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GUEST: Inside the Wetsuwet’en Power Struggle

The Office of the Wetsuwet’en, upon whom media attention is focussed, is a quarter-century-old green quango sustained by governments and philanthropies.

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Athabascan-speaking indigenous peoples of B.C.’s central interior were once called “Carriers.” The name survives in: Carrier Chilcotin Tribal Council and Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. B.C.’s 8,000 Carriers populate a dozen bands. Distinctions among Carriers, and between Carriers and their neighbors, turn on differences in dialects that few actually speak. Several Carrier bands now self-identify as “Wetsuwet’en.” 

Carriers contacted Europeans in 1793 and soon plied the fur trade. Between 1871 and 1895 Ottawa assigned them reservations. Employment in railway crews and logging camps dates to this era.

Wetsuwet’en First Nation (pop. 257) is one of three bands arising from the recent breakup of the Omenica Band. The other two are: Nee-Tah-Buhn (pop. 130) and Skin Tyee (pop. 164). 

Coastal GasLink began consulting effected aboriginals in 2012. They held 15,000 consultations and awarded a third of the pipeline’s preparatory jobs to aboriginals.

Coastal GasLink inked agreements with 20 First Nations including the abovementioned: Wetsuwet’en, Wislet, Skin Tyee and Nee-Tah-Buhn bands. Also signing were Wetsuwet’en bands in the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council:  Stellat’en, Ts’il Kaz Koh, Nadleh Whuten and Saik’uz. The sole unsigned Wetsuwet’en band, Hagwilget Village, is far from GasLink’s route. All Wetsuwet’en bands along Coastal GasLink’s route have consented. 

Wislet First Nation alone will receive $55 million over the life of the project; plus, jobs and training. In a 2018 secret ballot, two-thirds of Wislet voters supported Coastal GasLink’s offer.

The Office of the Wetsuwet’en (“OW”) is the unelected, media-anointed representative of the Wetsuwet’en. By admission, the Smithers-headquartered OW is: “not an Indian Band or a tribal council.”

(The five bands with which OW claims affiliation receive combined annual revenues of $25 million; mostly from Ottawa. Combined on-reserve populations total 1,250. Their 3,000 off-reserve members live in Smithers, Prince Rupert, Prince George and Vancouver. Many were born in these centres.

In 1992, Ottawa hatched the B.C. Treaty Commission and Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy. The former funds B.C. aboriginal participation in treaty negotiations.

The Wetsuwet’en Treaty Office Society emerged in 1994 to access Commission funds. Since then, they’ve rung-up a $15 million debt. They receive annual loans and contributions totalling around $400,000. Money goes to honoraria for Hereditary Chiefs, administration, overhead, etc.  

The Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) is a Fisheries and Oceans Canada initiative. A.F.S. disburses $35 million annually to 125 groups. Aboriginals are paid to: monitor wildlife; enforce conservation regulations, and manage traditional fisheries.

In 1995, the Office of Wetsuwet’en Chiefs landed a $105,000 AFS cheque. In 1996, they netted: a $500,000 A.F.S. cheque; a $100,000 “green plan” cheque; and $89,000 in salmon sales. (Salmon sales thereafter disappear from the books.) 

The Office of Wetsuwet’en Chiefs was an unregistered society managing the Wetsuwet’en Treaty Office Society. The two entities merged in 2000, into the Office of the Wetsuwet’en. 

O.W. parlayed A.F.S. and Commission stipends into several counselling, cultural and enviro-assessment programs. Their $4 million in annual revenues goes mostly to salaries, administration, and honoraria for Hereditary Chiefs. OW employs 30 full-time staff.

O.W.’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department employs 3 full-time, and 20 seasonal workers. Department boss Walter Joseph got the gig in 1996 and never left. Walt’s an “adopted” Wetsuwet’en.

O.W.’s Natural Resources Department employs 4 full-timers. Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale is spokesman. Mike Ridsdale does enviro-assessments. David Dewit (B.Sc. Biol.) specializes in “sensitive ecosystem preservation.” David Belford – a non-aboriginal who’s been moiling aboriginal grants since 1975 – specializes in media relations and negotiating “engagement agreements”, whereby hapless resource companies bankroll OW’s enviro-assessments.

O.W.’s records contain line items regarding “Coastal GasLink Project Assessment” ($154,000 in 2014; $111,000 in 2015 and $114,000 in 2016). This money apparently came from Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; although a 2016 issue of Wetsuwet’en Voice references a $30 million provincial LNG Environmental Stewardship Fund.

O.W.’s Resource Department’s land-sharing/enviro-agreements yield a few hundred grand annually. O.W. logging made a $1 million a year in 2012-13 before devolving into a smaller but steady payout from Canfor. 

The 2016 Financial Statement mentions a “title assertion case” against Canfor on behalf of Hagwilget Village. That band ran up a $293,000 debt to O.W. but a $330,000 Canfor cheque cleared this. 

O.W. documents detail grants from enviro-funders. The Pacific Salmon Foundation has given cheques in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. The Driftwood Foundation gave them $9,500 for “clan meetings.” The Bulkley Valley Research Centre donated over $100,000. During 2014-16, Tides Canada awarded $130,000 for clan meetings and “IT support”. 

O.W. boasts “structural allegiances” with: the US enviro-grantmaker Moore Foundation, the Skeena Fisheries Commission, and the Skeenawild Conservation Trust (an E.N.G.O. connected to major foundations). John Ridsdale is a Skeenawild Trustee.

