Injustice and inconvenience
Settlers, let’s learn the difference
“The anti-Indigenous settler blowback to [the Wet’suwet’en Strong] movement can be boiled down to these wise words: Chief Woos, Grizzly House, Wet’suwet’en Nation: ‘remember, Inconvenience is not the same as Injustice.’”
Harsha Waila (@HarshaWaila), author of Undoing Border Imperialism, made this tweet on Friday, Feb. 21, following Chief Woos’ response to Trudeau’s public comments on the rail blockades that have been in place for two weeks to #ShutDownCanada. The most prominent blockade, set up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation by the Mohawk in Tyendinaga, Ontario, was erected with the demand that the RCMP be removed from Wet’suwet’en territory. Waila’s tweet has since gathered 1200 likes and over 500 retweets.
There is little to nothing I can say, or should presume to say as a white settler, beyond a reiteration of what Chief Woos, the other hereditary chiefs, and thousands of Indigenous land and water protectors have been saying since Coastal Gas Link (CGL) intruded on Wet’suwet’en land.
However, as part of the Wet’suwet’en toolkit, the Unist’ot’en camp encourages supporters to keep the Wet’suwet’en nation and the actions of the RCMP and Canadian state in the spotlight through any form of education they have access to. For me, this means that I will continue to make public my support for land and water defenders and my opposition to the actions of the RCMP and so-called Canada.
One reply to Waila’s tweet adds, “The word Inconvenience perfectly encapsulates the social and political attitude towards indigenous peoples and their right to sovereignty. Canadians are willing to pay lip service all day long until it becomes something that is a very slight inconvenience.”
Indeed, I find that Canadians right now are expressing a level of intolerance with slight inconvenience that makes me wonder if they know how blockades or any other kind of direct action is meant to work. Fellow settlers, you say you’re inconvenienced by the trains not running? You say it’s having serious consequences for how Canada normally runs? Great, that’s exactly the point.
Canada should not be running, business should not be as usual, while Indigenous people are being harassed and arrested on their own unceded territories. Until that stops, you should have no choice but to give that your attention. The fundamental point here is that this is not about settler comfort.
Saskatchewan’s racism is horrendous, and it has been on full display in response to the blockades, making it clear that people here value so many trivial things more than they do the human rights of Indigenous people. I was surprised to find a few days ago that my recent coverage of one of Regina’s Albert street blockades received 88 comments, a significant increase. These comments were loaded with vitriol, but the main gripe people appeared to have was that people were “blocked from living their lives,” as one put it.
I think it’s astounding that people can be so angry about having to wait an extra hour to cross a bridge, but can’t direct any of that energy towards the RCMP illegally removing people from their territories. Don’t you think that the Wet’suwet’en people’s lives have been disrupted? Don’t you think the Indigenous students who were harassed and belittled in the comments section of that article were affected and had significant amounts of their time wasted by your ignorance and racism?
As I write this, police in Ontario have arrested ten people at the Tyendinaga blockade, and video of the arrests shows an absolutely unnecessary and overwhelming police presence. At one point in the video, five cops are arresting one person. Trudeau’s word choice is so, so telling when he tweets: “We’re focused on ending the blockades and supporting Canadians across the country,” as these arrests are beginning, as RCMP move back into Wet’suwet’en territory.
“Ending the blockades,” not telling the RCMP to stand down, not telling CGL to cease activity in Wet’suwet’en territory, which Trudeau knows he is being told to do. “Supporting Canadians,” not respecting Indigenous sovereignty, not responding to the cries of “Reconciliation is Dead” that await his response.
The Canadian state is showing its cowardice and absolute loyalty to resource extraction – at a time where you can indicate where you stand as UNDRIP (The United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s) is violated and Indigenous peoples defend our planet on the front lines, who are you going to defend? Are you willing to live with inconvenience so that others can live without injustice? Or is the idea of justice here, like it is for Trudeau, just something you don’t have the “patience” for?
Either way, the land and water protectors will stay strong, and there will be no business as usual in Canada.