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article imageChief Adam: Environmental law changes must be challenged (Part 1) Special

By Grace C. Visconti     Jan 21, 2013 in Environment
Fort Chipewyan - This Interview (Part 1) features a candid discussion with Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. He discusses the Idle No More grassroots movement, FIPA, Bill C-45, and how people should unite to challenge the environmental law changes.
This is a 2 Part interview with Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (Treaty 8) about Idle No More, Bill C-45 and FIPA. He discusses how the weakened environmental laws will affect Treaty 8 where the Chipewyan First Nation people reside, right next to the oilsands production area. He calls for unity among all Canadians and First Nations people to become informed how these bills will change our way of life, and to fight for our rights together.
Chief Allan Adam was elected in 2007 as Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and now he is into his second term. Prior to being Chief, Allan was an ACFN councillor where he held the housing portfolio.
 Allan Adam grew up in the community of Fort Chipewyan and is acutely aware of the environmental and social issues that this First Nation deals with.
Chief Adam is always lending a helping hand, listening to people and volunteering. He has a solid reputation as being one of the best MC’s in town.
GCV: Was the Idle No More movement instigated by the federal government’s plan to allow foreign investment into Alberta and Canada thereby impinging upon the environmental rights of First Nations? Examples are the approval of the Nexen deal and the impending approval of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA) that will allow foreign investors to sue the federal government if Canadians and First Nations demand environmental protection.
CAA: It has been brewing for a long time. The native people are fed up of being ridiculed and called the “social welfare recipients” of Canada. It started from the stereotype, being pushed into the corner and being kept there for a very long time. Then it escalated. Finally, we came out of the corner and we said enough is enough and we are not going to take this anymore.
Basically, a lot of things that came out of it were frustrations with the environmental issues. It played into the effect. In our homeland, when you see the land being destroyed by multinational corporations, it’s upsetting. When you see the untouched Boreal forest next to the oilsands development land, the difference is stunning and devastating. It is sad what they have done to the land. When we talked to industry about this and said this is wrong, they got offended because they think they are doing good. They have no feelings in regards to the land. We view the land differently. Interacting with the land on a daily basis is our way of life so to see vast amounts of land ruined like this is upsetting.
GCV: In the Idle No More Manifesto on the website, it states that “The Treaties are nation to nation agreements between First Nations and the British Crown who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources.” If this were true, then wouldn’t FIPA be a document that can be challenged especially where First Nations is concerned? In other words, does First Nations have a legal case?
CAA: I think in more ways than one the cards are stacked against the First Nations people. But the government creates laws to protect their well being against the First Nations. They are very covert at what they do. Eventually, there is a time and place when everything is going to backfire on them.
If they think they are going to eliminate the 1.5 million First Nations people in Canada, it won’t happen because the world is watching what Canada is doing right now. Sure you can try to eliminate us or diminish our way of life, but we are a strong people. The native people in this country are very strong. We came through hardship. We continue to survive, continue to maintain our lives. The fact remains they will never be able to colonize us, in more ways than one. Work with us but don’t try to colonize us. We are asking you to accept us the way we are. You can’t take a livelihood away from the First Nations people without us reacting. This is our way of life.
GCV: On the Idle No More website it states about Bill C-45, “The Bill brings forward changes specifically to the Indian Act that will lower the threshold of community consent in the designation and surrender process of Indian Reserve Lands.” Can you explain what this means regarding a shift in Indigenous freedoms and civil rights? Does this mean any big corporation whether it is domestic or foreign, can do anything they want to your land for the sake of their own profit?
CAA: Basically, they want our land and who is standing in front of them? The First Nations people are standing in front of them who have a way of life that involves our land in its natural state. Corporations want those lands because they see it in a different form. In my view, they are not going to get it. The people will not stand for it. People will protect what they have. As long you keep pushing the buttons of the First Nations people…and they can delete more laws but this time they have gone too far and the people won’t stand for it.
GCV: If the treaties are dissolved, does this pave the way for the North American Union where Canada, US and Mexico unite to form one country ruled by one leader?
CAA: In more ways than one, the North American Union will not happen because the people will not stand for it. But if the treaties are broken, there will be a revolt very quickly. I don’t think the First Nations people will stand for it either. There is a saying that a treaty is a peace treaty so if there are no treaties, there will be no peace.
Look at the European Union and how it failed so why would the North American Union succeed? If the Euro is as strong as it was supposed to be, why did we enter into a recession that affected the majority of countries?
GCV: Do you think the Idle No More movement will grow in numbers and intensity in 2013 as all Canadians realize our natural resources are at risk for First Nations communities and Canada at large?
CAA: It will continue to grow. It won’t stop unless drastic changes are made for the greater good of the people and the quicker the population of this country understands what is going on the better. When they realize what is going on, I guarantee you they won’t stand for it.
My message to the general public is to understand the issues, get informed and realize what is at stake here. Join the movement and quit idling. The Idle No More grassroots movement is all about you, the 99%. We invite you to join the First Nations people, to stand side by side with us and stand up for our rights that are being eroded behind the scenes without our knowledge or consent.
GCV: Since the Nexen deal was approved, do you think the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will get approved and if so, how have you prepared to protect your people from an increase in poisoned waterways, disruption of traditional food sources and environmental devastation?
CAA: It remains to be seen that the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will get approved. I think they will find another way to transport the oil other than the pipeline because there will be too much opposition.

GCV: What do you think will be the result of the communication between the government and the Idle No More grassroots movement protestors?
CAA: I think the government will have to repeal some of these laws they passed. I believe they expected to have any easy time of it with no opposition once these bills were passed. I don’t think they expected the intensity of the Idle No More grassroots movement. The worst part is that it happened in winter. The government thought it would die off and they would not protest in the middle of winter because of the cold. The government didn’t expect this big backlash in the winter months where people would protest in large numbers. It will be a long hot active summer.
GCV: What is your opinion of the meeting with the federal government that just happened?
CAA: Here is my opinion of the meeting that just happened recently between the federal government and the Chiefs. The fact remains that the Harper government got what it wanted by passing the bills, turning them into law. I think this recent meeting with the Aboriginal Chiefs was nothing more than a bitching session. I don’t think anything will come out of this government for First Nations people. Just look at PM Harper’s track record.
When the Liberals were in power, they created a 5 billion dollar fund called the Kelowna Accord where the money would have been given over a certain amount of years. This was supposed to create a better life for First Nations people but PM Harper canceled this Kelowna Accord when he came into power and put the money elsewhere. First Nations people were heartbroken. It goes to show you he is not in favor of First Nations people.
ACFN contact in Fort Chipewyan:
Communications Coordinator, Erial Deranger, 1-780-903-6598
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