Today's historic Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver was billed as a means "to transform and renew the very essence of relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians".
But according to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, reconciliation must also be about protecting the environment for future generations.
"Those that understand that we need to defend Mother Earth and embrace sustainable development need to step up and embrace the challenges of the future," Phillip told the Georgia Straight while walking along West Pender Street. "It's not merely a warm, fuzzy social movement. Reconciliation will have purpose—and that purpose will be to defend Mother Earth for future generations."
Thousands turned up for the walk, which featured keynote speaker Bernice King, daughter of slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
King spoke about human dignity, self-respect, historical oppression, and the importance of nonviolence, but never once commented on environmental issues.
Phillip, on the other hand, spoke bluntly about "this insane path that we're currently on with respect to fossil fuels and development that has actually no consideration or respect for the adverse impacts it will have on the environment [and] on water".
"I think this country and the province of British Columbia are quickly heading for the watershed moment where we're all being challenged with taking a stand on what the future will hold for our children, our grandchildren, and our grandchildren's grandchildren," he said.
Phillip claimed that the Harper government is "obsessed with ramming through $650 billion worth of large-scale resource development projects, again with no consideration for the environment".
He spoke specifically about the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines, alleging that the federal government has embarked on an "offensive" that is designed to lay the groundwork for declaring these projects in the national interest.
"They're making an effort to establish a consultation record that they will rely on when these matters shift to the courts," Phillip said. "They're going to mislead the general public—deliberately mislead the general public—and suggest that after this intense period of consultation the vast majority of Canadians and British Columbians and First Nations are supporting these pipeline projects, which is clearly not the case. So we're heading for serious conflict in the province of British Columbia. There is no question about that."
When asked if this could lead to direct action, Phillip replied: "If necessary, I don't think there will be any hesitation on the part of First Nations and our allies to get involved and protect the land."