‘How would you have handled the standoff between Trudeau, the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suet’wen nation, northeast of Prince George, and the solidarity protesters in the Mowhawk territory in Ontario who have been blocking the rail line there,’ I asked Camp after Vicky, our dependable waitress set down two pints in front of us.
‘It’s a tough one,’ Camp said.
First Trudeau had to consider his dad’s handling of the blockade and protests of the Oka crisis 30 years ago. That one was about a golf course expansion into their territory, this one is about national energy policy and also a standoff between hereditary chiefs and the band counsel system, which is an imposed system by the Indian act and which obviously is out of date and isn’t working.’
‘I get it, but holding up the rail line in Ontario as an act of solidarity with a band in Northeastern B.C., thereby jeopardizing thousands of jobs and the flow of goods right to the Vancouver port, is not the same as protesting and demonstrating over an issue and against a court injunction,’ I said.
‘I thought you wrote a book about a bunch of activists protesting a nuke plant in Mexico. Isn’t that exactly what we’re talking about here,’ Camp said.
‘Not at all,’ I insisted. ‘Mariposa Intersections’ is about a project that would have forever altered the whole region as well as destroyed the lake and the local eco system. The activist group concentrated on information and education of the populace who were mostly kept in the dark. No consultation, no information was being sought by the authorities, no consolatory advances, no process.’
‘Okay, no point to get defensive. I’m just saying that protests and demonstrations are a democratic tool and need to be respected,’ Camp said.
‘Yes, but these recent blockades were not demonstrations but physical occupations and obstructions of private and public property. Also the courts agreed with the feds, that they had done their jobs and had reached agreements with a majority of the bands affected by this natural gas pipeline. On top of that everybody agrees that natural gas is a preferred and plentiful resource that has much less impact on the environment than let’s say oil. Gas can be liquified while crude oil has to emulsified in order to flow along a pipe. Not to mention the economic spinoff for the region and its people which are mostly – and I want to be careful about this – they are mostly relying on government help for their existence. How would they react if somebody cut off their supply of petrol and food, milk and hardware?’
‘In other words, you would have sent in the troops,’ Camp baited me but I didn’t rise to his taunt.
‘No, I agree with Trudeau. We don’t send in the army against our own citizens but the court injunctions should be enforced by the local police force and by the RCMP since the railway is a federal matter. Which is what they now did. Then invite everybody back to the table and talk it through. Give everybody their respect and obey the law of the land. Any other way spells anarchy and opens the door to every protest group across the land who want to hold people to ransom for their views.’
‘Strong words,’ Camp said. ‘As I said, it’s a delicate matter and can easily escalate into racist and derogatory outbursts. The social media is already full of it. What the hereditary chiefs don’t seem to recognize is that they pit their own people against each other Their refusal to come to the table will force the hand of the government.’
‘Trudeau is probably cursing the day he ran for prime minister,’ I said.
‘Being a drama teacher was a lot easier.’
‘And probably more rewarding.’
‘He certainly isn’t winning any popularity contests right now. Public opinion has him floundering in a shark tank as a spineless jelly fish and a blind and confused beaver, desperately trying to fix leaks in his dam, before the whole thing washes downriver.’
‘This is thirsty talk,’ I said, finishing my beer, just in time for Vicky who was already at the table with refills.
‘Solving any earthshaking issues,’ she asked with a wink in my direction.
‘We actually are,’ Camp said. ‘but nobody is asking for our advice.’