploration well proposed at Old Harry, a location only 80 km from Québec’s Magdalen Islands. The federal government will soon allow oil and gas activities in the western part of the Gulf to be decided by a joint body to be formed with Québec that will have jurisdiction over waters from Anticosti Island to the Lower North Shore, including a few kilometers from the Island of Newfoundland. The southeastern Gulf is the responsibility of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

A report published by Québec in 2013 concluded that a catastrophe on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is “plausible” if oil and gas exploration or development proceeds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“The Gulf is a unique and fragile ecosystem,” said Chief Candice Paul of the Maliseet community of St. Mary’s inNew Brunswick. “The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq peoples have depended on the Gulf since time immemorial and we will not stand for its destruction.”

 

SOURCE Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq nations

 For further information:

click here

Contact:

English
Troy Jerome
tjerome@migmawei.ca
Cell. (506) 759-2000

French
Serge Ashini Goupil
ashinigoupil@me.com
Cell. (418) 609-0491

Map of the Old Harry drilling project: http://saveourseasandshores.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Gulf-Neighbours-map-2013-03-05-EN-crop.jpg

 

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Innu, Mi’gmaq and Maliseet form political coalition to protect Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas exploration

November 4th, 2013

GESPEG, QC,
Oct. 29, 2013
CNW Telbec

The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Chiefs announced today they have formed a Political Coalition to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the dangers posed by oil and gas exploration.

On October 23, 2013 the Chiefs signed – during the Chiefs Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador – a Memorandum of Understanding – see it here Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq National coalition for the protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence   setting out the Coalition’s main objectives:
• Speak with a common voice on issues related to the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
• Protect Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Title throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
• Prepare and table with the Government of Canada and the Government of Québec a joint Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Title Claim to the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
• Develop an Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Accord in response to the “Accord between the Government of Canada and the Government of Québec accord for the shared management of petroleum resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence”.

“Since time immemorial, the waters and shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been used and occupied by the Innu to the north and the Maliseet and Mi’gmaq to the south, for purposes including fishing, hunting, and travel. Our three peoples were the first trading partners of the French from the time that Champlain sailed into the Gulf’s waters over 400 years ago”, declared Chief Claude Jeannotte on behalf of Mi’gmawei Mawiomi.

“The tiny reserves the federal government set aside for the Innu, Maliseet and the Mi’gmaq out of their vast territory are now found around the Gulf, located in Québec, Labrador, on the Island of Newfoundland, in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Beyond those lands, however, our three peoples continue to use and occupy the waters of the Gulf, exercising their Aboriginal and treaty rights and the title that they have never surrendered”, declared Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho on behalf of the Innu Nation from Québec explained.

“These facts mean that we have rights that are recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Among other things, these rights mean that the federal and provincial governments are obliged to consult and accommodate us in order to avoid any irreparable harm to the exercise of our rights. Serious infringements of our rights require our consent” (1), declared Grand Chief Anne Archambault, on behalf of the Maliseet Nation.

About the Coalition: 
The Coalition is formed by the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations and intended to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the dangers posed by oil and gas exploration. The Coalition speaks with a common voice on issues related to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Coalition spokesperson are Chief of Gespeg Claude Jeannotte and the Executive Director of Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, Troy Jerome.

(1) Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2004] 3 SCR 511, para. 47, 24.

SOURCE: http://cnw.ca/0hU0
For further information:
Troy Jerome
Cell.: 1-506-759-2000
Email: tjerome[at]migmawei.ca

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The Harper government is radicalizing First Nations (iPolitics)

March 21st, 2013

By Michael Harris
iPolitics
Mar 21, 2013

Brace yourself for the Indian Wars, Stephen Harper style.

This federal government doesn’t give a flying fornication about indigenous issues, and the way the stars are lining up, there will be a price to pay for their disdain.

The Indian Wars of history were actually comprised of 40 major military actions against American aboriginals under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Dropping the John Wayne factor from the chronicle, they amounted to a continental eviction notice. It was served on indigenous peoples by wave after wave of European settlers and squatters backed up by the U.S. Cavalry.

In those days, south-side, the gun-to-the-head choices facing indigenous peoples were assimilation, forced relocation to reservations, flight or resistance. Manifest Destiny was the rallying cry to justify the serial massacres designed to convince American Indians to voluntarily exchange their land for treaties that often proved worthless. Sadly, Hollywood and the cowboys got to write the history.

Today, the chief weapon used against aboriginals in Canada is not the repeating rifle or canon. It is the poisoned word innocuously inserted into complex agreements. It is the poisoned image of a people retailed by a federal government interested in only one thing — jump-starting resource development on native land with minimum interference from the owners.

Ironically, the choices facing Canada’s indigenous peoples are not much different than the ones that led the Cherokee Nation down the Trail of Tears, where 60,000 of them died on the way to Oklahoma: assimilation, the reserve, flight or resistance. The economy has now replaced Manifest Destiny as the justification, but the endgame is the same — take what belongs to someone else by diminishing them and their rights as much as possible. The easiest victims of this slow, smothering approach are the ones who are the most trusting.

