Statements

ECHO Canada unequivocally and absolutely condemns the anti-Asian attacks in Atlanta

STATEMENT + RESOURCES | Written by Jasmyne Eastmond, Tasfia Ahsan, Anna Mylvaganam, Anya Elias

April, 2021

ECHO Canada unequivocally and absolutely condemns the anti-Asian attacks that occurred in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16, 2021. Our hearts go out to the families impacted as we recognize, honour, and mourn those lost in this senseless massacre.

  • Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33

  • Xiaojie Tan, 49

  • Daoyou Feng, 44

  • Hyun Jung Grant, 51

  • Paul Andre Michels, 54

  • Yong Ae Yue, 63

  • Suncha Kim, 69

  • Soon Chung Park, 74

While anti-Asian racism has increased over the past year due to discriminatory views of the current pandemic, these forms of racism remain grounded in historical, social and systemic contexts. We strengthen our resolve to actively advocate against racism, enhance intercultural understanding, and facilitate a safe, zero-tolerance space for our community. In doing so, ECHO Canada will continue to provide educational resources to combat ignorance; we are also taking steps to create a database where any and all resources we have provided are easily available and accessible. Furthermore, we will continue to push an open dialogue on systemic inequities and racial discrimination through AFTERTHOUGHTS and our monthly Community Chats to encourage intercultural understanding and support our community.

Resources

ECHO Canada intends for the following resources to provide an insight into the historical and current manifestations of discrimination specifically and uniquely experienced by North American Asian communities. These intersectional resources are meant to centre minority voices and recognize the diverse and complex range of issues faced by these peoples in order to disrupt harmful perpetuations of white supremacy, colonialism and capitalism. The following resources are not all-encompassing and do not stand alone. ECHO Canada intends for these resources to be used in addition to personal research, individual introspection, and active engagement with the stories of Asian Canadian and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

TRIGGER WARNING: The following resources carry some sensitive material including but not limited to mentions of trauma, racial discrimination, and violence against women. Please read at your own discretion. If you require support at any time, please call the National Suicide Prevention Support Line at 1-833-456-4566 or click here to find more local resources.

Historical Context in Canada

Information Specific to Events in Georgia

Information specific to events in Canada

Books

  • All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

  • America For Americans: A History Of Xenophobia In The United States by Erika Lee

  • Asian American Dreams: The Emergence Of an American People by Helen Zia

  • China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston

  • Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown by Nayan Shah

  • From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo

  • I Hotel, by Karen Tei Yamashita

  • Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics by Lisa Lowe

  • It Began With a Page by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad

  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

  • Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee

  • Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture by Robert G. Lee

  • The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority by Ellen D. Wu

  • The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee

  • The Myth of the Model Minority by Rosalind S. Chou and Joe R. Feagin

  • This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

  • Trouble on Main Street: Mackenzie King, Reason, Race, and the 1907 Vancouver Riots by Julie F. Gilmour

  • Voices Rising: Asian Canadian Cultural Activism by Xiaoping Li

  • We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang

  • Yellow: Race In America Beyond Black and White by Frank H. Wu

  • Yellow Peril! edited by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats

Actionable Items & Next Steps

Here’s what ECHO Canada is committed to doing to stop anti-Asian racism and support the Asian community. Join us. Take action.

Speak Up

    • AAPI provides tips on how to speak up if you are experiencing a hate crime. Amongst them is to speak up if it is safe, to listen to the targeted person's wishes and to ignore the attacker. Following the attack, offer emotional help and seek emotional help yourself once you are ready.

    • For bystander intervention training: ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention

Report Hateful Incidents

Respectfully Check in with Friends, Peers, & Colleagues

  • This can be a difficult time for members of the Asian community. Reach out to your friends and colleagues and ask what you can do to support them.

  • However, do not expect friends/peers/colleagues to educate you on the matter. Take some time to use the resources above as a starting point to educate yourself.

