The impact of unrest on Haida Gwaii

Once again the Haida are pushing the buttons of the Crown.

OutgoingAttorney General Geoff Plant recently commented on open line talk radiothat he thought Haida leader Guujaaw lives on another planet.Interesting comment from the Minister who has been responsible forTreaty Negotiations.

The actions of the BC government indicatethat on their planet they prefer First Nations to be silent andcompliant. The only time they like First Nations to speak up is whenthey are signing Accommodation Agreements or Economic Measuresagreements that allow the status quo or new development to continue inexchange for small sums of money.

On planet Earth, where theHaida live, the Haida’s approach challenges this world view. And moreimportantly, it sets an example for other First Nations andcommunities. It shows that by working together they can better protecttheir collective interest.

From the BC government’sperspective this is the scariest aspect of recent events on HaidaGwaii, planet Earth. This government does not want communities andFirst Nations to realize is that the economy is increasingly beingmanaged to sacrifice their local interests and rights for the benefitof corporations, shareholders and government revenues.

Thegovernment facilitation of the MacMillan Bloedel Weyerhaeuser Brascansaga on Haida Gwaii exposes the fiction of jobs versus the environment.Haida Gwaii is becoming an exciting model for joint action, ascommunities, workers and First Nations begin to understand their commonplight under this government’s approach to public forests. The worstthing for this government and their big corporate donors in theresource industry is for communities, workers and First Nations tounite to protect collective interests.

The fact that the Haida are increasingly acting as a sovereign government withat least equal (if not sole) jurisdiction over land and resources alsois sending shivers up industry and government spines, such as they are.

This time the assertion of jurisdiction and sovereignty isbeing respected by non-native locals who are supporting the Haida. Thistime they are not falling prey to the usual race-based divide andconquer tactics that suit the government and corporate interests, andwhich were so disgustingly exploited in the 2002 Treaty Referendumpossibly the darkest moment in the five years that Geoff Plant’sLiberals have run BC.

While the outcome of the uprising on HaidaGwaii is anything but clear, their efforts deserve the support ofeveryone concerned about human rights, indigenous issues, environmentalvalues, community economic development and corporate accountability.

TheHaida are on the cutting edge, where they have so often been , and ourchallenge as British Columbians is to support their efforts andreplicate them elsewhere.

The unrest on Haida Gwaii is alandmine in the Liberal Party campaign strategy. Any indications thatit may spread could turn BC into an electoral minefield.

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