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VIDEOS: International Women’s Day, Men’s Hockey Recap

Hundreds gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 12: Video Editor Anthony-James Armstrong covered it live

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Stingers’ recap: Men’s team showed promise through the season, cut short at quarterfinals

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News

Protests across Canada against RBC and Coastal GasLink

On Friday Oct 29, people across the country protested against the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in response to its investments in the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is being built on Wet’suwet’en Land.

Over 60 Montrealers gathered in front of RBCs main office in the downtown area, where black paint representing oil was thrown at the steps of the building.

Coastal GasLink is a gas pipeline in northern B.C. In 2020 the pipeline gained international awareness and protests across Canada as the Hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en stated that no pipeline will be built on their land.

The pipeline runs from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, directly through Wet’suwet’en territory. The point of conflict between Wet’suwet’en members and police is along a service road, which is the only way for construction workers to reach working on the pipeline.

A report called Banking on Climate Chaos placed RBC as the worst bank in Canada for sustainable investments, with over $160 billion invested in fossil fuels since 2016. RBC, alongside other Canadian and international banks have invested over $6.8 billion in the Coastal GasLink, according to the Understory, a climate action and forest preservation blog.

Emily Hardie, a member of Divest McGill and a speaker at the protest, said that she believes if RBC didn’t invest in Coastal GasLink, the company wouldn’t have the funds to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Wet’suwet’en territory is made up of 13 hereditary house groups. In 2020 several hereditary chiefs spoke up against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which spiked international awareness and discussion on Indigenous sovereignty.

Yet the construction of the pipeline continues. According to a CBC News article, 140 km of the pipeline has been laid, marking one-third of the project being finished.

The pipeline, “will incentivise fossil fuel companies to extract more from the land,” said Hardie, who explained that the area the pipeline is being built through Wet’suwet’en territory has potential fossil fuel deposits.

“If you choose to invest money in a project that is commiting genocide on Indigenous people, you will lose,” said Sleydo’ Molly Wickham in a video posted by the Gidimt’en Clan checkpoint.

Wickham is one of the supporting hereditary chiefs of the Cas Yikh in the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation.

RBC’s media relations refused to comment on why they invest in the Coast GasLink pipeline, instead of investing in sustainable projects.

“They’re the worst,” said Jacob Pirro, a Mcgill student who has been a member of Extinction Rebellion for two years. “What’s not profitable? Do you know what isn’t profitable: dying. I want to have children, and I want my children to have children. Most children born today will live through the worst of the climate crisis.”

Pirro said that the best way to make an impact is for people who use RBC to go to a different bank, and while most banks invest in un-sustainable projects, there are lesser evils.

The website Quit RBC, created by Extinction Rebellion, states that “RBC will finance climate destruction for as long as it can make money doing so.” Quit RBC has a step-by-step explanation on how to leave RBC and ways to pick a more sustainable bank.

“I don’t think it’s something people think about,” said Pirro, who explained that he believes most people pick a bank when they are young and never change it. “If you are with RBC, you should care, and you should switch.”

Hardie said that while it is important for people to do their part in individual changes, it is also important to remember the importance of systemic change.

The Guardian reported that 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of all global fossil fuel emission. Canadian Natural Resources Limited, one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world, ranks 67 on the list.

In a 2016 article by the Financial Post, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd is one of RBCs top energy stocks, giving investors “the best of all worlds.”

 

Photos by Lou Neveux-Pardijon

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Music

Tio’tia:ke united for Wet’suwet’en

Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists performed in solidarity at La Tulipe

“It does hurt his spirit,” Anachnid said after her performance at the Tio’tia:ke + Wet’suwet’en Concert last Thursday. “That’s why I sang that song for him.”

Anachnid is an Oji-Cree multidisciplinary artist based in Montreal. She performed “Braids,” a collaboration with saxophonist Ashton Phoenix Grey and producer Emmanuel Alias on Dreamweaver released Feb. 28. The song is written about Anachnid’s younger brother who is six years old.

With a techno beat that opens to a pulsating drum bass, Anachnid’s voice echoed encouragement for boys and girls who sport their braids. “Braids” embraces the flow of long hair because recently, her little brother was told to cut his lengthening strands at school.

The Tio’tia:ke + Wet’suwet’en Concert was organized by multidisciplinary artist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine and musician Elisapie Isaac in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

Random Recipe, Lydia Képinski, Jesse Mac Cormack, Les Soeurs Boulay, Nomadic Massive, and 2018 Polaris Prize winner Jeremy Dutcher and others were all there to perform and show their support.

