Success stories of aboriginal integration into wider society don’t get attention, while questionable protests do. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

The dirty tents and shacks of Burnaby’s notorious Camp Cloud pipeline protest have been flattened and trucked away, after long-suffering RCMP officers made a few catch-and-release arrests of hardcore occupiers who defied authorities to the end.

The end came as it usually does, when even the radically anti-pipeline City of Burnaby had to enforce a court order to get rid of the fire hazard. The unruly squat was set up close to aviation fuel storage.

To get an idea of the mindset of the organizers, or at least the front people, I viewed a couple of their “selfie” videos taken as the police prepared to move in.

One guy stood in parking lot, watching City of Burnaby crews arriving to do “colonial stuff,” as he called it. He urged people to bring drone cameras down to record the coming police brutality.

The main spokesperson took a break from TV interviews to do her own rant, directed at federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, whom she imagined to be directing the RCMP. Some printable excerpts:

“You’re a genocider … getting paid tons and tons of money … to knock down Camp Cloud, extinguishing the aboriginal and treaty rights … while we have Downtown Eastside people suffering. … help save the natural fish from farm fishing … you are an idiot, Jody Wilson-Raybould….”

One thing about the age of social media, its unfiltered access does allow a determined observer to identify the actual idiots in situations like this. Are anyone’s treaty rights being protected by these antics? I would say legitimate claims are damaged, and it’s been going on for a long time.

One example: In 2011, construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road was disrupted by a camp of self-proclaimed protesters. This was taken at face value, providing easy visuals for TV to show the alleged colonial oppression involved in constructing a truck route to ease congestion in Metro Vancouver.

Black Press reporter Jeff Nagel went to check on the camp. He interviewed a lead aboriginal protester, who described how he had come out from his Downtown Eastside home to plunk himself down in a lawn chair in South Delta to assert a vague territorial claim on behalf of “Coast Salish” people.

This fellow identified himself as a member of the Lakota Sioux from Manitoba. His previous occupation experience included the long-running Woodwards squat in Vancouver, one of the earliest orchestrated ‘free housing now’ stunts that continue today.

The so-called “South Fraser Witness Camp” was organized by a group calling itself “Stop the Pave,” supported by a group of black flag-waving anarchists who were looking for action after disrupting the 2010 Olympics. They roughed up a CTV crew at one point.

“I met a lot of these folks during the Olympics,” said a camper calling himself Jeremy.

Of course South Delta notably includes the traditional (and now treaty) territory of the Tsawwassen First Nation. And sure enough, their council had not even been contacted by these interlopers, after the TFN’s years of work with the B.C. transportation ministry on the highway route.

The circus left town and the South Fraser Perimeter Road was built, providing relief to motorists, creating a net increase in productive farmland and setting the stage for the Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre to be built on modern-day treaty land.

These kinds of successes are drowned out by abuse that erodes support for aboriginal rights.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


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