O.W.’s Mission:

“Based on the priorities of the Board of Directors, staff must negotiate program funding through various federal and provincial governments and foundations. This situation creates added responsibility for management to ensure that programs meet goals to illustrate success and generate support for continued funding.”

O.W. does Big Green’s bidding whist shaking down resource companies and the workers (often indigenous) that stand to benefit. 

O.W. documents are saturated with eco-propaganda. Hereditary Chief Henry Alfred intones: 

“We need to clean up the environment and ecosystem by ending the use of herbicides and pesticides.”  

O.W.’s website sports anti-pipeline articles dating to 2006. An October 2018 media release crows about O.W.’s longstanding opposition to all pipelines. O.W. led aboriginal opposition to Northern Gateway, which the Trudeau government killed in 2016. A December 2018 release affirms their programmatic opposition to Coastal GasLink.

Another pillar of O.W.’s Mission is: “ensure a governance model based on our hereditary system.” They declare:

“Our office is governed by Wetsuwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.” Not the democratically elected band council representing the Wetsuwet’en people.

Hereditary Chiefs aren’t strictly hereditary. Chief Alphonse Gagnon appears to be white. 

Moreover, in 2015, after three female Hereditary Chiefs endorsed Coastal Gaslink, the O.W. gang stripped them of their chiefdoms. (The women contest this usurpation.) The title of “Chief Woos” was taken from Darlene Glaim and given to Frank Alec, who became spokesman for the eco-activist Gitdumden clan. 

In 2019, to mitigate this patriarchal purge O.W. elevated Freda Huson and Molly Wickham to “Wing-Chiefs.” Huson is the hyper-activist co-founder of the Unistoten Camp. The telegenic, university-educated OW staffer, Wickham, isn’t Wetsuwet’en. 

In 2009, O.W. issued an imperious Protocol requiring resource companies in their self-declared 22,000 sq. k. domain to submit all plans to OW for approval. Also in 2009, O.W. held five weekend retreats; one for each “clan.” Each retreat attracted a dozen adults who were lectured by Ridsdale and Belford on eco-activist tactics. One retreat conjured the “Unistoten” – allegedly a “house” within the Big Frog clan.    

The Unistoten are no ancient order. They are a plausibly deniable, direct action, astro-turf front group. The Unistoten Camp blockade, the main manifestation of opposition to Coastal GasLink, has been joined by the Gitdumden Camp. Many camp activists are non-aboriginal, professional protestors.

The few thousand people who might rightly claim Wetsuwet’en heritage are demonstrably, overwhelmingly supportive of Coastal Gaslink.

The Office of the Wetsuwet’en, upon whom media attention is focussed, is a quarter-century-old green quango sustained by governments and philanthropies. 

O.W. “Hereditary Chiefs” represent only themselves and their ill-intentioned funders.

Guest column by William Kay. The contents of this article are the property and responsibility of William Kay’s and not the Western Standard. 

Features

MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

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Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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Features

Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

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A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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Features

What you need to know about new Alberta government restrictions

“Once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.”

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Guest contribution from Jonathan Denis, former minister of justice and solicitor general of Alberta.

COVID-19 is a very divisive subject, and the laws and regulations around it can be confusing as they are both complex and often changing.  Our office (Guardian Law Group LLP) has been receiving increasing inquiries about the restrictions reintroduced by the Government of Alberta.

In response to rising daily infection rates – the so-called “fourth wave” – Premier Jason Kenney announced the new restrictions are as follows:

  1. Masks – Effective September 4, 2021, masks are mandatory for all indoor public spaces and workplaces until further notice.  Schools are not required to impose forced-masking, but school boards will continue to set their own COVID-19 management policies.

There are further requirements and exceptions to the province-wide forced-masking regulations:

  1. Children under two-years of age are exempt;
  2. Individuals who have a medical exemption from masks are required to obtain a medical exemption letter from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or psychologist.  This medical exemption letter may be presented when in a public setting if requested by law enforcement, or in Court if a ticket is issued. A non-exhaustive list of medical conditions for which mask exemptions are granted include sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, mental illness, facial trauma, recent oral surgery, allergic distractions, or respiratory distress (I.e. asthma).
  3. Human rights legislation adds a further layer of complexity. Employers are not permitted to ask an applicant or an employee about current or past medical conditions. Therefore, once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.
  • Early “Last call” – Also on the same date, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, night clubs, and other licensed establishments are required to end alcohol service at 10 pm MST. 
  • Voluntary recommendations – 
  1. Gatherings for unvaccinated people: The province is recommending (but not yet requiring) that unvaccinated Albertans limit their indoor social gatherings to “close contacts” of only two cohort families to a maximum of 10 people.
    1. In-person work: The province is also recommending that plans for in-person return to work be paused and that employers revert to work-from-home where possible.  

There is no legal requirement for mandatory vaccination.  Vaccination info can be found at ahs.ca/vaccine.

The province is also providing incentives for a $1 million draw for those who have two shots which will close on September 23, 2021.  You can enter this draw at alberta.ca/lotterty.  There is also a lottery to win an outdoor adventure which can be entered at alberta.ca/outdoor-adventure-vaccine-lottery.aspx.  Lastly, the province is now offering a $100.00 payment to persons who receive a first or second dose between September 3 and October 14, 2021.

Disclaimer: This column is for information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  We recommend that you follow all laws and regulations.  If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities, please consult a private lawyer.

Jonathan Denis, Q.C. is a partner at Guardian Law Group LLP in Calgary.  He previously served as a two-term MLA and in five cabinet roles, most notably as Alberta’s 23rd Minister of Justice, Solicitor General, and Attorney General.  He has made the choice to be vaccinated twice.

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