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There are two kinds of Indigenous governance structures, but Canada has been listening to just one

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If all the elected First Nations along the pipeline route signed agreements, why were there still protesters?

The above question kept coming up again and again from observers who didn’t quite understand why a blockade was set up at the Unist’ot’en camp in northern B.C., preventing work to proceed on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. A deal was reached Thursday between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the RCMP to allow for pre-construction work, but the question for many still remained.

The short answer is this: there are two kinds of governance structures within Indigenous communities, and industry and government have only paying attention to one.

There’s the system required by the Indian Act — the chief and council — which is based in colonial law and was imposed rather than adopted. It is not universally recognized by Indigenous people.

The other is the hereditary system: a governance model that varies from one nation to the next, where chieftainships, titles and responsibilities are passed down through generations. It is not beyond reproach, and in some cases it may need to be adjusted to reflect the capitalist world of today. But it is our traditional way, it has sophisticated checks and balances, and it has been in use since before Canada claimed sovereignty.

The First Nations along the pipeline route who have signed benefit agreements are the chiefs and councils elected under the Indian Act. All but one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, until Thursday, were united against this pipeline.

The traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en, at the centre of this issue, represents approximately 22,000 square kilometres of land that was never ceded through treaty. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The odds at which these two systems are often placed is not accidental. The authority of chief and council is delegated by the Indian Act and has historically been largely dependent on a federal ministry to deliver services. Canada’s colonial policies of dispossession and cultural repression through residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, the reserve system and much more have created a system of dependency through enforced poverty.

The reliance on federal funding to maintain services makes it incredibly difficult for elected band officials to stand on principle. I don’t mean to detract from their efforts or the sincerity of their leadership, but they are elected to keep services flowing, and the reality is that for them to resist too strongly risks getting nothing at all.

Hereditary leaders are not beholden to the same obligations and are much freer to demand that their inherent rights and title are recognized. This is precisely what happened is the case of Delgamuukw v. The Queen, when 35 Gitxsan and 13 Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs sued the Crown, claiming title over their traditional territories.

In 1997, they won a partial but significant victory in which the Supreme Court of Canada recognized Aboriginal title for the first time.

Reserves and traditional territories

It is also important to note the difference between “reserves” and “traditional territories.” The distinction is once again illustrated by the Indian Act, which designates reserves as a “tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band.” By this definition, reserves are owned by the Crown and make up only a minuscule amount of Canada’s land.

Traditional territories are larger and much more difficult to define. They are the geographic areas that were historically occupied and used by specific First Nations. The traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en, at the centre of this issue, represents approximately 22,000 square kilometres of land that was never ceded through treaty. In other words, there is a significant legal question around ownership of the land on which this pipeline is being built. 

Title is not owned by the Crown; at the very least it is shared with — if not exclusively held by — the Wet’suwet’en Nation under the leadership of the hereditary chiefs. Without their approval, the fact that elected band members had approved construction was essentially irrelevant. 

The general confusion between elected and hereditary leadership, and reserves and traditional territories, has been used to make it appear as though government and industry have Indigenous consent, when they do not. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

The division between elected and hereditary leaders is no accident. It was engineered by Canadian colonial policies that have disrupted traditional ways and is now strategically exploited to enable access to valuable resources.

The general confusion between elected and hereditary leadership, and reserves and traditional territories, has been used to make it appear as though government and industry have Indigenous consent, while casting land protectors as “protestors” who represent a fringe element. Instead of divide and conquer, it is a tactic of divide and deceive.

Back in December, TransCanada Corp. the company behind Coastal GasLink, applied for an received an injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court to continue work on the pipeline. On the surface, it seemed like a straightforward legal enforcement order. But it did not acknowledge the historical colonial context of the situation, the difference between governance systems within Indigenous communities, or the distinction between reserve lands and traditional territory.

Furthermore, it didn’t consider that the federal and provincial governments approved the pipeline without obtaining “free prior and informed consent” from the hereditary Wet’suwet’en title holders, in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), by which both governments have promised to abide.

Authority over the land

The hereditary chiefs, who won recognition of their title through the Delgamuukw case, assert sovereignty over the traditional territories that this pipeline aims to pass through. So, when they stand upon their territory and refuse to allow Coastal GasLink and the RCMP onto their lands, by their traditional laws, they are the authority and their jurisdiction must be respected.

