Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Meriya Gmeiner-McPherson, Bronte Renwick-Shields, Paul Cadogan Ron Rousseau and Jesse Weyman, left-right.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

IN UNISON – Friday’s demonstration began at the Healing Totem Pole in downtown Whitehorse.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

BLUNT MESSAGES – The marchers’ sentiments were displayed on the placards they held during Friday’s protest.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Yukoners show support for First Nation’s quest

About 20 people gathered Friday in -35 C temperatures in Whitehorse in tandem with the Wet’suwet’en demonstrations against the development of pipelines on Indigenous land.

By Gabrielle Plonka on January 13, 2020

About 20 people gathered Friday in -35 C temperatures in Whitehorse in tandem with the Wet’suwet’en demonstrations against the development of pipelines on Indigenous land.

“We have a responsibility to the original protectors of this land and the Indigenous people who are here,” Meriya Gmeiner-Mcpherson told the shivering crowd at the noontime protest.

“Our responsibility is to keep the Canadian government accountable from continuing racism and colonization that’s happening still today.”

Gmeiner-Mcpherson and Julie Laliberté organized the Whitehorse event, mirroring at least 40 other protests across North America that same day.

The string of protests nationwide signal solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people in North Central B.C., who have been protesting the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project on their land for more than a year.

On Dec. 31, a B.C. Supreme Court judge issued an injunction saying pipeline protestors could not block Coastal GasLink from accessing the area. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs responded by sending an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink, citing Wet’suwet’en trespass laws.

Protestors said the Whitehorse event signals support for Indigenous sovereignty on Wet’suwet’en land.

“We need to understand that the hereditary chiefs really are the voice of the people,” Ron Rousseau told the Star.

“If they’re saying that they don’t want exploration on their lands that we, as Indigenous people, who have always been stewards of the land, we do recognize and we help defend our lands.”

Paul Cadogan said he reacted with “horror” to the media coverage of intense RCMP presence at the protests.

“It’s their space, their place, I don’t think they’re being unreasonable at all,” Cadogan said. “Police with assault weapons don’t really cut it. It’s always overkill: crushing a butterfly with a sledgehammer.”

Protest attendees who are not Indigenous told the Star they felt it was important to show their support.

“I feel like as a non-Indigenous person and someone who tries to be an ally, it felt really important to come out and show solidarity especially with respect to this issue,” Jesse Weyman said.

“There’s been long-standing history with the Unist’ot’en camp in particular. I used to live in the Smithers area, and I know how hard it can be to maintain camp in weather like this, especially in the face of such strong adversity as the Wet’suwet’en people are facing now.

“Just the simple act of solidarity and coming out and showing support is really important.”

Bronte Renwick-Shields said in an interview she feels the conflict at Wet’suwet’en works against the nation’s goals for reconciliation.

“The stance that the government and the RCMP are taking go directly against any claims that the government is making about reconciliation or working with Indigenous people,” Renwick-Shields said.

“Not respecting consent on their territory is really unjust and violent and wrong. I think it’s important that non-Indigenous Canadians stand with Indigenous Canadians and are here to support as well.”

Attendees gathered at the Healing Totem Pole in a prayer circle at around 12:15 p.m. before marching to the Whitehorse RMCP detachment.

Coffee and cookies were purchased for the protesters by Laliberté and Weyman.

Comments (15)

Up 8 Down 2

Obi on Jan 18, 2020 at 6:20 am

Re Elders views and opinions,(Wisdom).

Elders vs Donald Trump.
People don’t get the Wisdom of the Ages, when they turn 60.
Hereditary chiefs might have DNA that gives them their position, but if a person is an idiot when they are young, for all intents and purposes they will be idiots when they are older. Perhaps more so, and easily manipulated by people that have their own agenda.
Which brings me to Donald Trump as an example. He is 74 which makes him an elder. He also was born into influence and hereditary status. One could say he found it easy to be recognized as a home run hitter in life, considering he was born on third base.
As recently reported, in 2017 at his first major meeting with his chiefs of staff, and military leaders he had to be lectured like a grade school kid about how the world works, and maps were used to show him where countries were that he new nothing about.
The meeting ended in chaos because Donald is Donald!
Rex Tillerson his Secretary of State at the time was asked after the meeting what his impression of his new President was. His five words were, “He is a f......g moron”.
Not a nice thing to say about an elder, but it was true then as it is now.....

Up 4 Down 27

Alan on Jan 16, 2020 at 8:39 pm

Hereditary leaders are Elders. The idea is, elected officials are supposed to listen and pay heed to the Elders views and opinions, (wisdom). Example: Aboriginal title supersedes all other title under commonwealth law. Yukon Indians owned 100% of the Territory. Tagish Elder: "I don't want the Yukon divided up!" Ignoring this, following the final agreement and band by band negotiations, First Nations ended up with 4%. As a Scottish member on a Team of Human Rights investigators said about Land Claims, " The Canadian Govt are playing word games, they've got these people claiming their own land, they should have been negotiating 'Land Rights'. As for this allusion to the Crown, what a bizarre and ridiculous comment. Self Government is based on the Royal Proclamation of 1791 stating that the First nations are sovereign people and must be treated with respect, and protected, and any encroachment on their lands must be with their permission. A legal document. Pierre Eliot Trudeau, famously said, "There's no such thing as Aboriginal Rights, until the Federal lawyers found the Royal Proclamation. It wasn't the Crown that initiated the genocide of the Indians. it was elected Government that lied to the British Parliament and the Indians regarding the Re-Repatriation of the British North American Act. Canadians don't know their own history.

