(File photo)

For Horgan and Trudeau reconciliation is more photo ops than substance

Trevor feels like politicians need to be clear on where they stand in the dispute

We hear the world reconciliation thrown around a lot in the news and by politicians, but I haven’t seen many paying their dues to the Wet’suwet’en.

I was doing an interview with hereditary chief Na’Moks earlier last week when he said something to me that’s really stuck in my head this past week.

“Respect is respect, and that means telling the truth.”

Trudeau and Horgan could learn something from this. While both talk a big game on the subject of reconciliation, when was the last time either came down to Wet’suwet’en territory to meet with the chiefs and hear their concerns?

Answer, March 16, 2019 when Horgan came down to Witset to participate in a smoke feast meant to signify the beginning of a new process of reconciliation.

That day was a celebration full of food, festivities and — perhaps most importantly — hope. However in the days, weeks and months following the sentiments expressed that day seem to have been forgotten by Mr. Horgan like so much stale bannock.

I shouldn’t be surprised, after all, politicians have been taking advantage of photo ops since Edward Bernays popularized the idea of public relations and “positive” press, but I must admit I am a little disappointed.

At that feast Horgan mentioned that each of Canada’s over 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands each face different issues. He added that each nation has “different ways of moving forward.”

The thing is, for all this talk about how different nations want different things, people like Horgan act as though the dispute between the hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink is extremely convoluted for their own benefit.

The semantics of what the hereditary chiefs want is very simple. They say the land CGL wishes to construct on is their sovereign land and that CGL has no right to develop on the land. Full stop.

As for moving forward, we know exactly what the hereditary chiefs want — sovereign authority over their unceded territories.

It’s fine to disagree with the premise, but to suggest the hereditary chiefs’ asks are any more complicated than the above is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst.

On that note, where is Horgan? He was recently in northern B.C. as part of a speaking tour, visiting multiple stops along the proposed route of the CGL pipeline, including Kitimat.

Interestingly enough, neither the Witset Feast Hall he visited previously nor the Office of The Wet’suwet’en was on the schedule (not enough good photo opportunities, I guess, or perhaps just not the ones Mr. Horgan is looking for).

Perhaps I’m being a little facetious, but the point remains valid. Horgan is happy to come down to Wet’suwet’en territories, smile for the camera with hereditary chiefs and talk about how the country needs to do more in terms of modern reconciliation — when it benefits him.

But when the going gets tough? That’s when I get the emails back his media staff telling me Premier Horgan is conveniently unavailable for the foreseeable future.

I shouldn’t be surprised though, seeing as this is Horgan’s true idea of reconciliation: posing for the camera with a voter demographic he’d like to lock in for the future while turning around and telling your classic, salt-of-the-earth NDP voters (many of who support responsible resource development) that the rule of law is proceeding.

It’s almost like the guy wants to have his pipeline and build it too.

On that note, at his first ever press conference following his 2019 re-election to lead a Liberal minority government Justin Trudeau noted it was important to make sure that reconciliation “isn’t just a word.”

Again, a noble platitude, but you have to actually follow up on it.

Instead, Trudeau has remained relatively (considering how much he has, for example, discussed the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) mum on the topic.

It’s a tactic we’ve seen from politicians all over Canada: stress that you want to find a safe solution to the problem but refuse to give a definitive yes or no answer when asked about whether you support the CGL pipeline on a personal level.

The harsh reality is this: there are a bunch of people who want this pipeline to go through and support Coastal GasLink. There are also a bunch of people who view this pipeline as an affront to Indigenous rights in Canada and the notion of 21st century reconciliation. Few truly stand in the middle, though many will claim to on social media for lack of a spine.

This needs to end, and politicians need to start signifying whether they stand on the side of the Wet’suwet’en/CGL dispute. You can’t have it both ways (as much as Horgan, Trudeau, Taylor Bachrach, Doug Donaldson et al. would like to have you believe) and we the voters deserve to know what we’re voting for.

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