In September 2016, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation wrote Trudeau to tell him he was no longer welcome until his bureaucracy started reflecting the promise of reconciliation with First Nations. On Saturday, August 5, 2017 Trudeau showed up in Tofino before his vacation, within Tla-o-qui-aht territory. First he met with municipal and regional leaders, and then with First Nation leaders. In the spirit of reconciliation and healing, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation welcomed Trudeau back into the territory. After the meeting, Trudeau began a two-week family vacation in Tofino.
During Trudeau’s visit it was unusually smoky due to BC’s forest fires in the interior that have now burned together to create a single blaze that is 4,700 square kilometres in size, the largest fire ever recorded in BC. Over the past four decades, the area burned by forest fires in Canada has increased as summer season temperatures have warmed. Climate change is real.
But prior to vacationing, Trudeau has been busy justifying the expansion of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline, breaking his commitments to Indigenous rights, while declaring a war on the climate and coastal ecosystems. The Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project would release 100 million tonnes of carbon annually, negating climate commitments made by the Canadian government at the UN Climate Summit in Paris. The pipeline would also mean 400 tankers a year, putting communities and ecosystems at much greater risk of catastrophic oil spills.
On Friday, August 18, 2017 I was hanging out with some friends at Cox Bay in Tofino within Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation territory when I look over to notice Justin Trudeau sitting there on his vacation. As I approached, he refused to talk with me, so I shared some ideas with him. I told him reconciliation is more than just talk and that free, prior, and informed consent with Indigenous Nations is essential. I told him the water, he was on vacation to surf, needs to be protected. I told him an oil spill would ruin what he was there to appreciate.
When I confronted Trudeau he was quick to call security, but when environmental disasters occur in BC, federal government inaction is the unfortunate norm. Three years prior to Trudeau’s vacation, the Mount Polley mine disaster spilled millions of cubic metres of toxic mining waste into the precious salmon spawning grounds of Fraser River watershed. Imperial Metals, the company behind the tragedy, still faces no federal charges and is now looking to build two more mines in Clayoquot Sound where Trudeau vacationed.
For the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline, the government of Canada does not have the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and communities, consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to which Canada is a signatory, and to which Trudeau has committed. Trudeau’s approval of the pipeline is a betrayal of International Law as there has been no treaty or purchase of the lands from the Indigenous Nations. Not only is Trudeau on the wrong side of history promoting the pipeline, but Canada actually has no jurisdiction to approve the pipeline.
To even consider using RCMP forces against the people of the Indigenous Nations asserting their inherent jurisdiction and title over their own territories is an dangerous violation of the Nation to Nation relationship. The use of intimidation and force as a method to settle land claims in favour of the Canadian government is contrary to the creation of a healthy and just partnership between Nations. If Indigenous people are prevented from asserting their rights to sovereignty, true reconciliation cannot occur.
After our interaction, Trudeau vacated the area quickly while I stayed, internalizing the power of the elements. I stood firm upon the Earth which I raised my voice to defend and he was visibly shaken. I answer to a natural law, while he’s upholding a lie that can’t handle the truth.
Since our interaction, Justin Trudeau has been on a media campaign to assist Kinder Morgan. His speeches have eluded to using tax payer money for bailout insurance and even the military in attempt to intimidate land and water protectors. By threatening to erect the Kinder Morgan pipeline which has no consent from local Indigenous Nations and communities, including Victoria, Vancouver, and Burnaby, his rhetoric perpetuates resource colonialism, climate change inaction, & rape culture.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline is becoming a more high risk investment by the day, bad for investors, and especially bad for Canada. Now, Trudeau, like Canada, is now at a cross roads: to continue with a rigid system of aggressive resource extraction, colonial violence, and environmental destruction; or to embrace natural law by making reconciliation with Indigenous Nations the highest priority. It seems that after 150 years, Canada still has an enormous amount to learn from First Nations related to living more harmoniously with the environment and each other.