SMITHERS, B.C. — Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have reached a deal with the RCMP to allow a natural gas company access across a bridge that had been blocked in their territory.
Following several hours of meetings, Chief Na’Moks told reporters Thursday that the agreement is between the chiefs and the RCMP to ensure the safety of the First Nation’s members after 14 arrests were made on Monday when a court injunction was enforced by police.
He said representatives from Coastal GasLink were invited to the meeting to ensure they are on the same page, but emphasized it is not a deal with the company and the hereditary chiefs are opposed to a pipeline project planned on their territory by the company.
“One of the barriers will be taken down, but that does not mean we support this project,” he said.
“It must be reiterated, we are adamantly opposed to this proposed project and that will never change, but we are here to ensure the safety of our people.”
Coastal GasLink president Rick Gateman said the company can do its work as a result of the meeting.
“I can say that our discussions were extremely respectful and extremely productive. As a result of these discussions we have worked out many of the details that are required for us to have free access across the bridge and beyond,” Gateman told reporters.
“We look forward to future dialogue and continuing this relationship.”
According to the agreement, Na’Moks says company workers will be allowed across a bridge and the RCMP will also remove a roadblock that was preventing some members of the nation from accessing a Unist’ot’en healing camp near the bridge.
He says members of the First Nation will not face arrest and the Unist’ot’en camp will remain intact.
The agreement applies to an interim court injunction, which is meant to prevent anyone from impeding the company’s work until the defendants, which include members of the Unist’ot’en camp, file a response.
The agreement was reached Thursday at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, a day after the chiefs announced a tentative deal would see members of the First Nation observe the injunction by allowing Coastal GasLink workers and contractors access to a work site where the natural gas pipeline is planned.
On Wednesday, residents of the healing camp said they were “reeling” from the situation and had asked that a gate that they see as vital to their safety remain intact.
Na’Moks said a metal gate will remain, but a wooden gate will be removed. It is too wide for the bridge and constitutes an obstruction, he added.
When the RCMP enforced the injunction they also dismantled a nearby checkpoint erected by members of the Wet’suwet’en, who say the company does not have authority to work on their territory without consent from the nation’s hereditary clan chiefs.
TransCanada Corp. says it has signed benefit sharing agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the pipeline route. Its Coastal GasLink pipeline would run though the Wet’suwet’en territory to LNG Canada’s $40 billion export terminal in Kitimat, B.C.
In Kamloops on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the events of this week when the injunction was enforced show the need to build a different relationship with First Nations.
Trudeau said he was pleased tensions had eased between police and the First Nations over the pipeline on Wednesday night, and the time will come to answer questions about what was done and how it could have been handled differently.
“The way we are doing resource development, construction, exporting of our resources is changing in this country,” he said.
“We know we cannot do it without creating partnerships and engaging with Indigenous Peoples who are the traditional custodians of these lands, without thinking deeply about the environmental consequences and the long-term impacts of the choices we’re making.”
— With files from Laura Kane in Kamloops, B.C.
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Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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