Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says reconciliation is inextricably linked to protecting Mother Earth

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      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."




      Sep 22, 2013 at 7:12pm

      Through his wise words on the need to protect the environment it's clear that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip would be 1000 times better as PM than Harper.

      Ted Alcuitas

      Sep 22, 2013 at 9:18pm

      Today’s walk was a historic moment for Vancouver and a reminder that we still have the capacity to rise up in the hundreds of thousands when the time calls for it.

      For the past several years there has been a lull in massive outpouring of masses of people like the one we saw today.

      But if today’s ‘walk’ is an indication, no amount of rain or thunder will deter a determined citizenry to come out of their comfort zones to support a cause – this time for reconciliation with our aboriginal peoples and with each other.

      But next time, it could be the environment.

      Let the political leaders of this country and province be forewarned that if they do not listen to us we will rise again in much greater numbers and if need be in more militant ways.

      I for one will commit to walk again with generations of my family to protect the environment as Grand Chief Stewart Philipp has warned.

      While Ms. King did not mention the environment, nevertheless her stirring speech arguably moved a lot of people, exhorting them not to be apathetic in the face of adversity, warning them that the road we have to take is not an easy one.

      Listening to her was one of the highlights of the day for me as well as shaking the hand of former Grand Chief Phil Fontaine as my family and I bumped into him at the skytrain station.

      It was moving to see people spontaneously waving and shouting to each other as they snaked their way in opposite directions through the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

      The divide between these two bridges seemed to symbolically disappear as people tried to reach other in solidarity.

      The text message I got from my daughter after the event was a relief after the exhausting walk in the cold and driving rain:

      “Thanks for all your help and support today. It was an honour walking with you my dear family and a memory I’ll cherish.”

      Indeed, it was an honour to walk together with my two daughters and five grandchildren and the thousands of people as we journey in the path of reconciliation and healing.

      As we say in Filipino – “makibaka, huwag matakot!”


      Sep 23, 2013 at 7:15am

      I agree entirely with Mark's comment. I just listened to the chief's interview with Rick Cluff on CBC and I was so impressed with the chief's calm, so well-spoken responses. I was probably the first to send Mr. Joe Oliver my concern about the pipeline(s) thinking I would be a very lonely voice. Good luck chief with standing up to all those from Ottawa who are descending upon you folks.

      Barb Alexander

      Sep 23, 2013 at 8:07am

      Shame on Harper who is destroying Mother Earth for our future children :-( 100%Idle No More


      Sep 23, 2013 at 10:36am

      mother earth is being paved over in tsawassen by his own people.

      Green Billy

      Sep 23, 2013 at 12:51pm

      re: Ted Alcuitas "if they do not listen to us we will rise again in much greater numbers and if need be in more militant ways."

      I'm really getting tired of these violent threats from desperately miseducated wankers. If you can't remain peaceful while engaged in politics, you have no place in Canadian politics. Regardless of how much you allege to love the planet.

      Darlene Patrick

      Dec 20, 2013 at 10:38am

      I support Grand Chief Phillip wholeheartedly in standing up to the oil companies and the Harper Government and I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to stop the pipelines and the expansion of the tar sands. As a woman who has no children, I worry about everyone else's. This extreme push for more and more energy must come to an end-- we are stripping the earth through drilling deep into the ocean, fracking and digging up tar sands crude which can only result in disease and death for all living creatures and the destruction of our only home. The only path out of this disaster is to transition to renewable energy sources and cut our own carbon footprint. We are killing ourselves through overconsumption and overpopulation. Once we stop buying the newest electronic toys, drive less, buy local and do other sustainable things, we won't need so much energy and the earth can stabilize. Meanwhile, I support the First Nation peoples and hope they will not be influenced by money. The destruction of our environment is not worth it and there are no safety measures that can be employed to prevent a catastrophic spill, leak or whatever. Remember the Exxon Valdez, the Michigan disaster and worst of all, the new dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. We must stand together for the present and for future generations.