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Indigenous fisher peoples in Canada are busy mobilizing knowledge and networks to celebrate the spirit of wild salmon and revitalize the inter-tribal networks where the strength of Indigenous fisheries governance can be realized more fully. The Wild Salmon Caravan is led by the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and is entering into its 5th year of public arts-based engagement through a series of events that calls on the Rainbow Coalitions “People of all Colors”, to come together to address the systemic injustices that are killing wild salmon, our most important Indigenous food and cultural and ecological keystone species.  

Following the theme of Rainbow Warriors, this year’s caravan will feature over 20 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) artists. Each artist will be featured on the Wild Salmon Caravan website and facebook page from September 15 to October 4th. 

WSC Sept 19 Event

 On September 19th, the caravan will lead a ceremonial procession with Indigenous fisher peoples and knowledge holders, as well as artists who are calling for a just transition out of an unjust system of fisheries research, policy, planning and governance that has led to the decline of the wild salmon and their habitat since the time of colonization. The procession and program will begin at False Creek near Science World. Following strict COVID-19 safe protocols the caravan will proceed to Tent City at Strathcona Park where the WGIFS holds an artist’s residency. On Sunday September 20, the WSC will host a panel discussion with 4 well known Indigenous thought leaders, Marilyn Baptiste (Tsilhqot’in), Darrell Bob (St’at’imc), Eli Enns (Nuu chah nulth), and Peter Oewies from an Indigenous fishing village in Doringbai South Africa. 

 As we enter 2020, wild salmon and Indigenous Peoples who rely upon them for sustenance are facing a complex, tangled web of existential crises defined by the climate crisis, capitalism and colonial rule. The Indigenous lens is ever more critical to understanding the interwoven strategies needed to dismantle the destructive paradigms, structures and processes of colonial policy, planning and governance that have led to the demise of wild salmon, and look to Indigenous fisher peoples for leadership to reconceptualize a framework for coastal and inland fisheries and regenerative life-giving economy.  

As Stó:lõ Elder and President of the Wild Salmon Defender’s Alliance, Eddie Gardner says “if wild salmon goes, we go. Both Eddie and Dawn Morrison, Founder/Curator of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty, have been quoted as saying: “It is our sacred responsibility to return to our original instructions as Indigenous Peoples to uphold our responsibility to our sacred trusts of land, water, plants and animals that have provided us with our food for thousands of years”. 

“In a similar spirit as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela who organized for a post-apartheid South Africa; and the African American Black - led Rainbow Coalitions of the 1960’s, we call on all people to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples on the front lines of stopping widespread destruction to wild salmon and their habitat in our forests, fields and waterways. We urge you to ‘swim with us’ and join the diverse and powerful alliances forming to save wild salmon - aligned with the principles of Indigenous Food Sovereignty and social justice” stated Morrison”.

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We’ve come to a fork in the road. We need to decide if we are an ‘oil country’ or a ‘country of nature?’ Do we want the previous status quo, with its now-obvious holes in our health and social well-being nets, and its trajectory towards climate catastrophe? Or do we want to “build back better” in ways that fight climate change, inequality & injustice?


We talk about  building a healthier, fairer, greener province based on a clean economy. We want to support strong climate and clean energy policies needed to build a resilient economy. We know the projects generated from a clean energy framework can put people to work in safe, healthy, well-paid jobs. We understand that a green recovery is a  just recovery and we don’t want anyone to be left behind. 


The Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force is scheduled to release its findings from the 6 week public consultation process this month. The report aims to provide recommendations on how the $1.5 billion fund set aside for recovery spending will be deployed.  A member of the task force,  The BC Federation of Labour, submitted, “We must make up for lost time in addressing the climate crisis, with an accelerated and inclusive path to a green economy. The global collapse of oil prices is only the latest drastic swing in the fossil fuel economy — and one more sign that a sustainable future must rely on a swift transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy.” They continue by saying, “We must look beyond economic indicators to human outcomes — our goal entails nothing less than the end of poverty, homelessness and other inequities. And it goes deeper: a meaningful connection to the communities they live and work in and with — even in times of crisis, with no exceptions.” Reading submissions like those of the BC Federation makes it sound hopeful that the BC Economic  Recovery Plan will support a Green New Deal. 

At the same time, however, we continue to invest in fossil fuel projects. The Trans Mountain Pipeline, owned by the Canadian Government, continues to be built despite knowing there is no longer a market in Asia or in the US to sell the gas; that we publicly committed  to climate action in the Paris Agreement; we have a flawed consultation process with Indigenous communities; a  failure to consider the risks posed by increased tanker traffic; ongoing protests and other concerns.  We know that the BC Recovery Plan Task Force is represented in favour of heavy industrial business and is  lobbying to have their projects be financially supported through the Plan.  

The Report
is scheduled to be released this month.  Let’s see how well the  recommendations reflect the importance of workplace safety, strong public services, and our collective responsibility to take care of each other. We have the chance to address those gaps, and to do much more. We can build back better than before.

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There is a stark racial divide in our country. Our current system is tailored towards supporting and protecting white supremacy and catering to white fragility. We need to address how the institutions that govern our lives have internalized and implemented racism. 


“The system perpetuates racism, gender inequities, fragmentation of social and ecological systems, and weakens efforts of the many individuals, organizations and agencies to achieve deep and meaningful truth and reconciliation between IBPOC and settler society.” says  Dawn Morrison, Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and CCEC Board Member. 


We hear about white privilege, class privilege, and institutional privilege. We need to acknowledge that racism can look like hate, and show up as apathy, silence, ignorance and in the refusal to learn. Most recently, we’ve seen an increase in the number of anti-Asian acts of hate and violence. Systemic racism is complex. It has evolved out of a set of deeply rooted systems in our country. 


One thing we can do is to learn more about systemic racism and how to confront it  when we see it. Being silent is not an option.  In the last three months, there has been an eight-fold increase in anti-Asian hate crimes that included punching, subtle words and dirty looks; and we’ve opened a conversation about systemic racism in policing systems. For example,  Anti-Racism training (A.R.T) is available that helps participants shift from being  frozen/silent bystanders to becoming active witnesses during racist encounters. 


In Canada, we have an  Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022 called, Building a Foundation for Change.  The strategies outlined intend to help address barriers to employment, justice and social participation among Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities and religious minorities. In BC, the Organizing Against Race and Hate program was recently replaced with ResilienceBC Anti-Racism Network 


We can all do our part. Learn more and get involved. 


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