We Canadians Have Been Rocked by Three Unrelated Shocks This Year
Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner March 26, 2020
Blockaded rail lines in sympathy with the We’tsuwet’en reserve in northern B.C. were just one of the big challenges Canadians have already faced this year. LARS HAGBERG /CANADIAN PRESS
This article might well be called a "counter-column."
Much heavy criticism has been directed at federal leadership in recent days, some of it from legitimate sources, but then again, much more in nasty, hateful, anonymous posts on social media (is that what are called "trolls?"). Avoid them.
Here, then, is one voice in approval of the federal management of our crises. It may be drowned out. But it represents the feelings of many in the silent majority.
We Canadians have been rocked by three unrelated shocks since the new year. There was the dreadful shooting down of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 on January 8 by the Iranian military, with the deaths of 176 people, 57 Canadians.
Our government reacted swiftly and compassionately. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the bereaved, and sympathetic arrangements were made for families, including the immediate grant of $25,000 for urgent expenses. Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is experienced and energetic, invited the countries with citizens involved to a meeting in Europe at which they demanded an honest Iranian investigation and restitution for victims' families. Iran responded partly, taking responsibility for "human error."
Canada absorbed the tragedy, angered, yet whole.
Crisis 2 followed quickly upon it. From Feb. 5 through to March, 2020, Indigenous groups blockaded rail lines in sympathy with the Wet'suwet'en reserve in northern British Columbia, who were objecting to the natural gas pipeline proposed by CoastalGasLink to run through their lands on its way to the sea. From the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat, some 650 kilometres.
Across the country, other Indigenous groups and their allies rose up in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en. The method used was the blockades of rail lines. National travel of people and goods was for a time stopped. Some strident voices called for vigorous police intervention. The courts had granted injunctions against the blockades. The RCMP stood at the ready. But the prime minister and his advisers, especially Chrystia Freeland, Bill Blair, Marc Miller and Carolyn Bennett, all of whom are profoundly committed to the long and arduous process of reconciliation, made it clear there was to be no force, no bloodshed, no removals. It was the practice of heroic patience, and patience is a virtue much admired and practiced by Indigenous people.
"It is never appropriate to send in the army against Canadian citizens," said the Prime Minister.
"Protect our future; no more pipelines," said Native leader, Roxanne Whitebear. Quebec Premier Francois Legault weighed in: "Solutions must be found so it never happens again."
Canadians were learning a lot about Indigenous reality. Late perhaps, but vividly. There are hereditary chiefs and there are elected chiefs in these communities. Who has the legitimate authority? Along the route, elected band councils had signed a benefit agreement with the development company. Hereditary chiefs insisted they also be at the table.
Meetings, statements, tentative agreements poured forth. Via Rail reported that 1071 trains had been cancelled, affecting 165,000 passengers. The financial losses are yet to be completely calculated. But on March 12, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux said the disruptions had shaved two-tenths of a per cent off economic growth in the first quarter.
Patience and good faith continued. The Mohawks near Montreal moved their encampment to a green space near the Mercier Bridge. The Tyendinaga protesters near Belleville dispersed. The New Brunswick blockade was ended.
Settler Canadians had learned a lot. Thirty-seven per cent of us showed some support for Indigenous grievances. Then has come COVID-19. Led by the prime minister, who has been personally affected, and by Heath Minister Patty Hajdu, the Canadian response has been calm, intelligent, science-informed and effective.
Tests cost $1,100 in the U.S. Here they are incorporated into medicare.
I was struck by a lyric by American jazz musician and poet Mose Allison, a white artist from Mississippi, who wrote in the '80s: "And will there be heroes and saints, "or just a dark new age of complaint?"
Salute our government and its talented cabinet. >EXAMINER<
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