Aboriginal Communities in Canada Sabrina Zuniga Denis Tsarev for Truth and Consequences

Do environmental activists respect the rights of aboriginal communities?

February 2020, Sabrina Zuniga and Denis Tsarev

In Canada, as rail disruptions continue across our country, let’s not forget that these actions started with protestors who think they are helping and are speaking for aboriginal communities, but who are only imposing their constructed stereotypes of how they think First Nations should live. They think they know better what each community needs.

The protestors and their sympathizers, many of whom have little connection to First Nations groups, seem to believe that business and industry development do not belong in aboriginal communities. Their conception of aboriginal communities appears to be that of a segregated homogeneous group that should live isolated from the economic and political institutions of the rest of society and should conform to some other and different way of life.

However, as we have seen with the agreements in place in over 20 band councils in British Columbia, with the aboriginal business groups across Canada, and with the individuals speaking out for their communities, many First Nations communities in Canada do not agree with this view of ‘other’.

These rail and road blockades also reveal in the protestors a much bigger misunderstanding, as they claim to be standing up for human rights and fighting against oppression.

The concept of human rights is based on respect for one’s autonomy and self-determination, and freedom from compulsion and discrimination.

Hence, to respect human rights of any people, including the aboriginal peoples, is to respect their self-determination and autonomy and treat them like you would treat yourself. To make them conform to a certain way of living and demand that they should be barred from the economic opportunities available to others, is exactly what oppression and disrespect for human rights look like. We are all free to work at a business, get training in one profession or another, or run a business ourselves. Why should anyone dare to think that some communities should be excluded from this?

Canada is a liberal democracy where we honour and respect people’s self-determination, their elected representatives, and their pursuit of economic opportunities and different careers. Let’s honour this for the First Nations by cheering them on as they make business deals for their communities – just like every other city and community in North America routinely does to bring industry and jobs into their regions.

Watch our video from three months ago, before the blockades started, for our full argument: https://youtu.be/eR_BO7U9NzU

“‘Sickening’: First Nations left empty-handed as environmentalists pressure kills B.C. energy projects” by Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post, November 16, 2017

“High price of buying in: Oil-friendly Indigenous groups are disparaged as ‘sellouts’” by Kyle Edwards, Maclean’s, March 14, 2019

“‘Eco-colonialism’: Rift grows between Indigenous leaders and green activists” by Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post, January 4, 2018

“Campaign against Alberta oilsands not helping environment, argues researcher”, CBC News, November 9, 2018

“First Nation, Metis pro oil rally in Alberta stresses energy industry is vital for them” by Chris Stewart, AFTN News, February 11, 2019

“We are First Nations that support pipelines, when pipelines support First Nations” by Stephen Buffalo, Financial Post, September 13, 2018

“First Nations group proposes oil pipeline that protects indigenous rights” by Ashifa Kassam, The Guardian, September 8, 2018

Vivian Krause documentary now available for free. Brian Zinchuk, Pipeline News, Oct 17, 2019

“What do First Nations really think about Trans Mountain?” by Tristin Hopper, National Post, April 19, 2018

“2 Indigenous leaders explain why they are on opposing sides of the Trans Mountain debate” by Amanda Connolly, Global News, May 5, 2019

“Trans Mountain pipeline: Why some First Nations want to stop it — and others want to own it” by Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja, CBC News, October 5, 2019


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