Even the credulous Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, must now understand the extent to which he has been taken in by the prime minister — and the growing distance between the misplaced passivity of the native leadership and the skepticism and activism of the grassroots Idle No More movement.

Not consulted on the PM’s appointment of the so-called ‘envoy‘ on native affairs, unaware of sneaky changes to the contribution agreements bands sign each year with Ottawa, and still wondering when all those high-level “transformative” meetings will take place, Atleo has been contemptuously tossed aside by his Tory friends.

To his credit, he has begun to speak up. Chief Atleo has asked that First Nations be consulted on any changes to the contribution agreements. Good luck. He has also demanded that Ottawa rescind changes to this year’s agreements, which the government has disingenuously referred to as merely “administrative.” The fact is, they could be interpreted as seriously diminishing indigenous and treaty rights, which is precisely why they were made. If the PM runs true to form, Atleo will simply be ignored.

Someone should tell the masters of the universe in Aboriginal Affairs that Canada’s indigenous people no longer conduct their commerce in beads and pelts, and that their educations go well beyond the diplomas in terror and suffering they got at the residential schools.

Brilliant minds familiar with the native community, people like Wilton Littlechild and Constance Backhouse, have been carefully tracking the federal government’s insidious changes to the language of the contribution agreements. They have written that the federal Justice Department has been experimenting for some time with “replacing the clear non-derogation language with many weaker versions.”

It is very wise of keen observers like Littlechild and Backhouse, and small online outfits like the Wabanaki Press, to watch and report on what justice department lawyers are doing at the government’s behest. After all, Stephen Harper doesn’t give his word, he gives wording. Every word of every sentence of Harper legislation must be parsed.

Even the credulous Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, must now understand the extent to which he has been taken in by the prime minister.

Stephen Harper is not the only prime minister who has tried to outfox indigenous peoples. But as noted in the blog apihtawikosisan, the Harper government is the first to slip a new law onto the agenda, Bill S-8, that actually has an active derogation clause.

It is the most obvious evidence to date that Ottawa is seeking to get around Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982, which offers protection for aboriginal and treaty rights. As the Cree-speaking Metis blogger notes, “the proposed law explicitly states that aboriginal and treaty rights deemed to be in conflict with the law’s stated intention will not be respected. And for the first time, a new law would contradict promises made to aboriginal peoples in treaties as to the interpretive primacy of those treaties.”

What better place to subtly undermine indigenous rights than the very agreements through which Canada’s 600 bands are funded? As reported by Olesia Plokhii in iPolitics, some experts think the Harper government is playing “a game of fiscal extortion and tantamount to nothing less than economic terrorism.”

Though some in the government may see bringing communities like Burnt Church to its knees as a success, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, it has forcibly reminded moderate First Nations peoples that this federal government is not their friend. Cooperation means capitulation and bending to the status quo. Harper is well on his way to radicalizing the First Nations communities across the country.

When a minister like Tony Clement talks about the “once in a lifetime” opportunity to develop the resources of the Ring of Fire in Ontario, he is not talking about fifty years hence — he’s talking about right now. Bottom line? The federal government plans major resource developments long before the ink is dry on any land claims agreements. Every indigenous person in the country knows what that means. With $650 billion worth of resource development looming across the country, it’s now or never when it comes to making their case for inclusion.

Given the Harper government’s blindness to both aboriginals and the environment, how do the First Nations peoples fight back? The media used to be available to them, but many indigenous people are convinced that even the press has become antagonistic, if not occasionally racist. The proof they offer is the appalling treatment meted out to Chief Theresa Spence during the recent Idle No More actions in Ottawa.

That leaves the courts and the streets. The courts have been heroically just in holding governments to the honour of the Crown but famously, and perhaps necessarily, slow. With huge political decisions looming in the short term, including Northern Gateway, mining activities in northern Ontario and offshore drilling in the waters off 34 reserves in Atlantic Canada, that leaves the streets.

And here is the dilemma with that option. Protests are getting to be tricky business. They often involve prior approval, permits, notification of time periods, fees, the imposition of liability insurance on protesters, not to mention infiltration by security agencies, police surveillance and intrusive searches.

The received wisdom these days in government circles seems to be that no protest is peaceful unless it also utterly pointless. Judges in both Manitoba and Ontario have recently granted injunctions against the blocking of roads by native protesters. An Ontario judge, Robert Riopelle, said police charges were warranted against members of the Attawapiskat band for blocking the ice road into De Beer’s Victor diamond mine. Again, the Ontario Provincial Police wisely kept their powder dry.

Protesting has become such an endangered activity that the Human Rights Council of the United Nations is about to hold a special debate on the subject. It already has received nine submissions, including one from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, on protecting the right to social protest as a fundamental democratic freedom.

So here it is: if the government isn’t responsive to native issues, the mass media is unfavourably disposed, the courts are slow, and the right to protest is under pressure — and against all that there is also a resource development juggernaut bearing down on First Nations territory — should anyone be surprised if the earth moves this summer?

No one can say they didn’t see it coming.

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His eight books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. He is currently working on a book about the Harper majority government to be published in the autumn of 2014 by Penguin Canada.
Readers can reach the author at michaelharris@ipolitics.ca.

http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/03/21/the-harper-government-is-radicalizing-first-nations/

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