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Indigenous Canadians Caught in Harper’s Petroleum Extraction Dream

Translated Sunday 4 October 2015, by Jacob Hade

The right of people to exist is always a battle in the Great American North. The Canadian Communist Party has taken on the battle of the representatives of indigenous tribes for the recognition of their legitimate rights.

This year, the members of the Lax Kw’alaams nation who live in the northwest of British Columbia, took decisive action to protect their lands. They refused the construction of a maritime terminal and a liquid natural gas factory, along with a check for close to a billion dollars, from the Malaysian petroleum company Petronas. Petronas wanted to exploit the soil of these residents. Last year, Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favor of native groups deciding that they can control their own natural resources. They fared better than a number of other indigenous groups who were displaced to make room for the exploitation of their soil, contributing to the mistreatment of populations that are already fragile economically and socially.

Indigenous activists have once again taken up arms in the last few years trying to reclaim equality of rights, with the Canadian governmental authorities the declared adversary. 2012 was a pivotal year that saw the launching of the Idle No More movement, created by the chief of the tribe of the Counsel of Attawapiskat, Theresa Spence. Spence denounced the condition of the lives of 1.2 million indigenous Canadians and led the battle to repeal the law that facilitates the sale or the leasing of lands on the reserve. The fight was also against the suppression of the federal protection of the environment for water resources necessary to the well-being of native people, as it is being undertaken under the current conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. The Constitutional Act of 1982 nevertheless included the recognition and affirmation of existing rights, ancestral or the result of treaties, of indigenous peoples in the Constitution of Canada. This is a major change in the Canadian legal system for the recognition of the fledgling indigenous entities on Canadian soil.

The Canadian Communist Party is criticizing the postcolonial behavior of the government and is calling for the creation of a movement of solidarity between progressive Canadians and the protest movement Idle No More in a global fight for the rights of indigenous people. This comprises acts of protest such as hunger strikes like those performed by Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat and the fasting of other indigenous women. For Idle No More, indeed, the treaties drawn between Canada and the first nations indigenous people are the “accords between sovereign nations: they cannot be modified or broken unilaterally by one of the two nations that have engaged each other. In place of that, the First Nations saw a history of colonising that has given way to territorial demands left in a suspended state. The exploitation of resources is an attempt to strip the first nations peoples of their inherent right to their land and resources.” For the journalist and alter-globalist activist Naomi Klein, “the rights of the First Nations could be the foundation for a convergence of progressive fights in Canada and around the world.” This she affirms in her last book This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate, which came out in 2014. “The respect and the gratitude for the rights of native peoples are the best way to put an end to Harper’s endless extraction dream,” says the author. And to give the indigenous populations the space that they deserve to build the future of their country.

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