Learn About the History of Discrimination Against the Asian Community

    • It is important to understand the history of the Asian community both in Canada and North America in general

    • Learn about the model minority myth and internalized racism

    • Learn the history of sinophobic imperialism and its role in creating anti-Asian sentiment

Support Asian-Owned businesses and Community Members

Asian-owned businesses have been affected by the pandemic and the current climate. If you can, support the businesses and artists in your community, amplify their voices, and share ways in which you can support them. Here are some to get you started:

  • The Downtown East Side Women’s Centre provides a safe space within the Downtown East Side (Vancouver, BC) exclusively for self-identified women and their children. The centre provides practical support to over 500 women, children and seniors, including (but not limited to) their Chinese Seniors Outreach Program

  • SWAN Vancouver provides culturally-specialized supports and advocacy to im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work

  • The Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice supports youth and low-income immigrant seniors in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside (Vancouver, BC) through intergenerational relationship building and by helping seniors overcome language and cultural barriers to services that meet their basic needs

  • The WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre provides support services to survivors of sexualized violence who have shared experiences of gender marginalization: cis and trans women, Two-Spirit, trans and/or non-binary people

  • Red Canary Song is the only grassroots Chinese massage parlour worker coalition in the U.S. who also organize transnationally with Asian sex workers across the diaspora in Toronto, Paris, and Hong Kong

Consider What Justice for Asian Populations Looks Like in Your Profession

  • Make space for Asian ways of knowing and being without viewing the Asian experience as a monolith

Further Suggestions and Recommendations

ECHO CANADA STANDS IN SOLIDARITY WITH MI'KMAQ LOBSTER FISHERIES AND CALLS FOR THE RESPECT OF TREATY RIGHTS

STATEMENT + RESOURCES | Written by Jasmyne Eastmond, Tasfia Ahsan, Anna Mylvaganam, Anya Elias

The words we wrote in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Peoples continue to ring true months later as persistent colonial hegemony continues to be on full display in Canada. On September 17, 2020, the Sipekne'katik First Nation sought to exercise their Treaty rights and launched a self-regulated lobster fishery in Nova Scotia. They were quickly met with hate and vitriol by non-Indigenous commercial lobster fishers who waved the Acadian flag as they harassed Indigenous boats, cut traps, destroyed catches, and even set a lobster pound on fire.

We've Been Here Before

They say that those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and this statement feels particularly relevant now. In 1993, Mi'kmaq fisher Donald Marshall Jr. set off to catch eels. While he did not have a license and was fishing in the off-season, Marshall was exercising his Treaty Rights to catch eels and sell them as a means to support himself and his family. He was arrested for catching and selling without a license and for fishing in the off-season. A multiyear legal battle ensued; R. v. Marshall [1999] eventually concluded following a decision from the Supreme Court, and affirmed the rights of Mi'kmaq fisheries to fish 'wherever and whenever they want' in order to sustain a 'moderate livelihood'.

Despite the fact that both Indigenous and Treaty Rights have been affirmed time and time again through both case law and in the Constitution Act [1982], settlers in Canada continue to consistently disrespect Indigenous Peoples through malicious intent or sheer ignorance. Nonetheless, it is not incidental. If you're like us, growing up in Canada, you were taught the history of colonizers and oppressors; unfortunately, for many, the colonial ideologies we were fed as children continue to inform their treatment of this land’s Indigenous Peoples.

The deeply-rooted nature of this issue means that there are a multitude of systemic and social factors at play, and there is no easy path to justice and sovereignty. To work towards sovereignty and justice as adults, we must take time to learn how to decolonize ourselves together and learn the history of the oppressed. Commit to educating yourself on the history of colonization; teach yourself what you don't know and un-learn the myths that you have been conditioned to believe and praise. By educating yourself, you fight against the perpetuation of colonial ideologies. ECHO Canada thus calls for actions beyond tolerance and reconciliation, and for the honouring of Treaty Rights.

Resources

Silence, ignorance, and inaction fuel colonialism; speak out about what you learn. If you see injustice, call it out. Here are some places to start your process of learning & unlearning:

TRIGGER WARNING: the following educational resources carry some sensitive material including but not limited to mentions of trauma, racial discrimination, and violence against women. Please read at your own discretion. If you require support at any time, please call the National Suicide Prevention Support Line at 1-833-456-4566, the KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717 (toll-free) / 1-250-723-4050 (adults/Elders) / 1-250-723-2040 (child/youth), or click here to find more local resources.

