Getting it half right

The CBC‘s Aaron Wherry gets two important points right in an analysis of Justin Trudeau’s climb down or change of heart or whatever it was yesterday:

  • First, he says that Canada has “demonstrated that there’s a significant well of public willingness to pursue reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples who originally occupied the land that is now Canada … [because] … In an Ipsos poll, a majority of respondents said they disagreed with the protests (as a general rule, the average Canadian is likely inclined to object to anything that seems disruptive) … [but] … 75 per cent strongly or somewhat agreed that the federal government must act to raise the quality of life for Indigenous peoples — up 12 points from when the same question was asked in 2013;” and
  • Second, he explains that “Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on Tuesday likely put him in a better position to say what he said on Friday. Showing a willingness to talk should lend someone more credibility if or when they declare an impasse.

In other words, Justin Trudeau may have read the public will and, perhaps too late in the minds of many people, given himself some room to pacify both indigenous Canadians and the general public.

I suspect it was an accident. Leaving aside Marc Garneau (at the far right) I don’t believe there is anyone in this picture, taken at yesterday’s press conference …

Screen Shot 2020-02-22 at 08.11.09

… with enough brains to have thought of a coherent response to what must, now, be seen as an organized attack on Canada’s economy.

Justin Trudeau may have, days after Andrew Scheer did, finally said the right things: ““Canadians have been patient. Our government has been patient, but it has been two weeks and the barricades need to come down now … [because] … Every attempt at dialogue has been made. But discussion has not been productive … [and, finally] … We cannot have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table.”

He, figuratively, threw down the gauntlet. A few of the Wet’suwet’en unelected, hereditary chiefs, equally figuratively, picked it up, examined it, spat upon in and then threw it back in his face by doubling down on and even increasing their demands. Not only, they said, must the RCMP leave Wet’suwet’en land, they also said that they would talk only when “activities related to the Coastal GasLink pipeline had ceased.

Team Trudeau seems, finally, to have grasped the facts and is able to “distinguish between protests that are grounded in historic wrongs committed against Indigenous peoples and those that have attempted to use or engage with those protests to raise entirely different concerns.” Some observers believe that the latter, groups like the Tides Foundation, are using Canadian First Nations to advance their own (Tides‘) social justice agenda. Others believe that the media-savvy Wet’suwet’en chiefs are using always ready young people ~ the Greta Thunberg generation ~ to advance their cause which is a power struggle between the hereditary and elected leaders. My guess is that it is some of each.

But Prime Minister Trudeau may have boxed himself in. He said, ““We don’t use the army on Canadian civilians”,” which, Aaron Wherry says is “an implicit, though perhaps unconscious, repudiation of his father’s swaggering “just watch me” moment.” It’s also a stupid thing to say. Canada has used and I am 100% certain will, again, “use  the Army on Canadian civilians.” The military, called out in aid of the civil power, is just another tool in the political box. It’s a tool he (and I) and most soldiers would rather not use, but, if and when a situation reaches a certain crisis point, it is an important tool that must, always, work.

imageMy guess is that the handful of Wet’suwet’en chiefs actually want (need?) the police to act, and fail, and the Army to be called out. My sense is that the handful of King Charles Ihereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink project are, like King Charles I in 1649, on the wrong side of history. They are trying to defend their version of a “divine right,” ordained by their tribal customs, to overrule the will of the Wet’suwet’en people and their elected councils. I believe the chiefs are doomed to fail, eventually, but I also believe they want to go down fighting. Justin Trudeau is right to not want to accommodate them, he is wrong to say that, if forced, he will not use every club in his bag.

So, Prime Minister Trudeau has, finally, got it half right. To the extent that his threat works, his timing may be good. If it doesn’t work. if propane shortages in Québec, for example, become damaging and politically harmful, he may have no option but to direct the use of force. With Ipperwash very much in their minds, one or more provincial attorneys general may requisition troops, as they are entitled to do under the National Defence Act.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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