As a former First Nation elected councillor for the community of Lax Kw Alaams, I don’t know what to make of how irrational protests have become over the last few years around the development of BC’s resources.
I am beginning to think it doesn’t matter what type of project is proposed or approved.
People will protest anything, and I worry that they are making these decisions based on what they see and read on social media alone, instead of taking the time to become informed and educate themselves on the issues around development and who and why people are protesting.
The personal attacks and misinformation on social media toward those who are pro-development is horrific, outright degrading and defamatory in nature. We have become our own worst enemy.
I hear from some of our people that we need to go back to our old ways – do we even know what that means?
Life for the most part in the majority of our communities was extremely difficult. There is no going back. There is only one way and that’s forward by learning from the past.
I understand the mistreatment of our people in residential schools and the pain that has inflicted.
It was horrific and should never be forgotten. But let’s not let that define who we are as Indigenous peoples. This painful history has only made us stronger and resilient.
Our communities and respective territories are under attack by outsiders that have done a brilliant job of turning us against each other.
These organizations have played to the anger and hearts of our people like a symphony orchestra conductor directing a performance made up of fear tactics and misleading information. I don’t think people understand the power they have on social media and the harm they are inflicting on one another when that power is misused.
People want to blame our Governing Councils, or the White Man, or the Corporations that are trying to work with us for the benefit of our Communities.
I ask: when all the protestors have gone back to their jobs and their lives, and have taken our opportunity with them, who is going back into your household and taking care of you?
Let us not turn on our own families, friends and neighbouring communities, which is currently happening at a rate I have never seen before.
We are allowing this to happen on a stage that is so out of control, we don’t even know what’s right or wrong, real or fake. The bullying and hatred online are beyond reasonable.
The general public needs to understand that this isn’t about the environment, nor is it just about Indigenous rights.
It is about money and control, and who wants to be considered the decision makers in our respective communities and territories.
If we do not come together as a Community and as a People, we will always find ways to blame others, take no responsibility for our actions and continue to hurt those closest to us. We will continue to rely on a system that continues to fail us.
I am tired of hearing of suicides, accidental deaths, murdered and missing women, men and children from our communities.
How do we fix this? How do we prevent this? As a parent I can’t imagine, as a son, I am all too familiar with the pain. I believe economic development is the key for our people to get out of poverty and start managing wealth. We need money and we need resources to combat the challenges we face as Indigenous people and to unleash progress.
I love our people. It’s who I am, and I’d be the first to fight for you. But I am only one person. Everything about us starts from the home.
We can continue to live the status quo, or we can learn from what is happening and move forward in a positive manner. I choose the latter.
Please remember this… Nothing changes, if nothing changes.
Chris Sankey is a former elected councillor for the community of Lax Kw Alaams.