BC Grand Chief denounces violence against First Nations protesters in NB and "racist" Harper government
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- Created: Friday, 18 October 2013 16:25
- Published: Friday, 18 October 2013 16:25
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As an anti-fracking protest in New Brunswick spun violently out of control today, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip denounced the "ugly" and "outrageous" crackdown on the Elsipogtog First Nation. He said such a confrontation could have happened anywhere in British Columbia, and criticized the Harper government's "racist" policies toward First Nations.
And yesterday, speaking at the Marriott Pinnacle hotel in downtown Vancouver, where First Nations leaders were attending a joint gathering, Phillip called Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government "the worst" he's ever dealt with.
“I've been involved in Indigenous issues for 40 years, and I've seen my share of prime ministers and premiers, but I can tell you with great certainty that Harper is the worst of the worst," he said.
What's truly awful, he said, is an “inherent racism” toward First Nations people that exists not only in the high ranks of the Conservative government, but also in a large part of Canada's official history. It has framed the relationship between government and First Nations up to now, and continues to be problematic, he said.
"There's the sheer hypocrisy of Harper's government attacking Aboriginal leadership and saying there's corruption, while at the same time they have the Senate scandal,” he said.
The hostility of the Harper government toward Aboriginal groups has been underscored by a stream of events in the news in recent years. In March, the Prime Minister snubbed a meeting with Cree youth in favour of visiting pandas, while Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver called Aboriginal communities “socially dysfunctional” at a Vancouver Board of Trade event.
But there are the bigger issues that make the world take notice, such as the Attawapiskat housing crisis, rising cancer rates near the oil sands, and the sweeping changes in Bill C-45 that sparked the Idle No More movement.
“There's no doubt about our natural resources being exploited,” Chief Phillip said, noting an "environmental racism" taking place in the oil sands.
“What's at the heart and soul of the Harper government -- which is is repeated, reiterated, amplified over and over again -- is the $650 billion in large-scale natural resources development projects,” he said.
“But what stands in the way is Indigenous land rights and Indigenous people.”
Government and industry need to properly consult and engage with First Nations in a real dialogue, as opposed to the whirlwind tour of delegates that Harper sent in to BC last month, Phillip said.