A resolution from Manitoba chiefs calling for “action on oil pipelines” was kept from a vote during the special chiefs assembly in Ottawa last week because a lawyer for the Assembly of First Nations determined it could be interpreted as “terrorism,” according to the chief who proposed the resolution.
Waywayseecappo First Nation Chief Murray Clearsky said he was told the resolution had to be substantially changed for it to proceed.
“That is what they called it,” said Clearsky, in a telephone interview Monday. “(They said) it is geared more toward terrorism. They were calling me a terrorist. They watered it down to fit whatever their need was and I said, ‘don’t bother.’”
The resolution called on the AFN to back planned action by Manitoba chiefs against existing oil pipelines in June and to also create a planning committee to deal with media relations, legal advice and security issues.
The action against the pipelines would include blocking access routes to pipeline stations.
The resolution stated that Canada’s failure to live up to its end of the treaties had nullified its “legal right to access the property of the rightful Indigenous owners.”
The resolution also stated that Canada had “no legal access to resources” in territories where treaties have yet to be signed.
Clearsky, who was acting grand chief of Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs Organization during the Ottawa meeting, said he spoke to the AFN’s regional chief for Manitoba Bill Traverse on Thursday who told him the resolution was extremely problematic.
“(Traverse) said it didn’t go through due to the fact that it was related too much to being terrorism,” said Clearsky.
Traverse could not be reached for comment.
The AFN could not be reached for comment.
Clearsky said he understood the AFN’s queasiness over the resolution because the organization depends almost totally on government funding to survive.
“As I stated that day to the AFN chief, I know it’s hard for (the AFN) to follow through on stuff like this because the government is giving (the AFN) money to run your programs and keep you guys alive,” said Clearsky, whose Ojibway community is part of Treaty 4. “Years ago, we used to protest…today we just sit back and go with the flow…we should be getting louder.”
Clearsky said the oil pipeline was only used as an example. He said blockades could also hit highways, railways and airports.
“Whatever you can do to slow business down, to make our points so the government will hear us,” said he said.
The resolution first surfaced on Wednesday, a day of heated words triggered by the crisis in Attawapiskat.
Former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson was given the microphone by Clearsky to explain the resolution.
Nelson said there were also planned actions in Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as several U.S. states.
“The chiefs in Manitoba have been listening and they hear very clearly we have to take action,” said Nelson, at the time. “In June, we are going to have continuous, ongoing demonstration action on the pipelines, from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, to sit on those pipelines until this government comes to their goddamn senses.”
Several chiefs also marched to the doors of Parliament Hill that day, stopping traffic along the way.
The RCMP was called to intervene and, after a brief back-and-forth, the chiefs and their supporters left the Hill.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who participated in the march, told an RCMP officer that it was the “beginning.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to meet with a delegation of First Nations leaders on Jan. 24.