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Indigenous Activists Win “David vs. Goliath” Victory as Court Rejects $4.5B Trans Mountain Pipeline
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Winona LaDuke, Native American activist, executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, but she is joining us from Mexico City. And joining us from Alberta, Canada, by phone is Eriel Deranger, founder and executive director of the group Indigenous Climate Action, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
WINONA LADUKE: Well, first, I want to say that Canada has a problem. I mean, they don’t have a plan B for their economy. You have to remember that Canada is the tar sands producer, and they’re trying to figure out how to milk the tar sands in the face of, you know, everything is burning, from California to the Arctic. The other thing is, is that, you know, they are—75 percent of the world’s mining corporations are Canadian. And so, Canadians—the Canadian economy is predicated on this still “let’s just mine it, let’s suck it out, let’s ship it to someplace” staples economy. So, Canada needs an economic restructuring. That’s what it needs in order for us to deal with some of the problems that we’re facing, you know, across the board.
Now, of course, you know, we are all really pleased with this, because the fact is, is that these are illegal and immoral pipelines. What Eriel is talking about, the idea of free, prior and informed consent, that’s a U.N. standard. That’s a United Nations standard for relations between state governments and indigenous nations or First Nations. That’s not being upheld by Canada, and that’s certainly not being upheld by the United States. Canada’s approach is pretty much gunboat diplomacy, as it is in the United States: “We will starve you until you come to an agreement to host a pipeline or host a mine.” That’s how Canada operates. That’s how the U.S. operates. But this court has said, “You’re not going to do that. And, in fact, you’re going to have to get consent from these people.” So it’s a very, very important decision for all of us.
Yes, you are right, I got cited last week—we call it kind of like “arrest-lite”—in downtown Bemidji with about 26 other people, mostly members of the Ojibwe Nation and church people, as well as the board chair of the Sierra Club, for opposing this line. And what we’re trying to point out also is that in the final days of the final negotiations on the pipeline, right in front of us, at the Public Utilities Commission, one of the PUC commissioners turns to Enbridge and says, “Will you pay for the police required to put in this pipeline?” In other words, “Will you finance the brutalization of Minnesotans in order to get your pipeline in, Enbridge?” And Enbridge said yes. And so, we have, you know, a multiagency task force out of Bemidji now that is preparing to launch—you know, we saw an LRAD, long-range acoustic device, and MRAP heading up to northern Minnesota. We are seeing the beginning of policing. And so, what we’re pointing out is, is that thousands of people are going to get arrested in Minnesota, if they proceed with a pipeline which is immoral, and it is illegal, and goes across our territory.
ERIEL DERANGER: Well, you know, I think Winona hit the nail right on the head with her explanation of what it’s like in the U.S. People feel as though they have a gun to their head. It’s not making the best choice for your people. It’s making the best choice out of a slew of options that are going to really, you know, undermine your people’s rights, are going to destroy the environment, they’re going to impede people’s health and safety, or you have a roof over your head and food on your table, and you can like, you know, put clothes on the backs of your children. This is the reality, is our communities are put in economic hostage situations. As the number one employer in the region, our communities are forced into a corner to make really hard decisions.
And I have a lot of relatives, family members, that are employed by this industry, that also support the opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline, that support the opposition to the continued expansion of the Alberta tar sands in our backyard. But when it comes down to leadership, our leadership has been coerced through bribery, through coercion by the government, coercion by the companies themselves, to make deals. And what we’re looking to do in this region, rather than look for the consent of indigenous communities, is we’re looking for what it’s going to take monetarily to get communities to finally buckle under the pressure, the financial pressures that exist within our territories.