Saturday, February 15, 2020

Getting My Head Around Privilege and Protest

This is a bit of a round up on this issue, just of opposing positions floating around social media. First let's look at Andrew Scheer's comments:

On "ideologically motivated protestors":
I hate how the existence of  'ideologies' has been spun to be a problem in the world. I get the idea that some people are so embedded in their beliefs that they can't see outside of them, but having a value system common to a group of people isn't a problem in itself. All protesters and politicians are motivated by their way of looking at the world.

On "activists may have the luxury of spending days at a time on a blockade, but they need to check their privilege":
Even if Scheer is speaking ONLY about middle class white protestors coming to the aid of the Indigenous, that's one way protests get more power added to them. For those protestors using their privilege to add a louder voice to the marginalized, keep on being good allies!

But, "check your privilege" as applied to anyone else? It's a joke. And it may very well be his legacy, right up there with Mike Harris's famous line, "I want the fucking Indians out of the park!" And if he's talking about the Indigenous, then they're not activists; they're land defenders. Check out Jesse Wente's Twitter thread on the comment.

On "As Prime Minister, as I said, I would direct the RCMP to enforce the law":
First of all, that PM ship has sailed. And, as one of the panel members said in the video, "There are few things that would be more dangerous to the Rule of Law in Canada than political actors ordering and commanding police action.  That would set great and troubling precedence."

Beyond Scheer's tone deaf comments, Ken Coates, in The Globe and Mail, makes a couple claims of dubious veracity. First he compares the current protests disfavourably with Idle No More.
"Idle No More, in contrast, was a loosely managed movement that called on Indigenous peoples across Canada to champion local issues, to express their dissatisfaction with Canadian policy, and to celebrate Indigenous resilience. Hundreds of pop-up events happened across Canada, marked by their dancing, drumming and singing, their optimism, and the determination to ensure that Indigenous voices were heard by government, politicians and the public at large. The Idle No More events were also overwhelmingly peaceful and legal. It was a matter of pride for supporters that they posed minimal disruption: There were some short-term road and rail blockades, but the vast majority of the events formed and dissipated quickly. . . . As a movement, Idle No More had no specific policy objectives and no clearly defined political mandate, and therein lay its success and authority. The current protests, however, focus on civil disobedience, deliberately working to inconvenience non-Indigenous peoples. . . . The Coastal GasLink activities run the risk of alienating public support for Indigenous rights and aspirations. What a bitter and destructive irony it would be if the willingness of the environmental movement to engage selectively in the politics of Indigenous rights ends up weakening the people they claim to be supporting."
His version of a good protest, in praising Idle No More for not really, according to him, wanting anything significant to change, is one that doesn't disrupt the status quo. The good protest is a celebration; none of this road blocking for him! He wants the Indigenous people to have a louder voice, but only as long as it doesn't make it too inconvenient for the non-Indigenous.

In a criticism of Coates a few years back, two historians explain the problem with his stance that,
"not enough has been done to capture the positive impacts of residential schools and the success stories of survivors . . . The solution, then, is to “take a few steps forward” and understand that the “serious problems and transitions occurred only in the last 60 years” . . . .To be sure, his is a piece about how academics might struggle with their own politics under the veil of objectivity and how that relates to the kinds of historical research we undertake. Another historian, one specializing in Indian residential schooling, might have more deeply probed, for instance, how Indigenous people have struggled with the long legacy and effects of Indian residential schools. Coates, though, begins in a decidedly personal place located well outside of Indigenous experiences: namely, memories of attending an Anglican summer camp located near the Carcross Residential School."

So there's that. For the rest of his article, Coates hopes to clarify that Indigenous peoples are not uniformly opposed to the pipeline. In supporting one faction, activists are opposing another and risking the unification of the group as a whole. A Maclean's article dismantles the claim that the Indigenous are at odds with each other: "The Wet'suwet'en are more united than pipeline backers want you to think."
"Ahead of the impending RCMP enforcement of Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline’s temporary injunction in late 2018, the Wet’suwet’en held an important feast, to decide what to do next. . . . The proceedings that day took hours of protocol and discussion before the hereditary chiefs announced the decision, on behalf of the five clans—they would not leave quietly, they said. They would block pipeline workers. . . . Of the five Wet’suwet’en elected band chiefs, only the Hagwilget Village Council declined to sign benefits agreements with the LNG pipeline, citing that it was not their place to make decisions about the territory. . . . The Wet’suwet’en are not a nation divided, they are a nation with differing opinions on the best route to a better future after history of oppression. 
The band councils have sought opportunity, and funding, where they can find it. But based on Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law, it’s ultimately the hereditary chiefs who have jurisdiction to the territory, and they have been clear about their aim—to assert self-governance over their land and demand a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada. It’s a move that would benefit all Wet’suwet’en. . . . The band chiefs, who were imposed by the Indian Act, govern their reserves, while hereditary chiefs predate Canada, and govern the entire Wet’suwet’en territory. . . . A key point that project proponents emphasize, is that 20 elected band councils signed benefits agreements, a phrasing that relies on Canadians’ social conditioning—one that assumes democratic systems are fundamentally more fair. 
While talking about benefits agreements, duress is inherent in the process—First Nations can’t actually say no to any project in Canada. In addition, most councils are cash-strapped, and some reported that they were told the project would go ahead with or without their consent—they might as well get on board for a payout. Leaked examples of Coastal GasLink agreements show evidence of large provincial subsidies to get First Nations on board, attempts to muzzle pipeline dissent, and to limit Aboriginal rights. . . . the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Their voice is the one that counts for the 190 kms of pipeline proposed for their territory. . . . Premier Horgan recently said reconciliation discussions with the hereditary chiefs are ongoing, but Wet’suwet’en opposed to the pipeline say reconciliation is dead. This national outcry follows the arrests of 28 people from Wet’suwet’en camps.

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