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Protests and marches sparked by RCMP arrest at B.C. pipeline protest camp

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The arrest of 14 people at an Indigenous blockade in a remote area of northern British Columbia became a flash point Tuesday that sparked protests across the country. 

Protesters delayed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech in Ottawa, stopped traffic in Vancouver and Victoria and prompted a counter protest in front of the headquarters of the company building the pipeline at the centre of the dispute.

RCMP made the arrests Monday at a blockade southwest of Houston, B.C., where some members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation had set up a camp to control access to a pipeline project across their territory.

Police were enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction granted to TransCanada Corp. subsidiary Coastal GasLink. It ordered the removal of obstructions in Wet’suwet’en territory as work gets underway on a $6.2-billion pipeline carrying natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat. 

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs told a crowd at Victory Square in Vancouver that it would be a watershed year for Indigenous people in the fight against pipelines crossing their lands.

“We’re starting off 2019 with a bang,” he said to cheers and applause. “I want to say to Prime Minister Trudeau: Welcome to battle ground British Columbia.”

About 60 people attended the rally in support of the First Nation outside the headquarters of TransCanada Corp. in downtown Calgary. They were greeted by about the same number of pipeline supporters who were encouraged to come out by Canada Action, a Calgary-based lobby group.

Chants of “Build that Pipe” drowned out the blockade supporters initially but the anti-pipeline group found its voice and were soon matching the volume with their own chant of “Consent. Sovereignty!”

There were no physical confrontations but angry words and hand gestures flew back and forth as at least a dozen Calgary police officers used their bodies and bicycles to separate the groups.

Stephen Buffalo, CEO of the Indian Resource Council of Canada, which represents oil and gas producing First Nations, took part in the pro-pipeline part of the rally.

“The big thing is we’ve got to be able to support our communities that said yes to this (project) because it’s their community that needs that financial benefit,” he said.

“It’s about getting out of poverty and finding a way for our people.”

Police concerns about a protest in Ottawa forced Trudeau to move to another building close to Parliament Hill to give a speech at a forum.

The company has said it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the route for LNG Canada’s $40 billion liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat, but demonstrators argue Wet’suwet’en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent.

In an open letter issued Tuesday, Coastal GasLink president Rick Gateman said the company took legal action as a last resort and while it respects the rights of people to peacefully express their points of view, safety is a key concern.

“It has been a long, and sometimes difficult, journey but we are proud of the relationships we’ve built, and the support of the communities and all 20 elected Indigenous bands along the route as well as the many hereditary chiefs who also support the project,” he wrote.

He said the pipeline will meet rigorous environment standards and bring significant benefits, including an estimated 2,500 jobs, many with First Nations contractors.

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations said the use of police force against people peacefully protesting the construction of the pipeline is a violation of their human and Aboriginal rights. 

“Building consensus under duress will make the resolution of the situation in northern British Columbia very difficult,” Perry Bellegarde said in a statement Tuesday. “Real consensus will be built when the parties, with very different views, come together in meaningful and productive dialogue. And I am confident that they can do this.”

Bellegarde said the Canadian and B.C. governments have promised to implement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but in northern B.C. they are imposing their laws over those of the Wet’suwet’en.

Gidimt’en member Jen Wickham said hereditary chiefs had gathered near the site of the B.C. camp Tuesday.

The Gidimt’en set up a gate in December in support of an anti-pipeline camp that members of the Unist’ot’en, another Wet’suwet’en clan, established years ago.

Wickham, who has fielded calls from India and the United Kingdom about the pipeline resistance, said it’s been “surreal” to see the international response.

She said she believes the issue is gaining attention now because the Gidimt’en have dispelled the myth that it’s only individuals from one clan opposing the project.

“I think now that the Gidimt’en have stepped up and said, ‘No, this is a nation-based issue, this is about sovereignty,’ it’s really sinking in,” she said.

New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, who represents the area, said the protest he witnessed on Monday was “determined” but “peaceful. He estimated about 200 police officers were used to enforce the court injunction.

Cpl. Madonna Saunderson would not say how many RCMP officers were involved in the operation.

The Mounties placed exclusion areas and road closures near the Morice River Bridge where the blockade was located that prevented Coastal GasLink from getting access to its pipeline right of way.

LNG Canada announced in October that it was moving ahead with its plans for the Kitimat export facility. Construction on the 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline is scheduled to begin this month.

