What planet do Mr. Plant and his Liberal's colleagues live on?
> Posted by: Earth on http://PEJ.org Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - 12:08 AM
> What planet do Mr. Plant and his Liberal's colleagues live on?
> By Will Horter - The Dogwood Initiative - April 8, 2005
> I was amused by outgoing BC Attorney General Geoff Plant's recent
> characterization of Haida leader Guujaaw as an alien from another planet.
> I'm sure it was unintentional, but in a few words Mr. Plant captured the
> essence of his government's attitude towards First Nations, and towards the
> environment, and of its respect for the courts and the law.
> Plant's quip - racist and insulting as it was - should be analyzed, because
> it provides some illumination on how this government thinks about the
> world. Or more specifically, about British Columbians and First Nations.
> During an open line talk show on CKNW on March 23 Attorney General Geoff
> Plant said, "When I hear Guujaaw I think he's on a different planet,"
> Mr. Plant is right. Guujaaw does live on a different planet from Mr. Plant
> and his Liberal colleagues.
> By his actions Guujaaw has demonstrated that on his planet the future of
> the planet matters. On Guujaaw's planet governments are expected to respect
> the law and follow the direction of the courts. On Guujaaw's planet the
> concerns of his neighbors matter, regardless of their race. On Guujaaw's
> planet ecological integrity, protecting the web of life that nurtures the
> salmon, the raven, and the Haida, is more important than enriching himself.
> On Guujaaw's planet honour matters, and leaders negotiate in good faith and
> fulfill their agreements.
> None of these descriptions appear to apply on "Planet Liberal" where Mr.
> Plant and his Liberal colleagues devise their schemes. On "Planet Liberal"
> only the economy matters. And in their trickle-down view, only the concerns
> of the wealthy well-connected few are relevant. Everyone else is a special
> interest - with insistent First Nations and rural residents to be ignored
> or possibly bought off.
> Despite the rhetoric, on the Liberals' planet any show of concern for
> future generations and ecological integrity is obstructionist, and
> short-term economic profit takes precedence over virtually anything else.
> Their record indicates they haven't seen a big mine, coalbed methane
> proposal, pipeline, oilfield, resort development or casino that they didn't
> like, regardless of its impact on land, water or the local community.
> And surprisingly on Mr. Plant's planet, court decisions are only important
> if they support the government's position. If not, they are to be ignored
> or undermined by amending legislation.
> And Guujaaw is not alone on his planet. This conflict in planetary views is
> why First Nations and rural communities on Haida Gwaii and elsewhere are
> beginning to stand up and oppose this government's policies. It's why the
> majority of the non-native residents of Haida Gwaii support the Haida in
> their struggle to regain control of their resources and manage them
> The current uprising on Haida Gwaii results not only from divergent world
> views. It has historical roots fertilized by broken promises and
> dishonourable conduct by Mr. Plant's government and its predecessors.
> Back in the mid-1990s, the Haida launched a challenge to the BC
> government's decision to grant and replace the tree farm licence then held
> by MacMillan Bloedel, which Weyerhaeuser took over in 2000 and now wants to
> sell along with some private lands to Brascan as part of the proposed $1.2
> Billion deal..
> The Haida challenged the governments approval, Although they initially lost
> in the lower court, the Haida appeal was successful at the BC Court of
> Appeal-the highest court in BC-which ruled that the Crown had an obligation
> to consult the Haida before tenure was transferred.
> The Court of Appeals also ruled that the failure to consult and accommodate
> First Nations like the Haida could make the tenure invalid and that the
> duty to consult and accommodate affected First Nations was extended to
> third-party tenure holder like Weyerhaeuser. This sent shock waves through
> government and the resource industry. Investment certainty in BC suddenly
> became corporate risk.
> The BC government's response was to ignore the Court. Soon after the
> decision Skeena Cellulose's tenure was sold to New Skeena. Despite the
> Haida ruling, Mr. Plant's government did nothing to engage First Nations.
> So the six nations affected by the deal sued. The courts upheld the earlier
> decision and slapped Mr. Plant's wrists, reprimanding the Crown.