Books

Courses

Videos & Movies

  • The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open - Directed by Elle-Maijia Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn, this movie tells the story of two Indigenous women who find their worlds colliding in East Vancouver as they navigate the ongoing legacy of colonialism

  • There's Something in the Water - Directed by Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, this movie explores the disproportionate effect of environmental damage on Black Canadian and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia (also available as a book, link above)

  • CBC LIVE Q&A: Indigenous incarceration rates - Hosted by Lenard Monkman, this video examines why are Canada’s numbers of Indigenous incarcerations are so high and what can be done about it

  • Lawyer's Interview on MMIWG - Pam Palmater, a Mi'kmaw lawyer (Eel River Bar First Nation) and Chair of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, weighs in on Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women & Girls in Canada in an interview with Greg Macdougall of Equitable Education Media

  • Yes RCMP, You are Racist - Hosted by Palm Palmater, this video addresses the RCMP's dismissal of systemic racism and brutality, and also discusses why staying silent is not an option

Podcasts

  • All My Relations - Hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), this podcast explores Indigenous relationships to land, animals, and each other

  • Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo - Hosted by Connie Walker (Okanese First Nation), this podcast aims to uncover the truth of what happened to a young Cree child who was taken by child welfare workers in the '70s

  • Red Man Laughing (and Stories from the Land) - Hosted by Ryan McMahon (Couchiching First Nation), this podcast hosts much-needed and forward-looking conversations regarding the collisions between Indigenous and mainstream cultures - Hosted by Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation) of Crooked Media, this podcast investigates the assassination of a Cherokee leader and a murder case from the '90s, and how these cases may impact an upcoming Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma

  • This Land - Hosted by Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation) of Crooked Media, this podcast investigates the assassination of a Cherokee leader and a murder case from the '90s, and how these cases may impact an upcoming Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma

Actionable Items & Next Steps

ECHO Canada is committed to continuously supporting Indigenous communities across Canada. Join us. Take action.

Question Colonial Narratives

  • Educate yourself: the resources above provide a good starting point

  • Reflect: question your thoughts, actions, and internal biases

    • How have government bodies portrayed or positioned themselves in relationship to Indigenous Peoples of Canada? Consider:

      • What does meaningful consultation look like?

      • How do institutions co-opt decolonial language in reporting?

      • What recent tales have you been told that contradict the presence of the RCMP in Indigneous communities? In what ways have these communities been silenced and how can you access Indigneous narratives of recent history?

    • What does settler solidarity for indigenous land defenders look like for someone of your positionality?

    • Meaningfully reflect on the land that you’re on, and consider what steps you can take to ensure the land is returned to its peoples

Sign Petitions or Directly Contact Elected Officials

Support Indigenous-led Resistance

LEARNING AND UNLEARNING: IT TAKES MORE THAN JUST A LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.

STATEMENT + RESOURCES | Written by Jasmyne Eastmond


(Edited and adapted by Tasfia Ahsan) July 1, 2020

The celebration of days such as Canada Day reinforce colonial traditions and are rooted in discriminatory actions. Instead, let's take the time to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse culture, and outstanding contributions of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. For instance, learn the significance of storytelling and potlatches to Indigenous culture, celebrate Indigenous art and artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie and Ray Henry Vickers, and learn about the Indigenous origins of lacrosse.

While enjoying Indigenous cultures and contributions, we ask you to ensure that you educate yourself on colonial impacts on Indigenous peoples and their cultures, and reflect on how colonial violence and control remain deeply ingrained in Canadian institutions and societies. If you are surprised while exploring Indigenous culture and history, ask yourself why.

Ignorance breeds racism and violence, and this ignorance is not accidental. If you're like us, you were taught the history of the colonizers and oppressors as students. We were taught that individuals like Jacques Cartier, who established the first sustained colony in Stadacona (present day settler city of Quebec City), are to be celebrated for 'conquering' and 'exploring' the land. No one told us how those same individuals violated Indigenous culture. Cartier himself several kidnapped Indigenous individuals, including Chief Donnacona of the Stadaconian Nation, to take back to France, never to be allowed to return home.