In Halifax, about 150 protesters gathered on the steps of Halifax Regional Police headquarters, where the RCMP has a significant presence.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with the folks on the front lines of Wet’suwet’en that are protecting their unceded territory and to express to the RCMP,” Halifax resident Sadie Beaton said before the protest started with a sweetgrass ceremony.

Protesters marched through downtown Toronto, chanting “TransCanada has got to go” and brought afternoon traffic to a halt.

About 500 people gathered at the B.C. legislature in Victoria chanting and carrying placards.

Shelagh Bell-Irving attended the protest in support of the First Nation blockade.

“This is wrong and we have to stop it. We need to shut down Canada now and let the government know we the people are running the show and not them.”

— With files from Dan Healing in Calgary, Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Mike MacDonald in Halifax, Kristy Kirkup in Ottawa, Hina Alam in Vancouver and Paola Loriggio in Toronto.

 

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Terri Theodore , The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Orange Shirt Day – Acknowledging the Lasting Legacy of the Canadian Residential School System

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The year 2020 marks the 24th anniversary of the final closure of the last operating Canadian residential school, located in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, in the year 1996. 

Originally established in the late 1800’s, more than 130 residential schools operated across Canada for over 120 years. During this time, more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed into the schools (1). 

Jointly operated by the Government of Canada and religious organizations across the nation, the residential school system was a violent and corrupt approach towards the total assimilation of Indigenous children and the ultimate erasure of Indigenous culture. The methods used by the schools to pursue this goal, as officially documented by the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CTRC), were abhorrent acts of violence and humiliation against children that would raise a legacy of trauma and pain spanning generations. 

The exact number of children who died during their time at the residential schools remains unclear, but is estimated to be greater than 6000 (2). The CTRC documents that many students succumbed to disease and malnourishment exacerbated by abysmal living conditions, while others died as a result of abuse. Records show many children perished in fires when a number of schools burned down over the years, and others died by suicide, or while trying to escape (3).  

“Children were abused, physically and sexually, and they died in numbers that would not have been tolerated in any school system in the country, or in the world.” Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (4)

Since the final closure of the residential schools in 1996, steps towards national reconciliation – such as the launch of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008 – have been based in the acknowledgement and commemoration of the painful legacy of the schools across Canada. The documentation, preservation and dissemination of the residential school experience as told by the survivors is essential to understanding and accepting the implications of this dark and extensive period in Canadian history. 

Among many ongoing discussions and dedications to the survivors and victims of the Canadian residential Schools, Orange Shirt Day is an annual recognition of the ongoing pursuit of reconciliation and affirmation in Canada. 

Orange Shirt Day was born in Williams Lake, BC in May 2013 as a legacy of the St. Joseph Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion. The project was founded by former student Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins in an effort to bring together those whose lives had been negatively impacted by the schools. Specifically, “Events were designed to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honor the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation” (5).

Orange Shirt Day was founded as a result of the St. Joseph project, when former student and spokesperson for the Reunion group, Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, shared the experience of her first day at the residential school, “when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl” (6).  

September 30th was chosen as the annual Orange Shirt Day to coincide with the returning school year, and to commemorate the time of year in which children were originally taken from their homes to attend the residential schools. 

On September 30, 2019, The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) hosted a ceremony in honor of Orange Shirt Day at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. A list commemorating the names of 2,800 Indigenous children who died while attending the residential schools was presented on a 50-metre-long-ceremonial cloth. This ceremony represented an important first step, according to the NCTR, however, there is still a long way to go towards the proper recognition and memorialization of all who were lost to the schools. 

Since 2013, Orange Shirt Day has continued to foster ongoing investigation and dialogue surrounding the history and lasting legacy of the residential school system within the Canadian historical landscape. It is a public call to listen, share, and remember those who suffered and now carry the lasting wounds of the government mandated Canadian residential school system, as well as those who never returned home at all. 

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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PETER SUTHERLAND SR GENERATING STATION POWERS NORTHEAST ONTARIO

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PETER SUTHERLAND SR GENERATING STATION POWERS NORTHEAST ONTARIO

On the Abitibi River in northeastern Ontario, the Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station (GS) powers 25,000 homes and businesses with renewable waterpower. The development was a partnership between Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Coral Rapids Power: a wholly-owned company of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation (TTN). The development is named after a respected elder from TTN. The $300-million project was completed in 2017.

