Through out the entire Wet’suwet’en protests there has been one thing that I’ve always stood on and come back to as my touchstone; why are you there to protest? That’s been my lens through all of this. If you’re there to support the rights of Indigenous peoples to choose for ourselves, no matter what that choice may end up being and you respect that choice, great. That’s being a true ally. But if you’re there to try to force a choice on our communities, one that advances your goals and own agenda, then sorry, that’s not being an ally at all.
A couple weeks ago I pointed to and called out a group on Vancouver Island who are seriously in the latter category, when they decided to go to the home of British Columbia Premier John Horgan. I contend that “Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island” has managed to make themselves as a prime example of the latter, showing that their protests are really all about advancing their own agendas and to Hell with the rest. We this week we got some developments on that front that put that contention of mine to the test, and the result was quite telling. This part of the story starts on Tuesday, with a very simple request:
It turns out that more than a few others were equally put off by this group’s antics. Leaders of Beecher Bay First Nation on Vancouver Island put out an open letter calling for a formal apology to the community and the premier and his wife from Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island for ‘terrorizing’ a private citizen near the band’s traditional territory. Beecher Bay First chief Russ Chipps told CTV Vancouver Island that this group “needed to learn the band’s traditional protocols, and that protests in the future need to show respect to all parties involved.” Chipps went onto say that “they need to learn the protocols in the territories that they’re entering, especially when they’re claiming to fight for First Nations rights.”
The point Chipps made was basically to say that if you’re saying you’re here to be an ally and to respect our rights, you need to respect our protocols and our ways too. That makes sense, right? It’s not a crazy request or a high bar to meet, especially if you are the “ally” that you claim to be. If that’s what you were, you’d think that they’d be rushing to give that formal apology. But what happened instead? Well, this is what happened:
Wow, that is a breathtaking piece of crap coming from so-called ally. Right in the first paragraph of their statement, they refuse the statement of Beecher Bay’s leadership when they say that “we assert we did not enter their territory; we ‘live’ there as do thousands of non-Indigenous peoples.” Let that privilege and crap just waft over you folks, because it’s very rich and fulsome. Not only does this group not apologize in any form for what they did, they ignore the underlying facts of their very living on Vancouver Island. They talk a bit game about respecting Indigenous Rights and territory and alike, but when called out on their crap they basically say “hey, we didn’t enter your territory, we just happen to be here on it and that makes it cool.”
What blew my mind about the blind arrogance and idiocy of that comment from Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island was that if someone wanted to, they could use that exact same rationale for entering any other Indigenous territory, including that of the Wet’suwet’en. The argument basically boils down to “Hey, I didn’t do the invading, I was born after it happened, I benefited from it and that makes it totally cool”, which is just crap if you actually believe in supporting Indigenous Rights.
And folks, that is the key here and the big tell; if you actually supported Indigenous rights and self-determination and you get this request, you apologize profusely and immediately. If that’s truly what you were and you got this request, you’d realize that you made a mistake and would do everything that you could right up front to try to make it right. That would be such a no-brainer for a true ally who made a mistake like not respecting the protocols of the territory they’re on.
The fact that this group refused to do that and refuted the assertions made by the leadership of Beecher Bay shows what they are really all about. Further to that, requesting a meeting “to discuss their demands” for an apology is just another level of insulting. From my perspective, this is very straightforward and there really isn’t any dispute about what happened. But instead this group seems to be suggesting that if they just explained to these First Nations leaders that they’ll change their views on their own protocols and traditions in their own territories. That is privileged condescension of the highest order from this group and just further proves that they don’t give a tinker’s cuss about Indigenous rights and that’s not what they were defending on that day in February.
This group owes Beecher Bay a full, complete and unreserved apology and the fact that didn’t happen says more about who they really are and are really about than anything else. This whole story reminds me of a certain Maya Angelou quote when she said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them.” In this case Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island have shown Indigenous peoples what they really are about with their words and actions here, and those speak for themselves. They are no more an ally of Indigenous peoples as Jason Kenney is, and these actions put themselves clearly in that category. I’d like to think that this would learn from this story but something tells me that they’ll find a way to blame someone else for this because the self-righteous are never wrong in their own eyes and this episode shows just who self-righteous they seem to be.