Colonial ideologies continue to run rampant, and Indigenous peoples continue to be consistently disrespected to this day. The deeply-rooted nature of this issue means that there are a multitude of systemic and social factors at play, and there is no easy path to justice and sovereignty. To work towards sovereignty and justice as adults, we must take time to learn how to decolonize ourselves together and learn the history of the oppressed. Commit to educating yourself on the history of colonization; teach yourself what you don't know and un-learn the myths that you have been conditioned to believe and praise. By educating yourself, you fight against the perpetuation of colonial ideologies.

Remember: Silence fuels colonialism. ECHO Canada calls for actions beyond tolerance and reconciliation; speak out about what you learn. If you see injustice, call it out. Here are some places to start your process of learning & unlearning:


TRIGGER WARNING: the following educational resources carry some sensitive material including but not limited to mentions of trauma, racial discrimination, and violence against women. Please read at your own discretion. If you require support at any time, please call the National Suicide Prevention Support Line at 1-833-456-4566, the KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717 (toll free) / 1-250-723-4050 (adults/Elders) / 1-250-723-2040 (child/youth), or click here to find more local resources.


Books

Courses

  • FREE course from the University of Alberta: Indigenous Canada; explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada

  • Check out Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. for training and free resources in areas including Indigenous consultation and engagement

Videos & Movies

    • The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open - Directed by Elle-Maijia Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn, this movie tells the story of two Indigenous women who find their worlds colliding in East Vancouver as they navigate the ongoing legacy of colonialism

    • There's Something in the Water - Directed by Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, this movie explores the disproportionate effect of environmental damage on Black Canadian and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia (also available as a book, link above)

    • CBC LIVE Q&A: Indigenous incarceration rates - Hosted by Lenard Monkman, this video examines why are Canada’s numbers of Indigenous incarcerations are so high and what can be done about it

    • Lawyer's Interview on MMIWG - Pam Palmater, a Mi'kmaw lawyer (Eel River Bar First Nation) and Chair of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, weighs in on Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women & Girls in Canada in an interview with Greg Macdougall of Equitable Education Media

    • Yes RCMP, You are Racist - Hosted by Palm Palmater, this video addresses the RCMP's dismissal of systemic racism and brutality, and also discusses why staying silent is not an option

Podcasts

  • All My Relations - Hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), this podcast explores Indigenous relationships to land, animals, and each other

  • Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo - Hosted by Connie Walker (Okanese First Nation), this podcast aims to uncover the truth of what happened to a young Cree child who was taken by child welfare workers in the 70's

  • Red Man Laughing (and Stories from the Land) - Hosted by Ryan McMahon (Couchiching First Nation), this podcast hosts much-needed and forward-looking conversations regarding the collisions between Indigenous and mainstream cultures - Hosted by Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation) of Crooked Media, this podcast investigates the assasination of a Cherokee leader and a murder case from the 90's, and how these cases may impact an upcoming Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma

  • This Land - Hosted by Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation) of Crooked Media, this podcast investigates the assasination of a Cherokee leader and a murder case from the 90's, and how these cases may impact an upcoming Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma

RESPECT FOR AND SUPPORT OF THE CURRENT PROTESTS ACCOMPANY RECOGNITION AND CELEBRATION OF THE 1969 STONEWALL RIOTS.

STATEMENT | Written by Jasmyne Eastmond


June 1, 2020

This June, we must stand with one another. Show up for one another.

Respect for and support of the current Black Lives Matter protests accompany the recognition and celebration of the 11969 Stonewall Riots. And vice versa.

We celebrate Pride Month because American gay liberation activists Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, and numerous other members of the LGBTQIA2+ community had the courage to stand up for their rights, the strength ot fight back against discriminatory police brutality, and the support to ignite the modern LGBTQIA2+ movement.

On June 28, 1969, police raided Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village and a gathering place for young members of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. Apprehended patrons resisted their arrest and bystanders began throwing items at police officers. Neighbourhood riots broke out and last for six days.

