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Does the B.C. gas pipeline need approval from hereditary chiefs?

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Earlier this week, the RCMP enforced a court-ordered injunction on a group of protestors in northwestern B.C. from the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who sought to prevent pipeline workers from accessing a road near the town of Houston. The Mounties dismantled the fortified checkpoint, known as the Gidimt’en camp, and arrested 14 people, sparking protests across the country and calls on Justin Trudeau to address the escalating situation.

Announced last fall by the provincial and federal governments, the $6.2 billion pipeline built by Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada Corp., would move natural gas across B.C.’s north to a coastal terminal in Kitimat. The path is about a kilometre south of a second checkpoint controlled by a clan of the Wet’suwet’en, known as the Unist’ot’en, who as of this writing expected the Mounties to arrive at their encampment at any moment.

The conflict has raised questions about the relationship between elected band councils and hereditary leaders when it comes to resource and development project. TransCanada has signed agreements with elected leaders of First Nations along the pipeline’s route, including those of the Wet’suwet’en. The Wet’suwet’en Nation, however, encompasses a vast region in northern B.C., and the hereditary leadership from all five of its clans, whose responsibilities extend beyond the borders of the reserve, say those contracts don’t apply to Wet’suwet’en traditional territory—in a province where most of the land was never ceded through treaty. It is the hereditary chiefs who are backing the ongoing protests.

Chief Robert Joseph is a hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation on B.C.’s coast and an ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, among other roles. He spoke to Maclean’s writer Kyle Edwards about the differences between traditional hereditary leadership and band councils elected under the Indian Act, and how tensions can arise between the two from things like, say, pipelines.

Q: What are the responsibilities of a hereditary leaders and elected band councils in a First Nation?

A: The situation you are finding in the Unist’ot’en in Wet’suwet’en territory is not uncommon. There are differences of opinion between elected leadership and hereditary leadership from time to time, and mostly when it comes to resource development that likely has impacts on the environment.

It’s during these times that hereditary chiefs assume their responsibility over the lands that are spoken about. In contrast, chiefs elected under the Indian Act are primarily responsible for things that happen on reserves—like infrastructure, housing, water, sewage, schools and those day-to-day matters that affect membership. Their jurisdiction doesn’t flow beyond the borders of the reserve that they’re on. That’s the situation with Unist’ot’en; they’re not on reserve—they’re on Wet’suwet’en territory in general.

Q: How does the hereditary leadership system work?

A: During pre-colonial times, tribes were governed by hereditary chiefs. And the genesis of the hereditary chief position flowed directly from all of the first ancestor stories. Through the years, this chieftainship was passed down through strict protocol, primarily in a father-to-son way, with exceptions of course. Where I come from, each tribe had four to six first ancestors, and therefore by extension, they would have four to six heads of those clans, or hereditary chiefs. Among them would be one senior chief determined by the long-standing narrative. The genesis stories actual mark or demark the territories that these clans came from.

Chief Robert Joseph (John Woods/CP)

Q: As we’ve seen from the protests in Wet’suwet’en, hereditary leaders appear to still have a lot of influence.

A: The people throughout Turtle Island (North America) have never forgotten the old ways and traditions. They have practised them through rituals, songs and dances. In their minds, in their hearts, it’s real. They’re the chiefs of those territories.

Q: These days, what is the responsibility of a hereditary chief in a community?

A: At the moment, they don’t have any authority that’s recognized. Part of the problem is that the elected chiefs in Wet’suwet’en approved of the pipeline. As a hereditary chief, our responsibility is primarily to encourage our members to hold on to their traditional belief systems and the perspectives that we have about land. We have a very strong moral persuasion in all of this that needs to be added into the discussion around development.

Q: How many hereditary chiefs are there in B.C.?

A: Many more than the elected ones. We have about 200 tribes in B.C. and each tribe has between four to six hereditary chiefs, but they’re not all active. A lot of these chieftainships were never resurrected after the colonial weight of oppression. Right now, there’s probably as many as the elected or more.

Q: So why do some First Nations have two different forms of leadership?

A: Under s.74 of the Indian Act, the Department of Indian Affairs imposed the election process on all First Nations and did away with the Indigenous hereditary system. The government is living with its own creation, and that’s the destruction of traditional forms of government and imposing the elected system.

Q: When it comes to things like pipelines, which side—elected band council or hereditary leadership—would have the final say in deciding whether it’s approved or not?

A: Essentially, unless there’s an internal agreement in a First Nation between the elected personnel and the hereditary personnel, traditional leadership has no say at all. They have no power to exercise any of their obligations. They have to work hard at trying to persuade the elected chief and council that it’s in the interest of the entire band that the two bodies work together.

Q: I imagine that creates tension.

A: It always causes friction. And sometimes the outside parties like the federal government or big corporations and other entities know this, and can use that as a tool to create the kind of divisions that fracture relationships.

Q: Do you think part of the problem in northern B.C. is this system of government that was, as you say, forced on First Nations?

A: Absolutely. It’s going to create conflict down the road. I think that the federal government, having imposed these systems, really destroyed our sense of being a self-governing people. Our people want to be self-governing, and it can be under whatever dominion or authority, but they’re allowed to have the local self-governance that’s most appropriate to them. The system of having two levels of government in the equation is challenging and complicated.

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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