Canada’s military assault against the Wet'suwet'en nation, the RCMP’s media blackout of the forceful removal of leaders from their land, and the access given to private contractors while the nation’s members were barred is only the latest example of how this country has failed Indigenous peoples and violated their sovereignty. Canada has shown its true colours as a violent petro-state, controlled by corporate interests and perpetuating colonialism for private gains.
Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline will be built despite massive opposition from local municipalities, the government of British Columbia, and citizens, but the army was not brought in against them, and B.C.’s premier, John Horgan, was not forcefully removed. Canada has a particular willingness to trample First Nations’ rights.
When Alberta was campaigning for Trans Mountain, it imposed a boycott against B.C. wine and threatened to cut B.C. off from its oil and gas supply as well as threatening inspections of trucks transporting goods from BC at the border between the provinces. Notley even went as far as to as to request that the federal government “withhold [health] transfer payments from the Horgan NDP in Victoria.”
This last measure is less of an economic scare tactic than an attack on the well-being of the most vulnerable people of B.C. While federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau refused to rule out such a measure, none of the threats were carried through. This is another clear indication of the double standard in Canada, and lack of respect for the sovereignty of Indigenous nations. Canada continues to put the interests of citizens and the rights of Indigenous peoples second to those of international oil companies.
Trudeau likes to claim that Canada supports nation-to-nation discussions on important issues, that Indigenous peoples are consulted and that their voices are heard and included in the decision-making process. This is at best a patronizing farce meant to invalidate any future objections. In an emergency meeting between Alberta, B.C., and Canada, Indigenous leaders were never considered for inclusion. As a colonial power, Canada continues to redefine Indigenous peoples’ power in whatever way is most advantageous and convenient to the private interests of the rich.
Canada and its constitution have failed Canadians and Indigenous peoples. Self-determination is a fundamental value of democracy. Ordinary people must have control over the decisions that concern them. We cannot be democrats and accept that the Canadian federation can force the will of oil companies on the peoples of Canada, who are speaking and acting out against this project and others like it.
There is only one solution. We need a Peoples’ Assembly to talk about sovereignty, not just for Quebec, but for Indigenous peoples. We need a new arrangement for people outside of the major power centres of Ottawa and Bay Street to ensure that Canadians can protect their drinking water without their access to health care being threatened.
The only party calling for such an assembly is Quebec Solidaire. As anglophones, we can force this dialogue to reflect the fundamental problems of our society: sovereignty for Indigenous peoples to govern themselves and their land traditionally, power for ordinary people to protect their land, and sovereignty from Ottawa but also from Bay Street and international capitalists.
We have seen that Canada has no interest in the well-being of the people of B.C. and is simply interested in protecting the financial gains of private capital. It is time to take back the power to protect our government from private interests. It is time to be sovereign and to respect the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. It is time to support Quebec Solidaire’s proposition to put into place a Peoples’ Assembly, write our own new constitution, and choose how we shape our collective future.