Editor’s Note: This is part fifty-four of a series of testimonies given by our aboriginal neighbors. We are posting these in an attempt to allow everyone to better understand just how badly Canada has neglected the first nations of Canada. These are the words submitted to the JRP Hearings, to Enbridge and to the Government of Canada
ORAL PRESENTATION BY CHIEF ROSE LABOUCAN
CHIEF LABOUCAN: Good morning to everyone that’s in the room.
I ask for your patience and your understanding. We are not here to offend anyone, but feel that we are entitled to an opinion.
I am Chief Rose Laboucan. I am from the Driftpile First Nation. I am serving my fifth consecutive term as a Chief in my Nation, but today I want to speak to you as a grandmother.
I welcome the independent Joint Review Panel to Treaty 6 territory even though I am from Treaty 8 territory.
I know that Ms. Leggett is a biologist from Calgary, right? And Mr. Kenneth Bateman is a lawyer from Calgary. And we have Mr. Hans Matthews, who is a geologist from Ontario; so you’re outvoted.
CHIEF LABOUCAN: I am a direct descendent of Treaty Number 8, which was signed on June 21st, 1899, near our territory, near our homeland. We agreed to share this land to the depth of the plough and my Elders believe that and many of our Elders in the whole Treaty 8 territory believe that.
We have never ceded or surrendered the land. This treaty is as much as ours as it is yours. First Nation people have kept their end of the bargain.
In this day and age, I strongly believe that revenue sharing should be part of any conversation when it comes to the natural resources of our traditional lands. The land has been our teacher, our grocery store, our pharmacy and our spiritual connection.
At the rate things are going regarding progress, we have less and less traditional land to access, hence less and less opportunity to be able to enhance our lives from our traditional territories.
There’s tonnes of pipelines. There’s pump jacks, roads, gas plants, signs all over saying do not enter, no shooting here, H2S poison gas.
We need the opportunity to continue to teach our heritage and our history because it’s been forgotten in this country. And with no opportunity to do those teachings from the traditional land, we have fear that genocide will happen and our children will not have the ability to have the knowledge that our Elders have had the opportunity to have.
I’m not sure if anyone will ever really understand our connection to the land. The land is us; we are the land. We could once take all our food supplies from the land. The healthy food I’m talking about, the meat, the fish, the vegetables, the fruit.
I believe today many of our communities are in crisis, health crisis. In 1970 when I worked for Health Canada, we had one diabetic in our community; one. Now we have close to 100, and they range from five years old on up.
Many of our people cannot afford to buy their groceries in a grocery store, the real food I’m talking about, on the outside aisle. That’s where the real food is. You walk into any store and you’ll picture that, the vegetables, the meat, produce, everything is on the outside aisles. The processed foods are in the middle aisles. That’s where my people shop.
So the once enhanced lifestyle that they had for health reasons were taken from the land. And I really believe that is very sad when we, as First Nation people, we’re taught to hunt, to fish, to trap and to gather.
Economic progress will be the destruction of Mother Earth. Then what? Our people think seven generations ahead; not just for today. This project will be short-term employment for people, long-term benefits for Enbridge, trillions of dollars and greater opportunities for Canada.
We understand that. But for the people who will be most impacted, nothing. So do we just sit back and wait for the destruction of the land and the water?
Enbridge does not have a good track record. It’s not about if there is going to be a spill, but when. Is it going to be on land or is it going to be in the ocean?
As a leader from Driftpile First Nation, do we allow the continued destruction or do we say enough is enough? It’s not as if we’re short of oil and gas. It’s not as if the world is going come to a standstill if this huge pipeline doesn’t go through.
We pray the Panel will evaluate from a human perspective rather than the almighty dollar perspective and think about the future generations. What legacy of the natural landscape are we leaving for our children, our grandchildren and those yet unborn?
I thank you for this opportunity and for listening.
JLS ……For What It’s Worth