In his article 'What Made Stonewall Different', David Carter writes that "Compared to earlier events [those of the gay rights movement], Stonewall was of a different order: it was the only sustained uprising, lasting six days; it was the only one that involved thousands of people; it was the only one that got much media coverage..."

On June 28, 1970, Christopher Street Liberation Day marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the first Pride Parade in American history.

Pride Month honours an uprising against police violence and discrimination. From the Stonewall Riots came the beginnings of the modern LGBTQIA2+ movement - the formation of organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance.

"Active anti-racism doesn't end when the riots end. Anti-racism is a mindful, constant, uncomfortable, ongoing practice - one that must continue even and especially when we enter queer spaces." - Joseph Zita (@josephzita)

COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT.

STATEMENT | Written by Tasfia Ahsan, Jasmyne Eastmond, Anna Mylvaganam


March 13, 2020

In response to the growing concern over COVID-19, we are writing to communicate how ECHO Canada is responding at this time.

As of today, March 13, 2020, the pandemic has been reported in over 100 countries. Based on the information from the Office of the Provincial Medical Health Officer, BC Centre for Disease Control, and Ministry of Health, ECHO Canada is currently suspending all in-person meetings + events effective immediately. All communication will be moved online, including any meetings scheduled; we appreciate your support as the directors work with chapter executives to make this transition. Chapter executives will continue to communicate with their teams as to next steps.

We encourage everyone to be informed about COVID-19. The virus is transmitted “through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces, or objects.” You can play a part in helping prevent the spread of colds, flu, and viruses. The advice from health agencies is:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and water.

  • If a sink is not available, 60-90% alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizer) can be used to clean hands if they are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, you can use an alcohol-based disposable hand wipe to remove the dirt and then use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Do not touch your face/eyes/mouth with unwashed hands.

  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or the crease of your elbow, and then wash your hands.

  • Stay home when you are ill to avoid spreading the illness to others.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick with an infection.

An additional reminder for our members + volunteers: while young adults, which is largely what our organization is made of, are at low risk, we encourage you to take care not just for your safety but for the safety of those around you. Those around you, such as the elderly or the sick, are very susceptible to the disease, and rely on the people around them to help keep them safe.

We are monitoring the situation and will continue to evolve our response as required. Thank you for your continued commitment to ECHO Canada. We appreciate your understanding. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions and concerns.

STATEMENT + RESOURCES | Written by Tasfia Ahsan, Jasmyne Eastmond, Anna Mylvaganam


March 9, 2020

Colonialism seems like a word of the past, as something taught to us in grade school history classes from the perspectives of those who colonized the land. We are often left praising colonizers while outspoken individuals who fight for the rights of their people, those similar in character to Louis Riel, are dismissed as rebels. When we are finally made aware of the unfavourable truths of our colonial history, colonialism is referred to as a thing of the past — not applicable to the current status of our seemingly globalized, multicultural world. The historically oppressed have more rights now, so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, colonialism is present, alive, and well, with its effects reaching farther than they superficially appear.

Recently, the true threat of persistent colonialism hegemony has been on full display. On February 6, 2020, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) enforced an injunction granted by British Columbia’s Supreme Court to TC Energy, the company behind the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project, to clear unceded Wet’suwet’en traditional land. Militarized police armed with dogs, night vision, and automatic weapons conducted an early-morning raid and arrested six land defenders from the Unist’ot’en Camp. It has been reported that the tents occupied by the individuals arrested were not in violation of the injunction area. Subsequently, protests have broken out throughout the nation in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people.

So, who are the Wet’suwet’en people?

