by Deidra Garyk
I’m writing an open letter to all the mainstream media outlets to express my frustration at the poor reporting of the #shutdowncanada blockades and protests that began on February 6, 2020, allegedly in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
You focus all of your attention on the protesters who are breaking the law, but none on the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who support the pipeline project the due to years of effective consultations. Twenty out of twenty First Nations communities along the pipeline route support it and the prosperity it brings to their people. Why is this merely a footnote in your commentary on the issue?
How is it possible that all impacted First Nations are in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, yet eight Wet’suwet’en hereditary house chiefs are able to delay construction and bring our entire country to its knees?
It’s possible because the media is giving them so much air time that it has legitimized their claims. Why aren’t you giving as much attention to the leaders who support the project? Supporters of the pipeline have faced threats, including homes being burned down, requiring great courage to speak up, and yet they do it because they’re staying true to their principles.
This includes people such as MLA Ellis Ross, former elected Chief of the Wet’sewet’en Karen Ogen-Toews, Hereditary Chief Helen Michelle of Skin Tyee Nation, Wet’suwet’en, and Wet’suwet’en Nation member Shirley Wilson. I’ve linked videos from each of them so that you can hear what they think in their own words.
There’s a pervasive misconception being spread that Indigenous groups do not support oil and gas development in Canada. That’s simply not true. There are 26 oil-producing First Nations in Western Canada, and they support energy development because they benefit from royalties and employment opportunities. 7.8% of people working in extractive industries identify as Indigenous compared to the federal government where it is only 4.7% and only 3.9% in all other industries. The oil and gas sector is doing more for reconciliation than the federal government. It’s not enough to say you support reconciliation, you have to show that you support it, and the oil and gas sector is doing just that through their actions.
It’s not only First Nations’ members who are being harmed by these unlawful blockades, ordinary Canadians are being harmed. Canadian National Railway Co. announced 1,000 temporary layoffs on Sunday, February 16, 2020. Farmers are having trouble getting their grain to markets, and that impacts their ability to compete internationally. There could be food shortages if these blockades are allowed to continue.
If you do not speak up in opposition to these illegal blockades, your silence means you are in support of the harm being caused to average Canadians. If you have the power and influence to make positive changes, but you don’t, to quote Simon and Garfunkel, “silence like a cancer grows”.
Many of the protesters aren’t from the Wet’sewet’en Nation, and they don’t even know what they’re protesting against. They think the Coastal Gaslink pipeline is going to transport crude oil. It’s not. It’s going to transport natural gas to the least emissions-intensive liquefied natural gas facility on the planet.
With so little knowledge about what they’re protesting against, one has to wonder what the #shutdowncanada movement is really trying to accomplish? They’re on record as being “anti-capitalism”. When is the media going to do some investigative journalism to expose what is really going on? The Trudeau Liberals, the OPP, and the RCMP may be the only groups more cowardly than the mainstream media right now. Why did you go from reporting the news to creating it? Why aren’t you on a plane headed to the protest sites? Why are you only taking info from these groups’ press releases and reporting it as fact when you have no idea if it is fully truthful?
Thankfully, we have organizations such as Resource Works out of BC who have been shedding light on important details about this movement. They have the courage to expose that a BC civil servant has been granted leave to go join the protest camp at Wet’sewet’en, a camp that the BC government has provided $400,000 in public funding to.
Canada currently has a reputation on the world stage for not being able to get things done. Through balanced, honest reporting from Canadian media, we can change people’s perceptions and become a country that can develop our resources responsibly and sustainably and be a world leader once again.
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