An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE LNG PIPELINE dispute in Wet’suwet’en traditional territory continues to draw protests elsewhere despite a truce at the site.
Those who oppose the pipeline talk about how governments and police are ignoring the wishes of the Wet’suwet’en “people.” They talk about how “heavily armed RCMP” roughed up peaceful protesters at the blockade.
But, as a broader examination of the situation evolves, we know at least one Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief supports the pipeline. We also know many more elected bands and councils along the route, including the elected band council of the Wet’suwet’en, support the pipeline because of economic benefits.
The issue of hereditary vs. elected leaders is confusing to most British Columbians, who have been raised on democratic principles and had thought hereditary power was a thing of the past. Certainly, the current model of elected chiefs and councils among First Nations was introduced by colonials.
However, I’m highly skeptical that the elective system had, as claimed by B.C. cabinet minister Jennifer Rice, the “historic intention of annihilating Canada’s First Peoples.”
And Premier John Horgan had to issue a formal clarification of his remark about “the emerging hereditary model” in Wet’suwet’en territory. He meant, he said, “re-emerging.”
It would be easy to say elected indigenous leaders should have the final say over hereditary leaders but that’s not practical in this environment of confusion over who speaks for First Nations.
I like the way Burns Lake Chief Dan George approaches the issue. Referring to what he calls “economic reconciliation,” he concludes, “‘No’ is no longer the only answer.”
In other words, “compromise” should be a bigger part of our vocabulary. If only those who insist their way is the only way could see that.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.