The Wet’suwet’en Nation covers 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory in the Northwestern Central Interior of British Columbia (outside of the village of Burns Lake). There are nine Wet’suwet’en First Nation reserves within the Wet’suwet’en Nation. These reserves were created by the federal government under the Indian Act (1876) and are listed on the Wet’suwet’en First Nation website.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation follows a “Custom Electoral System” (see “Hereditary vs. Band Chiefs'', below). The Wet’suwet’en Nation includes both elected bands within the colonial system of governance and a traditional hereditary clan system. Five of the six elected band councils within the Wet’suwet’en Nation have signed in agreement with CGL. The traditional hereditary system followed by the Wet’suwet’en people has five clans with two to three houses per clan — a total of thirteen houses; nine of these houses are occupied by hereditary chiefs. Eight of the nine hereditary chiefs have opposed the CGL pipeline. Under the Indian Act (1876), elected band councils are expected to administer and maintain reserves while hereditary chiefs assert jurisdiction over the broader Wet’suwet’en Nation, including the protection of traditional territory lands.

It is important to keep in mind that the Wet’suwet’en people are protectors and defenders of the land, NOT protestors. Referring to the Wet’suwet’en people as protestors delegitimizes the opinions, beliefs, culture, and rightful responsibility of First Nations people to protect the land that is legally theirs (see below). As settlers, we have a responsibility to abstain from undermining First Nations’ objections to development on their land. Diminishing the refusals of First Nations peoples reduces legitimate Nationhood positions to mainstream Canadian activism and stunts effective support.

Hereditary vs. Band Chiefs

Indigenous peoples had been practicing their own forms of government for millennia before the arrival of settlers to the Dominion of Canada. Colonial laws have since attempted to displace the traditional governance systems of First Nations communities with direct impositions on self-governing Indigenous groups, leaving these communities accountable to the Canadian federal government. The Indian Act (1876), implemented as part of a post-Confederation assimilation policy, enforced (and continues to enforce) a colonial governance system on First Nation communities. First Nations subject to the Indian Act must follow “band government” or “band leadership”, under which each First Nation is represented by a council chaired by an elected chief. The Government of Canada requires First Nations communities to follow one of four election systems in the selection of its chief(s) and councillors:

      1. Following the electoral provisions of the 1876 Indian Act

      2. Opting-in to the 2014 First Nations Elections Act

      3. Through a self-government agreement

      4. Through adoption of a community leadership selection process called “band custom” or “custom election code”

Under the Indian Act, the Government of Canada (specifically the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC)) plays a massive role in the electoral system by approving the appointment of First Nation electoral officers, training and supporting electoral officers to ensure the maintenance of election rules, and dealing with election appeals.

According to the Government of Canada, the “custom election code... [permits] a First Nation that holds its elections under the Indian Act election system [to] develop its own community election code and ask the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (now the Departments of CIRNAC and Indigenous Services Canada) to issue an order that removes the First Nation from the application of the act’s electoral provisions." In simpler terms, and to the understanding of the authors of this statement, as long as the chief and council members are elected following the Indian Act’s rules and regulations, the First Nation is no longer required to apply the conditions and requirements of the Indian Act in their electoral processes. Custom election codes are most popular in Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

While custom systems allow First Nation communities to formulate their own election code and escape the paternalistic Indian Act, federal requirements must be met before final approval — again, imposing colonial systems of government on First Nation bands. Band custom does not allow for the reversion to traditional Indigenous leadership selection practices. By definition of the Government of Canada, custom refers to community-designed electoral codes rather than "hereditary, clan, or consensual based systems of leadership selection”.

Although custom elections better align with the culture and tradition of First Nations people, custom election codes still maintain western democratic election procedures. True decolonization requires the complete removal of colonial hegemony rather than unguided assimilation into western ideals.

What’s the problem with the RCMP and the land?

To truly get to the crux of the issue in Wet’suwet’en, we need to delve into the legal history of the Dominion of Canada and its treatment of the Indigenous people on unceded Indigenous land. This is by no means a comprehensive overview; for further information please see the supplementary material at the end of this press release.

Part of the issue is regarding who has title over the land that is to be developed, who has jurisdiction, and how the land will be developed. Commonly cited in the uproar around the RCMP’s actions, the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada case of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia ([1997] 3 SCR 1010, #23799) set historic precedent. The judges called for a new trial as the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada found the respondents - “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia and The Attorney General of Canada” - to be prejudiced. As a result, the statements made by the judges in Delgamuukw v. British Columbia are in obiter dictum (incidental expression of opinion, not establishing a precedent). However, the views of the judges in this case were upheld in the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada case Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia ([2014] 2 SCR 257, #34986). Therefore, to the understanding of the authors of this press release, the precedent from the judges in both Delgamuukw v. British Columbia and in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia stands. So, what was the precedent set?