Fontaine and Isaac performed music and poetry throughout the night and hosted a diverse range of artists in support of the railway blockades and demonstrations that denounced the potential pipeline passage across unceded ancestral land.

There was traditional throat singing, drums, dance, contemporary song, rap, and poetry.

Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists filled the space with song and poetry, sharing their stories in solidarity amid the crisis to preserve Indigenous territories and culture, and in celebration of the earth.

Despite the dark and cloudy atmosphere of uncertainty as a result of COVID-19, there was clarity when the artists performed. From one artistic act to the next, there was pause, laughter, cheers, and applause for the diverse lineup, but also there was certainty in the eyes of the audience members and the performers. Everyone was there for the same reason: to show support during societal and political turbulence through music, art, and poetry.

The benefit carried and amplified the voices and songs of Indigenous artists too, both well-known and local.

“Braids represent the past, the present, and the future,” explained Anachnid. “Children, adults, and elder, and all three phases in life, united.”

When men, two-spirit, LGBTQI+, or other minorities are forced to cut their hair, Anachnid said they are usually forced to do so to adapt under societal pressures. She said they lose part of their culture, explaining that the longer the braids, the closer it is to the sweet grass—to the soul. Sweet grass represents the grass of Mother Earth; when burned, it cleanses like sage.

She also said that it was fine for people to cut their hair if they wanted to. “That’s how people shapeshift,” she said

When it came to performing, and creating music together, at first, Anachnid and Grey spoke different languages.

“I’m air,” she said about her creative chemistry with saxophonist Grey. “He’s fire—it amplifies, if anything.”

While it took love, anger, pain, and joy, like any other relationship, to be able to collaborate smoothly with one another, the ingenuity of both artists blended together well that night. Anachnid uplifted the crowd with her vocals as Grey played his instrument.

“She’s the creator,” said Grey, “She’s the mastermind.”

“No, no, no, we both are,” Anachnid said. 

Photos by Cecilia Piga.

 

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News

Decolonizing the environmental justice movement

Grassroots Indigenous organization seeks to increase public awareness of the oil industry’s environmental impact

“We’re all sharing a house that’s on fire and everyone’s looking at each other saying they didn’t start it,” said Vanessa Gray.

On Feb. 27, Gray’s voice resonated throughout a classroom in the Hall building of Concordia’s downtown campus, with attendees listening attentively in their seats. Gray is Anishinaabe kwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located outside of Sarnia, Ontario—also known as Canada’s Chemical Valley.

Gray founded the grassroots organization Aamjiwnaang & Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP) to increase public awareness of the issue in her hometown and to pressure the federal government to stop the perpetuation of the oil industry.

According to ASAP’s research, 40 per cent of Canada’s petrochemical industry takes place within a 50-kilometer radius of Aamjiwnaang, with over 60 oil refineries and chemical plants currently in operation. These refineries and plants are responsible for the contamination of the land, air and water of the community, which has severe negative impacts on their health and way of life. According to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization, Sarnia’s air is the most polluted air in Canada. In a zine called Canada’s Toxic Chemical Valley, written by the Montreal contingent of Aamjiwnaang Solidarity, Gray said that 39 per cent of her community needs puffers to breathe properly. In the zine, it was also said that the animals who are living off the land in the area are mutated, and are not supposed to be hunted to eat.

Although the Chemical Valley case is extreme, it highlights the damaging effects that oil refineries and pipelines have on surrounding communities and on human life.

The organizer, land defender and educator spoke about her experience as an Indigenous woman in the environmental justice movement, most recently regarding the Wet’suwet’en situation, in relation to her work with Chemical Valley.

Gray said that for Indigenous peoples, having access to their own land, free of contaminants that come from pipelines, is all about survival. “But that is the greatest threat to the Canadian economy that we see today,” stated Gray.

The event was filled with non-Indigenous attendees asking Gray what they could do as allies to support the direct action Indigenous peoples across Canada are taking, in a show of solidarity with land defenders of Wet’suwet’en.

In response, Gray simply stated non-Indigenous folks shouldn’t’ be asking her what to do.

It’s your government that has the guns pointed at us,” said Gray.

Gray explained it’s not easy for her to do this work in educating non-Indigenous people, but she’s doing it for a reason—to lay out the situation, and to communicate that Indigenous people and settlers have different roles in this struggle.

“I’m handing a huge responsibility to you, now that you know,” said Gray. “I have my roles, and you have yours. Don’t try to make me the one to walk you through decolonization, because it means something different to me than it does to you.”

How settler allies can help support Wet’suwet’en land defenders

The facilitator of the event, Jen Gobby of Climate Justice Montreal said the Wet’suwet’en protests against the pipeline are the most powerful current example of climate activism in Canada. Gobby continued that this is the moment for non-Indigenous allies to support it in any way that they can.