Until this country is willing to listen to their own Supreme Court and recognize hereditary rights and title, these unresolved issues will continue to end in confrontation. The only way forward is for government and industry to follow the principles of UNDRIP and to work with both hereditary and elected leadership. But as long as they are willing to resort to force instead of diplomacy, we haven’t even begun to engage in meaningful reconciliation.

When I hear about the arrest of peaceful land protectors, I think about all the times I’ve heard that colonialism happened “a long time ago.” This is 2019. It never ended. When I see colonial violence in action I grieve not only for those brave people who stand peacefully as they are overwhelmed on their own lands, but also for future generations who will be forced to pay for our hubris. 


This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.

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John Summers: How Ottawa lawyer mocked motherhood and society, reveals new book

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An Ottawa based lawyer from a leading law firm has been entangled in a web of controversy due to his action, which many have described has shocking and inhumane.

Despite claiming to uphold justice, human rights and societal values, John Summers, a lawyer at Bell Baker LLP, is a clear-cut example of just how broken the legal system in Canada is. It appears that Summers and his firm for years now have been exploiting a disturbed senior citizens  with chronic health conditions in his continuous abuse of his wife, for financial gains.

Summers has consistently stood in the way of justice by fabricating numerous lies. Resorting to lies in an attempt to hinder justice is an action that is heavily frowned upon by ethical legal practitioners. But Dezrin continued to suffer domestic abuse due to Summers’ action which had preventing her son, Raymond from seeing his own mother.

Summers’ actions since February 2016 has now resulted in the reported premature death of Dezrin Carby-Samuels who had been an RN who was selflessly dedicated to serving both her family and every community that she had lived.

Raymond and his mother, Dezrin, had sought the intervention of the law courts as a last resort in their quest for justice after Dezrin has been consistently abused by her husband, Horace and her daughter, Marcella. Rather than getting the fair hearing and justice that they expected, they received the direct opposite due to Summers apparently employing every dirty trick in the book. He has resorted to lies and illicit collaboration with judges of him alma mata just to inhibit every effort being made by Dezrin and her son.

In a book titled John Summers: The Untold Story of Corruption, Systemic Racism and Evil at Bell Baker LLP, author Peter Tremblay takes readers on a shocking journey into John Summers’ tactics which lacked ethical properiety and human decency.

Summers is proof that the ethical practices associated with the legal profession is quickly fading and it is a course for concern. In the case against Horace, Summers produced an apparent fraudulent affidavit which claimed that Raymond suffers from a mental condition—an entirely false claim. Lawyers like Summers are willing to go any length in an attempt to hinder justice, even if it leads to the destruction of lives and properties.

Summers falsely claimed that his client, Horace couldn’t file a defence for himself because he was unaware of the adopted court proceedings. However, in the early 1900s, Horace was the same one who showed so much confidence in his legal capabilities that he decided not to hire a legal counsel but represent himself during a lawsuit between his union and the Canadian Government. This act is contradictory to Summers’ claim of his poor legal understanding.

As humans, some certain moral ethics and values set us apart from other living things and one of them is showing respect for elders. Lawyers are respected in the society due to their pledge to always ensure justice prevails but Summers’ apparent greed and love for money have made him violate the human rights of an ailing mother and her son.

Peter Tremblay’s book uncovers untold stories of a corrupt system that accommodates abuse in the most inhumane form.  In Canada’s legal system, empathy and compassion were thrown out the door in exchange for money and an unknown demomic agenda. It begs the question: How then are aggrieved citizens supposed to trust a legal system for justice when a lawyer can tell unending lies against a senior citizen without any consequences or accountability?

The Law Society of Upper Canada which is supposed to regulate the legal profession in Ontario is a complete joke run by similarly corrupt lawyers who ignore the misdeeds of their colleagues.

Summers’ actions have led to Dezrin being unable to do anything since she lost her ability to walk, talk or even write due to abuse and ultimately her premature death.

Her inability to receive help from even her own son due to Summers’ fraudulent activities resulted in the destruction of Dezrin Carby-Samuels and for that reason Summers should be barred from the further practice of law anywhere in Canada.