On the Abitibi River in northeastern Ontario, almost two years of construction and eight years of planning have culminated in a new hydroelectric station capable of powering 25,000 homes and businesses with clean, renewable, and affordable power.

The 28-megawatt (MW) Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station (GS), located about 80 kilometres north of the town of Smooth Rock Falls on the New Post Creek, went into service on April 2017, well ahead of its scheduled 2018 target. In addition, the $300- million project stayed on budget.

That’s a testament to the solid planning and execution between OPG and its partner in the  development,  Coral  Rapids  Power, a wholly-owned company of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation (TTN). The development, which is named after a respected elder from TTN, has already had a positive impact on the First Nation community.

“We had about 50 TTN members working on the project at one point or another, which was significant for our First Nation partner,” said Paul Burroughs, Project Director at OPG. “They were part of the project team working to help make this a success.”

As part of the project agreement, Coral Rapids Power has a one-third ownership in the facility, meaning they will receive a share of profits from the station and be a partner for life over the 90 or so years the plant  is expected to operate. As TTN’s first foray into hydro development, the project took several decades to get off the ground before the First Nation agreed to partner with OPG in 2007 as part of a past grievances settlement. Construction of the station began in 2015.

Construction work on the Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station

The project provides the TTN community with a long-term investment opportunity and a sustainable economic base. Further, it provides spinoff benefits for the entire northeast region.

“The relationship we’ve built with OPG is based on a foundation of respect, trust, and all working toward a common goal,” said Wayne Ross, President of Coral Rapids Power. “There have been many benefits from this project for our community, including good-paying jobs, transferable skills and a long-term revenue stream.”

In addition, approximately $53.5 million in subcontracts were awarded to TTN joint- venture businesses during the construction phase of the station.

“The partnership is about creating a lifelong relationship with the First Nation,” said Burroughs.

The project has created skilled jobs and unique learning opportunities benefitting TTN members who will pursue work in a range of different career fields. Labour needs included engineers, equipment operators, labourers, drillers, cement workers, ironworkers, electricians, welders, carpenters, and camp support services.

At the peak of construction, there were about 220 workers employed on the project, many of whom reside in the local community.

“Our partnership is about more than just megawatts,” said Mike Martelli, President, Renewable Generation. “It’s also about creating skilled jobs and ongoing revenue that will benefit this community for years to come.”

In addition to the direct employment opportunities, existing local businesses and the regional economy benefitted from contracting work, as well as local project purchasing and expenditures. The estimated sales multiplier associated with the project is $1.50 – that is for every dollar expended an additional $0.50 was spent in northern Ontario.

The new station is operated by OPG’s northeastern operations control room in Timmins and is maintained by technicians located at a nearby work centre at Abitibi Canyon.

Inside the completed Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station

Peter Sutherland Sr. GS is the latest asset in OPG’s clean energy portfolio, which includes successful joint ventures with other First Nations. In early 2015, OPG and the Moose Cree First Nation celebrated the completion of the Lower Mattagami Hydroelectric Project, northern Ontario’s largest hydroelectric project in 50 years.

Ontario’s 58 northeastern hydroelectric facilities provide a clean, renewable, and reliable source of power to Ontarians year- round. Their combined capacity is over 3,000 MW.

Thanks to Todayville for helping us bring our members’ stories of collaboration and innovation to the public.

Click to read a foreward from JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel
River Group; Former President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Click to read comments about this series from Jacob Irving, President of the Energy Council of Canada.

Jacob Irving, President of Energy Council of Canada

The Canadian Energy Compendium is an annual initiative by the Energy Council of Canada to provide an opportunity for cross-sectoral collaboration and discussion on current topics in Canada’s energy sector.  The 2020 Canadian Energy Compendium: Innovations in Energy Efficiency is due to be released November 2020.

 

Click below to read more stories from Energy Council of Canada’s Compendium series.

INDIGENOUS CONSULTATION AND ENGAGEMENT AT CANADA’S ENERGY AND UTILITY REGULATORS

COASTAL GASLINK PIPELINE PROJECT SETS NEW STANDARD WITH UNPRECEDENTED INDIGENOUS SUPPORT AND PARTICIPATION

Hydro-Québec takes partnerships, environmental measures and sharing of wealth to new levels

Read more on Todayville.

 

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