Opinion: Don’t turn away from civil unrest, instead let’s learn from it

Have the LNG gas line protesters got your attention? They’ve got mine, and they’ve got the attention of our whole country, not only by inconveniencing us, but by effecting the economic livelihood of thousands of workers. 

Protesters across the country say they stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the LNG pipeline going through their unseeded lands. They don’t mince words, they plan to shut down Canada, and so far they are succeeding.

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Earlier this month access to Deltaport was successfully shut down for close to 40 hours by a group called the Red Braid Alliance for Decolonization. They handed out pamphlets to truck drivers and 14 members were arrested by Delta police as they enforced a Supreme Court injunction. 

I’ve never heard of the Red Braid Alliance and I bet you haven’t either, but we can’t dismiss groups like this anymore, they are effectively fuelling civil disobedience and it has repercussions for all of us. Our national railway has been shut down for more than 12 days and our ports are clogged on both sides of the country.

There’s something happening in our cities and in our rural communities. People are angry and they don’t give a dam who they hurt. You don’t have to be Aboriginal to feel the neglect and hurt First Nations have suffered for decades. This column is not long enough to list all the injustices, and reconciliation is long overdue. 

The origins of this conflict has been brewing for some time. Canadians of all demographics are challenging the status quo, the establishment and the politicians who pit economics versus the environment. 

Not all the protesters are educated on the Wet’suwet’en chiefs complaints. Some people on the front lines don’t know the difference between a band council and a hereditary chief. They don’t even know what’s in the LNG pipeline, is it natural gas or crude oil, it doesn’t seem to matter.

So who’s inspired to show up and protest?

Outgoing Conservative party leader Andrew Sheer says protesters need to, “Check their privilege.” He suggests only the few have time on their hands to protest, in reality most protesters are far from privileged. Protesters feel disenfranchised from modern society, with varying agendas like climate change, saving the whales, GMO’s in our food, or women’s rights. They stand in solidarity with anyone they believe is suffering from injustice. This is a potent cocktail for civil unrest, we better get used to it, some of our young people are very angry. 

Meanwhile I sit on the sidelines waiting to see what our politicians will do, because we elected them to deal with highly complicated issues. Even if my only role is as conscientious observer I won’t be distracted by other world issues like the coronavirus or the U.S. election campaign. I am present.

For protesters, for police, for politicians and for all of us this is a historic moment, don’t dismiss it. Let’s listen, learn and hope for a peaceful and satisfactory end to this current unrest, we all deserve a harmonious homeland.  

Ingrid Abbott is a freelance broadcaster and writer who has adjusted her driving route twice due to protests, she will be listening to AM 730 Vancouver’s traffic station from now on.

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