In my view, Summers is an abomination to the legal profession and Peter Tremblay’s book documents the activities of John Summers since 2016 against three judges who where not from Summers’ alma mata and who sought justice for Dezrin and her son.

Since 2016, Dezrin had sought obtain freedom from forcible confinement imposed by her abusive husband but was unsuccessful, due to the interference Summers who refused to divulge who was in fact paying him reportedly $300/hr to frustrate justice.

Reports from credible sources allege that Dezrin passed away sometime last year due to Summers’ evil practices and this report has cast a dark cloud over the future of the legal system in Canada which had been ignoring the plight of other black Canadians.

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City staff propose ‘gold belt’ to hem in future Ottawa development

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The City of Ottawa is about to have a second marathon debate about where to allow future suburbs to be built, and this time staff propose hemming in development by creating what’s being dubbed the “gold belt.”

Eight months after city council decided to expand the urban boundary by 1,281 hectares to help house a growing population, senior city planners have released the map of which properties should be developed — and which property owners stand to see values soar if their lands are rezoned. 

They include areas north of Kanata on March Road, near the future Bowesville O-Train station in the south end, and at the southern edge of Orléans.

Scoring rural properties on such things as how close they are to transit and how costly it would be to build pipes and roads proved a challenge over the past several months, however.

“The easy land has been gobbled up in years past, in previous boundary expansions,” said Coun. Scott Moffatt, who belongs to a group of councillors that meets about the new official plan. “So now we’re looking at those leftover pieces and where we can [grow], knowing council was clear we would not be touching agricultural lands.”

270 hectares short of goal

Staff struggled to come up with all 1,281 hectares council approved adding in May 2020 because they had too many issues with “sub-optimal” lands.

Instead, they recommended converting 1,011 hectares of rural land to urban for now to meet provincial requirements, and then spending the next five years studying three options for making up the 270-hectare shortfall.

That opens the door to creating an entirely new suburb. 

For instance, one option involves a huge parcel near the Amazon warehouse southeast of the city where the Algonquins of Ontario envision a community of 35,000 to 45,000 people called Tewin, which they would build with developers Taggart.

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How an Ottawa woman built a majestic snow dragon in her front yard

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OTTAWA — You may sometimes feel winter drag on, but one Ottawa woman is not letting that dim her creativity.

Dr. Mary Naciuk is family doctor and rural emergency room physician. She spent some of her free time this weekend building a majestic snow dragon in front of her south Ottawa home.

“It’s just fun to get outside and do something creative,” she told CTV News on Sunday.

There was plenty of snow to use, after Ottawa saw a record 21 cm of snow on Saturday.

She said that after her husband cleared the driveway, the pile of snow left behind lent itself to being turned into a magnificent dragon, but it takes more than just the right kind of snow to make a sculpture like this.

Naciuk tells CTV News a shovel, a butter knife, a spoon and even a blowtorch were used to give the dragon its sharp edges and defined scales.

“Anything pointy with a small detail is really hard to do with just your fingers or the butter knife and spoon I was using, so (the blowtorch) just makes a fine point,” she said.

Her son tweeted about it on Saturday and Naciuk says many people have stopped to take a look.

My mom has reached the pass me a blowtorch and shovel and watch me make a snow dragon stage of the pandemic

(I was only allowed to shovel piles of snow) pic.twitter.com/aphZotpHiC — Tom Naciuk (@NaciukThomas) January 16, 2021

“A lot of people stop on their way to the ice rink and have a look and take pictures. It’s kind of fun,” she said.

It was a welcome relief to spend some time working on something creative outdoors, Naciuk said.

“Get outside, get some exercise, clear your mind, do something that is not COVID for a few hours. It obeys all the rules. It was great,” she said, adding that the dragon took her about five hours to build.

She’s been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for months. 

“It’s been a steep learning curve. It’s been exhausting,” she said. “A lot of the time is learning how to deliver care to people and maintain all the precautions that we need to. That’s been hard. A lot of people are not able to work from time to time, so we fill a lot of extra shifts. It’s been a lot more hours of work than it used to be, that’s for sure.”

Naciuk returns to work on Monday after a weekend of respite but says if the conditions are right—a nice mild day, a good snowfall, and some free time—another sculpture may well appear.

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