Andrew Coyne, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “In the 12 days or so since the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute blew up from a localized confrontation in the British Columbia interior to a national crisis, two schools of thought have predominated:
- The first holds that the protests that have blocked rail lines and closed ports across the country are fundamentally legitimate and should be treated as such. The territory to which the Wet’suwet’en Nation claim title is unceded land; the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are the legally recognized executors of their title; therefore their consent is required before any such project can be built on their land, and therefore the protesters who have taken up their cause, far from violating the rule of law, are enforcing it; and
- The second holds that the protests are fundamentally illegitimate and should be treated as such. That the Wet’suwet’en territory is unceded does not mean it is sovereign; neither has their particular title under Canadian law been established by the courts, even if the general contours of aboriginal title have – a title that, if it were recognized, would legally entitle them to be consulted, not to give or withhold their consent.“
I agree that protests, any protests, are legitimate, within some bounds. The right to protest does not equate to a right to do harm to others ~ to inconvenience, perhaps, to do harm, no.
I do not know the ins and outs of the law regarding unceded territory. I believe that in this case consultations were held and consent was given by several hereditary chiefs and by all the elected band councils. In the 21st century, the actions of elected councils ought to count for more than that of hereditary chiefs ~ indigenous or not. We’re not going to return to human sacrifice or even capital punishment just because it was part of the custom of one culture or another.
Mr Coyne says, and I agree, again, that “people who cleave to the second view have tended, not merely to reject the legitimacy of the protests, many of which have been carried out in open defiance of court orders, but to demand that they be dismantled, their organizers prosecuted … [I, personally, tend to that view, and] … To do otherwise, they argue, is to telegraph weakness, to invite further lawlessness, and ultimately to threaten civil order, and the economic and social structures that are built upon it.“
“But,” he says, and I agree broadly, “the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises. One can both believe that the protests are fundamentally illegitimate, and that it would be folly to attempt to dismantle them by force … [that appears to be the Trudeau regime’s view, and, he adds] … It is true that the protests are in many cases illegal and that the protesters tend to baldly misrepresent the Wet’suwet’en conflict – which is not so much a conflict between the Wet’suwet’en and the Canadian state as a conflict within the community – where they have not had other issues in mind altogether. It is true that the longer the blockades go on, the greater the hardship that is likely to result. The authorities would be well within their rights to step in … [but, he says] … just because you have a right to do something does not make it advisable. Before you attempt to exercise a right, it helps to assess whether it is likely to do more harm than good, or whether it is even possible … [I also agree broadly with that, but he and I part company when he concludes that] … On both scores, intervention would seem unwise.“
While I share Andrew Coyne’s views on the possibilities (difficulties) of securing and protecting all of Canada’s vital infrastructure, I suggest that it cannot be left as a hostage to whichever band of activists or thugs decides it wants to make a point at the expense of the people at large.
This current situation, now well into its second week, is not a protest. A protest would have lasted two or three days. It is, now, a concerted attack upon Canada. The protesters made their point ten days ago. Those manning the barricades are now enemies of Canada. It would be more than just “unwise,” it would be suicidal to roll over and accept this situation, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems inclined to do. The blockades must end. The perpetrators must be dispersed … those who do not leave quickly, quietly and peacefully must be subdued, charged and punished.
Sooner or later, I believe, one provincial attorney general or another must act in the national interest “by requisition in writing addressed to the Chief of the Defence Staff, require the Canadian Forces, or such part thereof as the Chief of the Defence Staff or such officer as the Chief of the Defence Staff may designate considers necessary, to be called out on service in aid of the civil power.” Please note the word “require.” While the Minister of National Defence may (should) consult with the attorney general regarding the response, it is the duty, in law, of the Chief of the Defence Staff to come to the aid of that province and to use Canadian sailors, soldiers and air force members restore law and order.
In my opinion, we are well past the time for law and order to be restored.
I believe it is still well within the capabilities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, acting as the provincial police in BC, and the Ontario Provincial Police to dismantle the barricades and restore order. But, I suspect that provincial politicians, haunted by memories of Ipperwash (1995) and Oka (1990), are reluctant to send their own police forces in against First Nations peoples. They may want to use the Canadian military as a substitute. That’s not how it is supposed to work, but it may be necessary in this case.
The key thing about calling in the troops is that the Army cannot lose. It must not lose. If it were to lose then the country would, effectively, cease to exist as a lawful state; we would be a place run by brigands. The Chief of the Defence Staff will not allow that to happen. Once the troops are called out then law and order will be restored, that’s a certainty.
When, not if as I suspect, the troops are called in they will respond with great force. Their goal will be to resolve the situation without using any force other than that created by the mere presence of large numbers of superbly disciplined, well-armed and well-trained soldiers and their impressive heavy equipment. The military commander will, politely, ask the
protesters lawbreakers to leave and take their stuff with them. She or he will set a time limit.
In most cases, it is to be hoped, the
protesters lawbreakers will leave of their own accord. If they do not then the military commander will, most likely, move quickly and with overwhelming force, in an exemplary manner, to knock down barriers and disperse people … detaining any who do not flee.
That, I believe, is what is required now. I agree with Andrew Coyne that “Canada’s way of life will not be sustained by force,” but nor can it be sustained. by accepting that wanton disregard for the law and for the welfare of others is, somehow, a right just because unsettled land claims are at issue and just because a few unelected, hereditary chiefs oppose the will of the elected First Nations leaders. He says that “Nothing could be better calculated to turn moderate opinion against the Canadian project than the indiscriminate use of force,” and I agree. That’s why calling out the Army is a good answer. As we saw at Oka their force is disciplined and is used with great care. He says that “patience and solicitude are what is required,” and I believe that millions of Canadians, undoubtedly the majority of Canadians have already exercised both and the “unreasonableness” of the
protesters’ lawbreakers’ positions has become fully apparent. He’s right that we don’t need martyrs. There were no martyrs at Oka, what we saw were thugs and goons, criminals, actually, faced down and then beaten back by disciplined, restrained, tough Canadian soldiers … that’s what we need to see again, and soon.