Territorial acknowledgements cannot be just hollow words

Mar 18, 2021 | 42-1, Blog, Governance, Video | 0 comments

In this two minute Statement I reflect on the culture of territorial acknowledgements that is now become common practice in the British Columbia legislature.

These acknowledgements lack meaning when they are not followed with the concrete actions of reconciliation. I used the example of the eagerness of the Members to note the “traditional” and even “unceded” Indigenous territories of their home ridings and noted that at the same the time the government they are a part of continues to arrest Indigenous hunters practicing their treaty protected hunting rights that have been successfully defended in the courts over decades.

I support meaningful territorial acknowledgements. However, the words are easy, and without actions they quickly become hollow and meaningless.

[Transcript]

I hear members of this chamber sincerely acknowledge the traditional and even unceded territories of their local Indigenous people. This is an important change from 2017, when I was first elected to represent my territory, W̱SÁNEĆ. We are 169 years and one month removed from the day that Sir James Douglas collected the marks of our SIÁM, guaranteeing the fishing and hunting rights of the Indigenous people.

We are 169 years and one month removed from the day that Sir James Douglas collected the marks of our SIÁM guaranteeing the fishing and hunting rights of the W̱SÁNEĆ. This institution has never fulfilled its responsibilities to that treaty. In the years following, officers took away our [SENĆOŦEN was spoken], sacred fishing nets, and arrested our hunters.

More than two decades ago, my father was arrested by officers empowered by the laws created in this chamber for participating in his treaty-protected hunt. His name was added to generations of hunters forced into the courts to defend their name, their dignity and to elevate their rights, even as lawyers representing this chamber tried to tear them down.

Yet my father and our people persevered. We are here today with many successful defences of our fishing and hunting rights, including my father’s victory at the Supreme Court of Canada. Jim, Morris, White, Bob, Bartleman, Morris and Olsen — those are some of the names of the warriors who fiercely and selflessly defended our rights.

As we all humbly acknowledge the traditional territories of our ridings, you would think that our lawyers would no longer be dragging W̱SÁNEĆ hunters into court to undermine and erode. Ten years after my father’s victory, a new case, Sampson, was added to this intergenerational list. Those territorial acknowledgements are meaningless if the province stubbornly pushes ahead with cases like Sampson. It’s time for those with authority in this House to stop arresting our hunters and do what Douglas did. Sit down with our leaders to ensure those words the members utter in here don’t ring as hollow as the promise that Douglas made our ancestors has turned out to be.

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