Wet'suwet'en Nation independence? Guerrilla warfare? What's next if cooler heads don't prevail?

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      Later today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference to discuss the solidarity actions in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.

      Their allies have blocked railway lines, roads, and ports, which is taking an economic toll on Canada.

      It's due to the B.C. government approving the Coastal GasLink pipeline across unceded Wet'suwet'en traditional territory in northern B.C.

      If there's another police or even a military crackdown on the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their allies, it's hard to predict what might flow from that.

      Could it provoke an Indigenous resistance movement in Canada with young guerrilla fighters—Indigenous and non-Indigenous—dressed in combat fatigues?

      The hereditary chiefs themselves have only employed peaceful means to advance their objectives. But there's no telling what their sympathizers in other parts of the country might do.

      Is it conceivable that an Indigenous resistance could evolve along the lines of what's occurred in other countries, such as India, where the Adivasis (tribal people) have been fighting the state for decades?

      India's Naxalite movement started small, in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari in 1967, and has since spread to several states in response to state repression.

      According to those in the movement, it's because the Indian constitution made the country the custodian of tribal homelands.

      And these homelands have been eviscerated by extraction industries supported by Indian and state governments.

      Former prime minister Manmohan Singh once described the Naxalite rebellion as India's greatest internal security threat.

      Or could some members of the Wet'suwet'en Nation decide that that they've had enough of Confederation and embark on a peaceful mission to create an independent Indigenous country carved out of British Columbia?

      They would likely be supported by the international climate-justice movement. And they would have the law on their side, given the United Nations' endorsement of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

      It's not that far-fetched of an idea, given the long delay in Canada recognizing Wet'suwet'en Aboriginal title following the 1997 Delgamuukw decision in the Supreme Court of Canada.

      That ruling affirmed that Aboriginal title was not extinguished when B.C. joined Confederation in 1871 and that it was held collectively.

      The spokesperson for the Gidimt'en house, Molly Wickham, sometimes refers to the country and province as "so-called Canada" and "so-called B.C."

      This suggests that she questions the validity of the nation-state as it's currently constituted.

      Coastal GasLink is ready to sink its pipes into the ground.
      Coastal GasLink

      Wet'suwet'en arguments ignored

      In its 122-page submission to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office in 2014, the Office of the Wet'suwet'en Nation claimed that its people "are stewards of the land"

      They are there to "protect their traditional territories and to ensure that future generations of Wet'suwet'en are able to live and benefit from all that their ancestral land provides".

      "The Wet'suwet'en are not opposed to commercial and economic development on their traditional territories as long as the proper cultural protocol is followed and respect given," the submission states. "The Wet'suwet'en insist that every effort is made to ensure the protection of their traditional territories from environmental damage."

      Ownership of the land is considered a "responsibility rather than a right", with hereditary chiefs entrusted with this stewardship as caretakers of these territories.

      "It is the task of a head Chief to ensure the House territory is managed in a responsible manner so that the territory will always produce enough game, fish, berries and medicine to support the subsistence, trade, and customary needs of house members."

      Moreover, the Wet'suwet'en submission to the EAO states that they have never relinquished or surrendered title and rights to the land and resources.

      The Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en peoples claimed Aboriginal title over 58,000 square kilometres in northwestern B.C. when they went to the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1990s.

      "We have an inherent right to govern ourselves and our territory according to our own laws, customs, and traditions, the submission notes. "This was affirmed in the Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision."

      Then the document describes extensive declines in fish populations in Wet'suwet'en traditional territory, as well as acid-rock drainage from the Equity silver mine.

      Destructive landslides are common in the territory, it states, "and have the potential to deform the proposed pipeline and cause major ruptures".

      "These include the slump earth flows on the Morice River Forest Service Road, which has been commonly occurring since the road was built in the late 1950s."

      That led the Wet'suwet'en to claim in their submission that Coastal GasLink "may have underestimated the impacts of streamflows, particularly the 100 year flood values on proposed project components such as the pipeline and roads".

      The company rejected a recommendation to create an alternative route through the McDonnell Lake area, which would have avoided impacting "major cultural values to the Wet'suwet'en".

      "It is the Wet'suwet'en position that both the Coastal GasLink Project and its BC EAO process pose serious and irreversible infringements to Wet'suwet'en title and rights," the submission concludes.

      The Conservatives are urging Justin Trudeau to use force to get the trains moving in Canada.
      Adam Scotti/PMO

      Trudeau must acknowledge state's failures

      B.C. premier John Horgan has said that communications efforts have to be two-way with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. But they've maintained that there will be no communication until the "invading" RCMP are removed from their territory.

      Trudeau, for his part, has failed to tell Canadians how badly the federal government has handled this situation for decades. That needs to change.

      Because right now, all the ingredients are in place for this situation to escalate for the following reasons:

      1. The Canadian state has not recognized Wet'suwet'en Aboriginal title more than 20 years after the Delgamuukw decision.

      2. B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office rejected the Wet'suwet'en submission on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, despite the nation's suggestion of an alternate route.

      3. The Canadian state refuses to respect Wet'suwet'en law as articulated by hereditary chiefs of the five clans.

      4. The Canadian state continues to rely on the RCMP to enforce its will, notwithstanding the long history of the national police force stamping out Indigenous cultural traditions and enforcing state dictates regarding residential schools.

      5. The Canadian state has a history of allowing projects that degrade Wet'suwet'en traditional territory and eviscerate fish stocks in this area, undermining trust in the regulatory process.

      6. The Canadian state has tried to ram through two other pipelines across traditional Wet'suwet'en territory—Enbridge's Northern Gateway project and the Pacific Trails pipeline—over the opposition of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.

      Trudeau has a choice when he speaks to the media today.

      He can continue trying to pursue a peaceful solution.

      Or he can do something idiotic that could inflict long-term damage on the country, leading to the loss of lives or even the rupturing of the Canadian state.

      Let's hope that he has the brains to retain a cool head rather than issuing ultimatums and sending in the troops, like his father did during the October Crisis of 1970 in Quebec.

      Video: Watch Pierre Trudeau deliver his famous line, "just watch me," speaking to the media about the FLQ crisis in 1970.