Gobby said this could mean following the Unist’ot’en supporter protocols for solidarity action like sending resources, fundraising, raising awareness, and dismantling the colonial narrative of the local climate movement.

Juhi Sohani of Climate Justice Montreal added that the message coming from the front lines is clear: people need to be out there alongside the Indigenous land defenders, blocking infrastructure and taking as much direct action as possible.

Sohani said that talks, such as this one with Gray, are crucial. Sohani explained that every day, settlers should be learning as much as they can in order to hold themselves and the Canadian government accountable for the ongoing colonization and genocide of Indigenous people in this country.

“I think it’s really important for us as non-Indigenous people to feel guilty, and to grapple with that guilt because it’s really important that we come here and we feel uncomfortable,” said Sohani.

Sohani continued that through this, settlers can start to unpack the realization that they as settlers implicitly subscribe to capitalism and are benefitting from it in a multitude of ways because of the current way of life of the majority—and could ultimately put this knowledge to good use.

As Gray said, “we need to figure out a way to make this better for our future generations. We have to look seven generations ahead, because that’s what the lands need—is sustainability.”

 

Photo by Marissa Ramnanan

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News

Poli SAVVY: Could Quebec be the host of the next biggest pipeline protest?

While all the attention has been on British Columbia and the widely unwanted project that would create an energy corridor over unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, opposition from Innu communities are mounting in Quebec.

Indeed, it seems like the Quebec government is not taking the nation-wide protests as a warning sign, but instead is planning to go ahead with another controversial natural gas project. The TransCanada pipeline expansion, which would stretch over 780 kilometres from Ontario to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, is set to undergo environmental review next month. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) will be in charge of holding public hearings and studying the construction plans.

Spoiler alert: the pipeline project would cross over ancestral territories.

In 2015, Énergie Saguenay (GNL Quebec), the company responsible for the project, signed an agreement with three Innu First Nations councils from Mashteuiatsh, Essipit and Pessamit. Yet, the agreement was settled without considering Hereditary Chiefs and ancestral rights. Déjà Vu, anyone?

While the pipeline is being sold as a climate crisis solution—hear me laugh—by its supporters, an open letter signed by over 150 scientists and environmentalists shows that the project would lead towards the augmentation of greenhouse emissions and poses a serious threat to biodiversity.

Some of you might think, the review process could put a halt on the project, right? In fact, the BAPE will produce an environmental report with recommendations but ultimately, the Quebec government will have the final say. As Premier François Legault has been demonstrating with his way of pushing controversial bills, he has no scruples when it comes to what he wants. And, unsurprisingly, Legault has repeatedly displayed his support towards the project, against all logic.

Will his government show the same irrationality when it comes to listening to Indigenous communities defending their lands?

The upcoming scenario is alarmingly too predictable.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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Opinions

In solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Recent tensions concerning the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. have been thoroughly discussed on social media, with solidarity protests happening all over the country—from Saskatechewan, to Ontario, to Quebec.

Reports from the CBC state that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) enforced a court order against the Indigenous communities blocking construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline last Thursday. Camps were set up near the pipeline, including at the Unist’ot’en healing village, which was a Wet’suwet’en-operated checkpoint on the road in 2009, preventing people working on the pipeline from accessing the territory.

Media coverage of the ongoing issue has varied, with some publications learning from past mistakes and putting the work in to accurately reporting on a complex situation. Despite these steps, The Concordian can’t help but notice that this progress is taking far too long. As members of the media, we have a responsibility to not phone in stories on this topic.

Some still don’t even know about the issue, nor the history behind it if they haven’t stumbled upon vigils, protests, or if they aren’t following Instagram accounts addressing the recurring problem. Facebook instates a “Standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en” profile picture frame to get people involved, and encourage them to further educate themselves.

The RCMP is forcibly removing people trying to guard land they never ceded to begin with. Does this ring any bells for anyone? How can Canada, or more specifically, the Liberal Government, claim to be moving forward with Truth and Reconciliation when they are consistently participating in colonialism and land theft?

The media should be doing more to call attention to this. The Via Rail train cancellations are being covered thoroughly, but the reason for them? Not so much. The media is covering the inconvenience that protests are causing privileged individuals, but not adequately educating the public on why the protests are taking place.

Wet’suwet’en land is being stolen and used for something its custodians don’t believe in.

This has been happening across North America for centuries––but we’re supposed to be correcting those mistakes. We’re supposed to be righting those wrongs. Remaining silent in times like these upholds and reinforces centuries of colonialism.

