Major social change always occurs within a climate of rising expectations. Expectations are rising amongst Aboriginal people. This is reflected in the growing boldness of their actions.
With little fanfare, First Nations in all corners of BC are asserting their rights. While the newspapers cheerfully print government press releases about the latest economic agreements signed, First Nations across the province have been standing up and challenging government’s plans to hand over BC land and resources to the Liberals’ corporate supporters.
The examples are numerous, and the developing trend is obvious:
- On May 19th and 20th thousands of First Nations elders, youth and leaders will be joining a caravan to Victoria. Organized by the Title & Rights Alliance they will meet on the 19th and rally on the 20th–the day the legislature closes–to show their displeasure with provincial policies, and express their unity and resolve to protect their Title & Rights.
- two weeks ago the Bonaparte Indian Band joined with neighbouring First Nations and non-native townspeople and political leaders to block the road to the Ashcroft dump. They stopped the dumping of millions of chicken carcasses infected with Avian Flu.
- Last week 9 First Nations rejected government’s attempts to hoodwink them into supporting the controversial BC Rail privatization. The UBCIC had demanded the federal Competition Bureau reject the transfer to C. Lawsuits are expected.
- In mid-February numerous First Nations responded to the Title and rights Alliance’s call for days of action by blocking roads, picketing government offices and designating indigenous protected areas.
- In early February the Saulteau and West Moberly nations in the Peace region in northeastern BC began blockading roads into the Rene & Boucher watersheds to prevent Vintage Energy from exploratory drilling and road-building. Vintage was trying to rush into action before the Court of Appeal could hear the First Nations’ appeal of their lawsuit challenging Vintage’s permit due to lack of consultation and cumulative impacts on treaty rights.
- Last December, 63 indigenous groups – representing many more First Nations – filed Title lawsuits to regain control of their traditional territories. Only 3 title cases had been filed in the past 30 years.
Collectively these First Nations – and many more too numerous to list here – are fighting back against attempts to undermine their Title, expedite resource extraction, and pollute and destroy their territories. Many of these groups are among the poorest communities in BC.
They are fighting a tough battle. The trends in the courts and the financial markets provide fertile ground for a First Nation-led campaign for sustainable land reform. Dogwood Initiative is supporting their efforts. We need your support to succeed. Please consider helping.