In layman’s terms, and to the understanding of the authors in this press release, the government cannot use Indigenous land in such a way that makes it unusable for future Indigenous generations and their practices. Furthermore, Indigenous people must be consulted on the use of the land, which alone is often not sufficient. Finally, if the title to the land held by Indigenous people is violated, the Indigenous people must be compensated. So do Indigenous people have the title for the land? Robert Hamilton, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Calgary, said in a statement to Aljazeera of the 1997 case:

“The court found that the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs were the rightful holders of title to their unceded territories and recognised that the community's Aboriginal title had not been extinguished.”

So what’s happened here? Given that eight hereditary chiefs have opposed the pipeline and thus no consensus has been achieved from the people who hold the title to the land, it has been suggested that the Government of Canada is ignoring the precedent set by its own courts for the use of unceded territory while continuing its denial of Indigenous rights, and that the Province of British Columbia and TC Energy have not done their due diligence in consulting or working with the Indigenous people most directly affected by the establishment of the CGL pipeline.

Why does it matter?

Think about what you knew about the Wet’suwet’en land protection movement from watching the news or scrolling through social media. Much of the coverage surrounding Wet’suwet’en has been focused on the inconvenience of the protection movement, rather than the cause.

The fundamental issue here, as we see it, is the infringement on Indigenous rights and a continued disrespect for Indigenous rights. Silence fuels colonialism. By standing up for Indigenous rights, we fight back against the perpetuation of colonial ideologies. This is echoed in the land protection movement, where Indigenous youth across the nation have proclaimed that “reconciliation is dead” and have acknowledged that despite what is said, the Dominion of Canada truly has no intention of pursuing true reconciliation. Whatever your opinion on this issue, this sentiment and movement have severely marked the nation’s history. We suspect that the actions of the federal government and the provincial government of British Columbia have likely irreparably damaged relations with the Indigenous people.

What can supporters of Wet’suwet’en do?

First, you can register to volunteer on-site. Organize a call to solidarity groups in the local community by getting in contact with local organizers. Plan a visit to the land (in Houston, BC) and prepare yourself adequately for the visit.

If you aren’t able to visit the Wet’suwet’en land in person, form a supporter group in your local community and brainstorm what you can do. Protest. Occupy government offices and the offices of those financing this project. Pressure the Canadian government through writing, phone-calls, and messages on social media.

Work to educate others. Host a screening of the film ‘Invasion,’ a film about the Unist’ot’en Camp’s advocacy against colonial violence. Reflect on what active decolonization may look like in other spaces.

Donate to the Unist’ot’en Camp to support projects on the territory, aid upcoming legal costs, and help fund the purchases of food and medical supplies.

References

[1] Kestler-D’Amours for Aljazeera: Canada police begin clearing Wet’suwet’en land defender camps

[2] A who's who of the Wet'suwet'en pipeline conflict

[3] Wet’suwet’en First Nation: Our Community: About Wet’suwet’en First Nation: Maps

[4] The Wet'suwet'en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law: An Explainer

[5] Beyond bloodlines: How the Wet’suwet’en hereditary system at the heart of the Coastal GasLink conflict works

[6] The Legal Obligations of Band Councils The Exclusion of Off-Reserve Members from Per-Capita Distributions

[7] Government of Canada: Leadership selection in First Nations

[8] Custom Election Codes for First Nations: A Double-Edged Sword

[9] First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs. Report of the Standing Senate Committee On Aboriginal Peoples

[10] Foresy & Hayday, the Canadian Encyclopedia

[11] Delgamuukw v. British Columbia; Supreme Court of Canada ruling

[12] Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia; Supreme Court of Canada ruling

[13] Kestler-D’Amours for Aljazeera: Understanding the Wet'suwet'en struggle in Canada

[14] APTN News: Trudeau says protesters must respect rule of law, encourages ‘dialogue’ between parties

[15] Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit 2020