We need to do better. 

 

Graphic by@sundaeghost

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News

Concordia celebrates five years of First Voices Week

First Voices Week Concordia celebrated its fifth year last week, from Feb. 3 to 7.

The week-long series of events was led by Indigenous students, faculty and staff at Concordia University, in collaboration with several faculty departments and organizations.

The organizing committee offered workshops, documentary screenings, a solidarity gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation in their land defense, an art exhibit and lectures, among other events.

Cathy Richardson, director of First Peoples Studies, said that this event series sends a clear message.

“We’re here,” she said. “You didn’t kill us all off, I know the government tried. We still face issues of structural violence,  but we’re here. We’re trying to thrive and have influence.”

Richardson said that First Voices Week is crucial.

It affirms the Indigenous presence on campus, allows Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in the institution as well as taking a leadership role in the programming,” she explained.

For example, the week-long art exhibit, located at the EV junction, featured art from current Indigenous students at Concordia. Alyssa Isaac, a Mi’gmaq artist from the community of Litsugu, Quebec, studies electroacoustics; and Morning Star Fayard, a Metis, Cree First Nation from the Cree community of Mistissini, studies economics.

Isaac’s art piece was an auditory experience that used the sound of beads running over each other, which were altered and layered to give off a “dream-like vibe.” Fayard displayed traditional winter clothing made from moosehide, like gloves and mocassins, all decorated with beadings or sewn illustrations. The clothing was coupled with a poem titled “Thankful~,” which gave her thanks to the moose who was used to make the clothing, and whose body was used without a spare.

On Wednesday, the same day as the Solidarity Gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation, First Voices Week Concordia published a letter on Facebook, reiterating their solidarity. As stated in their press release, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) never obtained consent to operate within unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. In the release, First Voices Week Concordia condemns the use of violence against Indigenous nations by the RCMP and calls for their immediate withdrawal from Wet’suwet’en territory.

First Voices Week also gave their “solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who represent all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and who unanimously reject the CGL pipeline on their territory.” First Voices Week calls on everyone to pay attention to the violence and intimidation directed toward the Wet’suwet’en nation at this time and infers that these acts are a clear indication of persisting Canadian colonialism.

At the Loyola Campus, in collaboration with the Hive Free Lunch Program, there was a special lunch made from traditional Three Sisters recipes using corn, squash, and red beans, coupled with a virtual reality short film experience. According to the presentation, the three plants were historically the base of the Huron-Wendat and Mohawk diet. It was explained that the practice of growing these plants together is still done today, as the leaves of the corn plant protect the squash from the elements, like wind, while the squash leaves prevent weeds from growing. The beans, in turn, release nitrogen into the soil and climb up the corn stalks as they grow.

“Centering Indigenous achievements and issues raises awareness of the possibilities of Indigenous rights taking more space in Canada and having others accommodate these changes towards a just and equitable society, where Indigenous treaties and lands are respected,” said Richardson.

 

Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

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News

Poli SAVVY: Standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Colonizers might learn how to pronounce the word reconciliation, but that won’t stop them from resurfacing time and again.

In Jan. 2019, the RCMP raided the setup camps and checkpoints on the traditional lands of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern British Columbia. These tensions arose after the land defenders stood against the approved Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which would carry natural gas through unceded ancestral lands.

Now, a year later, the BC Supreme Court ruled in favour of the $6.6 billion project––recognizing Canadian law over Indigenous law on unceded lands––allowing the construction to begin while providing another mandate for the RCMP to enforce the injunction.

January 13

The RCMP set up an exclusion zone. What this means is an access-control checkpoint was set up at the 27-kilometre mark of the forest road, restricting entrance to members of the community that might be carrying food supply, but also to the journalists covering the crisis. This directly violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and the importance of keeping the public informed.

Sending militarized forces to unceded territories taps into the widely damaging colonial-capitalist narrative which Canada has been trying to step away from. It carries the message that Indigenous people are criminals for standing in the way.

Let me put things into perspective for you. If a pipeline was threatening to deteriorate your own backyard––the garden that you’ve spent summers building to greet your dear friends with your fresh strawberry and mint salad––while also threatening to sabotage your water so an industry that has been proven to destroy our planet can continue to fuel a foreign market… Wouldn’t you stand up? Wouldn’t you at least try to have a conversation? Yet, while BC Premier John Horgan was visiting Kitimat, he refused to meet with hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en.

Frankly, this is undeniably part of a bigger fight that concerns all Canadians––how we intend to protect our environment. This is a battle against capitalism and corporations that starts with us respecting Indigenous lands.

 

Graphic by Victoria Blair

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