Reconciliation According to the Rich and Powerful
– Enver Villamizar
For the people of Canada and Quebec reconciliation means building a new and modern relationship with First Nations which harmonizes the natural and social environment in a manner that upholds the rights of all. To us, reconciliation is not about trying to “integrate” First Nations into an economy whose aim and direction is based on paying the rich, treating people like things and using nature and its bounty to enrich those in power. Yet it appears this conception of reconciliation is what is being put forward as consistent with what the people’s conception is, despite the fact that they are in complete contradiction with one another.
Speaking to a new investment model whereby First Nations bands can buy into publicly funded electricity transmission projects to feed resource extraction and other private ventures former banker and now Hydro One Chief Human Resources Officer Megan Telford said the “new model” is all about advancing reconciliation. “For too long, First Nations have borne the impacts of infrastructure development in their traditional territories without seeing the benefits.”
“We recognize that we did not always get it right, and this equity model signals a significant shift in how Hydro One will work with First Nations. For our collective success we must continue to push existing boundaries. Hydro One is committed to its journey of taking meaningful action to advance Reconciliation and we will continue to listen to and learn from Indigenous communities with a focus on building trusting and long-lasting relationships,” Telford added.
Apparently reconciliation means First Nations bands can choose to pony up to invest in public projects which they had no part in developing or approving whose sole aim is to serve multinational corporations which see indigenous lands as a source of profit. This will financially benefit the bands and this is all for “our collective success.” What is not said is who do the mining, battery and agricultural industries who will benefit serve? What has been the experience of First Nations in Ontario and across Canada and Quebec with megaprojects on their territories and energy corridors that run through their lands? Is this all about “our collective success?” Who is Telford speaking on behalf of as if she and the interests she represents define what the collective is and what makes it successful? It appears to be the sales pitch by a stock broker for a deal that is to good to be true. Telford also does not say what happens when and if some First Nations don’t buy in financially or in terms of permitting projects that they do not want to have put in place on their lands or territories. This of course is the issue because it has all been decided already and now they need a veneer of consultation or in this case literally “buy-in.” This makes a mockery of what it means to “listen and learn.”
The fact is that the projects these new transmission lines will feed and the lines themselves are totally out of the control of the people and are being negotiated at the highest levels outside of any control of the people, local government or even elected legislatures. That transmission lines will need to go through First Nations lands is a major issue which Hydro One, the government and the companies setting up shop are aware of. What happens when the demands of the rich to get paid or they will leave do not fit with those of the First Nations or people living in the areas? Who will be left holding the bag when things do go the way as planned? All of this is left hidden as the people living in the regions to be affected do not have a say in what is taking place or the direction the province is taking. It is all done behind the backs of the people with the value created from their labour.