> After facing a string of loses in the court, did Mr. Plant do the
> honourable thing and implement laws and policies that would involve First
> Nations in tenure decisions as directed to by the courts?
> Instead, his government did the exact opposite. They amended laws and
> policies to remove the requirement that the Forest Minister approve tenure
> transfers and hold public hearings in affected communities. This made it
> procedurally more difficult (and more expensive) for First Nations like the
> Haida to legally challenge tenure transfers.
> Related amendments allowed the Forest Minister to remove private lands from
> tree farm licences thus eliminating virtually all effective regulation of
> forestry practices on them. This enabled this government to privatize
> almost 90,000 hectares of forest lands on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii
> to-you guessed it-Weyerhaeuser who just happened to among the Liberal
> Parties largest donor having donated $448,093 since 1996.
> Last fall the Supreme Court of Canada heard the Crown and Weyerhaeuser's
> appeal of the Haida's victory. The Supreme Court found for the Haida ruling
> that the Crown had a duty to consult with First Nations like the Haida
> about strategic decision like tenure. The Court grounded this duty in the
> "honour of the Crown."
> The highest court didn't consider the issue of whether the Crown's failure
> to consult affected First Nations could invalidate tenure, so the Court of
> Appeals ruling stands on that issue.
> While the Supreme Court let Weyerhaeuser and other third parties off the
> hook, saying only the Crown had duties, the potential liabilities now
> attached to tenure decisions that don't involve First Nations creates
> vulnerabilities that could interfere with companies rights to operate.
> So what did Mr. Plant's government do?
> Once again, nothing. It didn't amend it laws to comply with the Supreme
> Court's direction. It didn't change its consultation policy. It didn't
> engage the Haida and other First Nations in meaningful negotiations.
> Instead, it continued business as usual leaving important decisions about
> who gets to operate on unceded lands to the market and corporate
> executives. The proof of this inaction is the letter the Deputy Minister of
> Forests recently sent to Guujaaw indicating that the Crown had no authority
> under its revised laws to intervene in Brascan's proposed takeover of
> Weyerhaeuser' coastal holdings. The government's intransigence helped
> trigger the current uprising.
> It is not surprising that Mr. Plant's quip about Guujaaw's planet of origin
> followed an on-air discussion of the Haida's growing claims of
> jurisdiction. It is his government's ongoing unilateral actions on land and
> resource issues and its refusal to sit down and attempt to reconcile the
> competing jurisdictions that has led to the uprising on Haida Gwaii and the
> lawsuits by the Hupacasath, Gitanyow, Haida and Okanagan nations. It is the
> failure to address the "Land Question" that has also led to blockades in
> Kingcome Inlet, the Peace region, and in the Stikine-Iskut area.
> Opposition from First Nations and communities is growing as people realize
> that their elected officials live on another planet. Opposition is growing
> as people realize that their local resources and economies are increasingly
> being managed for the benefit of corporations, shareholders and government
> revenues, and their local interests and rights are being sacrificed.
> Mr. Plant's patronizing comment about Guujaaw is just the latest attempt by
> representatives of this government to demonize and isolate First Nations
> leaders that act independently, assert constitutionally protected rights,
> and refuse to sign agreements that allow the status quo or new development
> to continue in exchange for small sums of money.
> This cavalier treatment of First Nations like the Haida, Hupacasath and
> Gitanyow about resource issues is a dangerous tactic to play for a
> government gearing up for an election. It is especially risky, when the
> Liberal party is grounded on how they have improved the economy.
> If First Nations' challenges of tenure continue to increase, then Mr.
> Plant's government may have sabotaged "certainty" related to land issues
> for many years to come. Corporate aversion to risk and the consequent
> investment withdrawal will be exactly the opposite of the results Mr.
> Plant's government was hoping for.
> Come May 17th voters will have a say in whose planet they want to live and
> whether Planet Liberal gets another 4 years. Until then lots can happen.
> First Nations and community members from Haida Gwaii are leading the way.
> Who in the rest of BC will follow?
> Al Rycroft, Senior Editor
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