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Miles Report No. 45

Miles Report No. 45 - Tsilhqot’in First Nations land title

First off, let me congratulate the people of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation on their Supreme Court decision handed down today verifying their title to their unceded land. I am not a First Nations person, but I believe that they will be strong stewards of their land and culture for the benefit of everyone...

Except of course the corporate wealth harvesters such as Enbridge with whom Stephen Harper is a full supporter. It was interesting at the end of the last legislative session that after the late announcement giving the ‘green light’ to the Northern Gateway pipeline, the western Conservative representatives scattered like wild rabbits when approached by the media.

Run, rabbits, run! The B.C. constituency is strongly behind the ‘No’ side of the Gateway decision, both for environmental reasons and for well identified unceded land rights for the First Nations.

The language is clear and powerful:

“There is no suggestion in the jurisprudence or scholarship that Aboriginal title is confined to specific village sites or farms, as the court of appeal held….Rather, a culturally sensitive approach suggests that regular use of territories for hunting, fishing, trapping and foraging is ‘sufficient’ use to ground Aboriginal title.”

The high court said that Aboriginal title could be declared over territory “over which the group exercised effective control at the time of assertion of European sovereignty.”

“Aboriginal title confers ownership rights similar to those associated with fee simple, including: the right to decide how the land will be used; the right to the economic benefits of the land; and the right to pro-actively use and manage the land,” said the ruling.

The ruling said Aboriginal title came with an important restriction, that “it is collective title held not only for the present generation, but for all succeeding generations.”

Land under Aboriginal title, “cannot be alienated except to the Crown or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it. Nor can the land be developed or misused in a way that would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.”[cited from aptn.ca]

It is good to know that Harper, who always argues about ‘rule of law’ yet frequently tries to do end runs around those laws - or make his own laws or abrogate previous laws that interfere with his corporate buddies interests - has been limited by this strong common sense ‘rule of law’ that is supported also by many previous landmark court decisions. There are now 21 Conservative MPs from British Columbia who are now too scared to allow the media to approach them - at least until they receive their “talking points” from the Conservative party behind the scene manipulators.

This is an important decision that will have a huge impact on the cultural geography of the Province of British Columbia, and will set a precedent for other First Nations across Canada to follow. Hopefully it will serve as well as a broader model for the UN to follow on with their Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Governments and corporations will fight back, especially with the power now given to corporations to sue governments for various reasons that the corporations find convenient. The resources of the land and water are big prizes for the corporations wishing to harvest them for their own wealth and power creation.

The temporary nature of corporate resource harvesting is a shallow narrow perspective when considered against the long term stewardship and land use by the First Nations of B.C. It is possible that some First Nations might follow the European model that destroys the land (and thus the culture) as its material wealth is harvested, but that now becomes their decision to make.

The arguments from Enbridge and the government about the economic importance of the Northern gateway are vastly overstated (and over rated). The value of the land remaining secure from the environmental damages ensuing from the construction, maintenance, and inevitable failure of the two lines (one taking solvent to the tar sands, the second carrying the diluted bitumen - dilbit - to Kitimat) is considerably greater than the resource itself.

Again, congratulations to the Tsilhqut’in for their Supreme Court success. It will be a better world for all of us going forward.

Other parliamentary things

There have been so many weird things coming from the present Conservative legislature, it is hard to enumerate and discuss them all. Here is a short list of what stood out for me.

First is the whole Duffy-Wallen-Wright affair which still lingers unresolved in the back ground. The truth may never be known, but the impression is that Harper and his PMO staff were fully aware of what was happening with Senate affairs.

Then there is the more recent Nadon affair that clearly demonstrates the Cons willingness to try and end run the rules and regulations of governance. Following that they then openly criticized the Chief Justice in an attempt to transfer the blame on to her and distract the public from the reality that the Harper regime is willing to bend and manipulate whatever it wants to in order to get its way. If Harper had his way, both the courts and the senate would be doing his bidding - a regular Napoleanesque emperor.

Along the way came the [Un]Fair Elections Act, first described by narrow minded con Pierre Poilievre, the government’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform ( a rather Orwellian title), as being a ‘perfect’ piece of legislation. It then of course had to be amended many times due to the uproar it caused and the obvious manipulations of rules and regulations to strengthen the Conservatives re-election in 2015. Still a long way from perfect and hopefully fully rejected by the next government of Canada.

Recently we have witnessed the problems with Temporary Foreign Workers Act. Yes, it was introduced by the Liberals, but that excuse is lame and tired as the Cons have been in power now for eight years and knew about the problems well before this spring’s revelations. The act is designed to bust unions, lower wages, and increase profits to the corporations.

Two “most recently’s” - first was the display of anger and angst concerning the imprisonment of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, valid complaints for sure. But where was the noise when the coup led dictatorship of Sisi sentenced 600 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death - a significant act against all human rights.

Secondly, was Peter MacKay’s letters for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day highlighting his misogyny truly conservative beliefs in the superiority of men over women. What is wrong Peter? Have you not changed your child’s diaper yet? Not manly enough for you? Not a good way to show your leadership qualities? Small item yes, but also rather pathetic.

And that’s all for now...oh, by the way did I mention the F-35s? Did you see they underwent another recall due to another technical problem? Yeah, great buy Canada - at least with all its limitations it won’t kill as many people as the bureaucrats would like.

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