Up 22 Down 5

2ManySnowflakes4Me on Jan 16, 2020 at 6:33 pm

Before everyone throws their support behind these protesters maybe you should have a look at a recently released news story by the "Rebel News". Some of these protesters linked to the Wet'suwet'en are performing illegal road blocks and burning tires, rags, setting up widow makers with trees all in the act of protesting. Isn't burning tires which are a product of oil somewhat hypocritical, if not willing to use or want an oil pipeline that has been voted on by numerous indigenous peoples and approved. I can not attach the article, but it does give an alternative perspective to these protesters and be careful of who or what you want to side with before knowing all the facts.

Up 27 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jan 16, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Elected vs hereditary leadership? I'd say the first nations governments need to hammer out a governance system that serves their needs clearly and without the conflicts we are witnessing.
These resource matters are determined by government to government relationships. It is not the role of others to determine how FN government will function, they need to do it themselves and learn to live with the results of their work. Self government land claim agreements set the table for progressive future development, but only if the players know who has the right to represent them and make decisions.

Up 24 Down 4

Groucho d'North on Jan 16, 2020 at 1:12 pm

There are cadres of anti-development people everywhere and from time to time they are opposed to the same things others are lobbying against, this does not mean they are aligned in any way other than trying to halt development of some kind.
They can be difficult to identify without their team shirts on
NIMBY- Not in My Backyard
BANANA - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything
CAVE dwellers - Citizens Against Virtually Everything
There are others but you get the idea.

Up 26 Down 5

Obi on Jan 16, 2020 at 11:37 am

What a crock!
Hereditary chiefs are funded by environmental groups such as, the Pembina Institute and the Tides foundation to stop any and all Canadian energy infrastructure.

This appears to be their primary mandate, not the welfare of their people.
The fact that all 20 first nations on the route have approved the pipeline shows what their people really want.
It's time the media covering this and other such events all over Canada, should do their job and give Canadians the complete picture, and not just the "tug at your heartstrings" stance we always see.....

Up 28 Down 3

John on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:17 am

@Alan..hmm, hereditary chiefs ranks right up there with the queen of England and any other ancient power by family model that doesn’t really have much support by the democracy we live in. On another note, aren’t you tired of blaming everything on others?

Up 3 Down 37

Alan on Jan 15, 2020 at 2:38 pm

It looks as though the majority here (non native) support elected leaders. This means they support the pipeline. However when it comes to elected chiefs standing opposed to unilateral behavior of YTG (the caribou hunt) they condemn the elected chief. This conflict, between elected chiefs and hereditary leaders, is a direct result of colonization and a form of Govt imposed by the dominant culture. The key is in one of the posts "... the elected leaders stand to benefit.." That says it all doesn't it; short term gain for long term damage. This is the difference between hereditary leadership and elected leadership, namely, vision, and the well being of future generations.

Up 52 Down 5

Miles Epanhauser on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:40 pm

This is an odd situation. If the herediary leaders allow an elected chief and government have they not given away decision making responsibility?
I support the elected officials.

Up 51 Down 6

vlad on Jan 14, 2020 at 9:50 am

Seeing your headline "Yukoners show support...…", I thought wow, some massive demonstration. Then I read about 20 protestors. That is about 0.0005% of the Yukon population. How disappointing. However, considering that most of the normal people are at work or school or some other silly stuff, then it is not too bad.

Up 51 Down 3

Anie on Jan 14, 2020 at 9:12 am

Asp simple google search would have led to some facts about this project. The elected governments of every First Nation on the route have approved the project and are benefitting from it. https://www.coastalgaslink.com/coastal-gaslink-workforce-grows-to-more-than-1000-in-january

Up 58 Down 6

My Opinion on Jan 13, 2020 at 9:42 pm

How about we respect the Elected Chiefs and Councils. The people that were put in place to represent their people through a democratic process. Not just a couple of people claiming some sort hereditary position.

Up 56 Down 4

Anie on Jan 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm

In the interests of unbiased reporting, this article could have included the fact that the elected chiefs have supported this project and have signed benefit agreements,

Up 42 Down 7

Thomas Brewer on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:53 pm

.... these people should turn off their heat if they really want to help... 30% power being generated by fossil fuels today...

Up 44 Down 4

KC on Jan 13, 2020 at 3:47 pm

There are obviously lots of complex issues here of conservation vs. development and indigenous rights here. I have to say though that I regard the willingness of ostensibly left-of-centre folk to uncritically give a veto to "hereditary chiefs" -- or "unelected monarchs" by another name -- because it is convenient at the moment to be representative of much of what is wrong with politics.

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