I'm standing on Secwepemc Nation territory. For the next three days I will join with Secwepemc members to build the first of 10 tiny homes that they will put on their traditional territory directly in the path of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline.
In June, members of the Secwepemc nation hosted the Secwepemcul'ecw Assembly to reaffirm their rights and decision-making authority over Secwepemcul'ecw lands and waters and to issue the Secwepemc People's Declaration on Protecting Our Water and Land against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.
The declaration states in no uncertain terms that the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline expansion does not have Secwepemc consent:
"We the Secwepemc have never provided and will never provide our collective free, prior and informed consent — the minimal international standard — to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. We explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory."
In May 2016, there were cheers when Canada removed its objector status to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP). A decade after its adoption by the General Assembly, then newly elected Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Benett announced, "We are now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification."
Those are strong words from the Trudeau government and ones that were very welcome.
"The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a document that describes both the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples." One of UN DRIP's central tenets is the right to free, prior and informed consent.
Consent is a term that we should all be familiar with; as a self-declared feminist, Trudeau should know what consent is and know that it is at the very heart of the declaration that the Trudeau government said they would support "without qualification."
That's why it was surprising to many to see Canada's prime minister approve the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline, the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline and pledge to work with Trump on a third tar sands pipeline, the Keystone XL. None of these pipelines have the consent of all the Indigenous nations whose lands and territories they would cross. In fact, in addition to Secwepemc, more than 150 nations and tribes have signed treaties stating their non-consent for tar sands pipelines, rail or tanker traffic through their territorial lands and waters.
While it's clear that tar sands pipelines don't have Indigenous consent, it's also clear that Trudeau doesn't think the definition of consent should extend to Indigenous peoples.
That is one reason why they are here, on the land, standing with defenders, to construct these tiny houses in the pipeline's path.
Each tiny house is a big message to Kinder Morgan, to the Canadian government, and to the financial backers of these projects that this pipeline will be met with resistance.
Consent has not been given. And if Canada's government won't live up to its commitments, then Indigenous defenders will do it for them.
The first tiny house goes up on Friday. Follow the journey #TinyHouseWarriors.
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