The federal election comes at a time when people are facing the “rather large challenge” of doing their part to save the planet, say the NDP.
Bob Chamberlin, New Democratic candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, hosted a town hall on sustainability and reconciliation, inviting current and former chiefs and band councillors to VIU’s Malaspina Theatre on Sunday.
He said the Liberal governnment “has stalled, if they ever really began,” on embracing the human rights of indigenous people.
Doug White III, Snuneymuxw councillor, noted that Justin Trudeau said his government’s most important relationship is with indigenous peoples, but questioned the prime minister’s actions that followed that statement. White discussed First Nations consent and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“It’s important to know that we’re in a very dynamic moment of change,” he said. “Things ultimately have to go down the proper path. This country has enormous opportunity and potential to be a great country. It never will be if it doesn’t get this right.”
Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson of North Vancouver talked about the Trans Mountain pipeline and her First Nation’s opposition to the expansion. She said the Tsleil-Waututh conducted their own independent assessment of the project and concluded it’s too risky and would work against her people’s restoration efforts in the Burrard Inlet. George-Wilson said a spill would impact the aboriginal rights of the Tsleil-Waututh and the increased tanker traffic would have unknown effects on southern resident killer whales.
“I joke around and tell people that, ‘you know, if you can’t save the Indians, let’s save the whales,’” George-Wilson said. “Seriously, we need to consider all of the impacts of everything we are doing or that Canada is doing and how the project contributes to climate change, how the project is uneconomic.”
Kelly Speck, councillor for the ‘Namgis First Nation, who worked with Chamberlin on an agreement with the province of British Columbia and private companies to shut down fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, said that can be an example of how First Nations, government and corporate interests can work together effectively. She said the parties didn’t agree on everything, but tried to create certainty and acknowledged First Nations’ right to consent.
“Building a new relationship is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are there for all of us,” she said. “And so I really do commend the work that I see going on in other aspects [around] how we work together to save our environment.”
Chief Robert Joseph, a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, commended the other leaders at the town hall for standing up for the environment and human rights.
“There have been some serious, serious missteps – that’s the kind word – taken by previous generations of newcomers to Canada that has led to huge divisions between Canadians and indigenous people,” he said. “But now here, in this moment, we have this opportunity to speak to each other, to have dialogue to create some meaning between us that will transform our relationships.”
Chamberlin said on the campaign trail he continues to talk to Nanaimo-Ladysmith citizens concerned about global warming and other environmental issues. He said the realities around climate change are beyond denial and said no one person has all the answers, but open discussions can lead to all the solutions that are needed.
“We can see that our hearts and minds are connected with one another,” Chamberlin said. “Regardless of if you have a status card or not, we have a passion, a love, a need to look after this planet.”
The federal election is Oct. 21 with advance polls Oct. 11-14.
Other candidates include Paul Manly, Green Party; John Hirst, Conservatives; Michelle Corfield, Liberals; Jennifer Clarke, People’s Party of Canada; Brian Marlatt, Progressive Canadian Party; James Chumsa, Communist Party; Geoff Stoneman, independent; Echo White, independent.