Indigenous communities in Niagara are facing increased hate

Photo Credit: Quinten De Graff on Unsplash

Photo Credit: Quinten De Graff on Unsplash

With the protests and blockades surrounding the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia, members of the Indigenous communities in Niagara report experiencing increasing levels of hate and racism.

The construction of the pipeline began with LNG Canada’s decision to build a $40 billion liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat. In order to get natural gas to the export plant, Coastal GasLink Ltd. desires to build a 670-kilometre pipeline from the Dawson Creek area in northern British Columbia to Kitimat at an estimated cost of $6.6 billion.

The pipeline has support from 20 elected band councils (made up of elected chiefs and councillors) along the route. All of those supporters have signed benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink Ltd. A number of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, along with Unist’ot’en camp supporters, however, object to the pipeline on the grounds that it could contaminate their unceded lands that they have lived and governed on for thousands of years and that they rely on to harvest food and medicines and draw water.

The blockades that have made national news as of late, were sparked when the RCMP began enforcing a court order against Wet’suwet’en protesters and their supporters blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia. The dispute has highlighted a national debate over whether hereditary chiefs should have more power under Canadian law and has inspired protests by Indigenous communities across Canada.

Last week, a number of people gathered around a ceremonial fire at Centennial Gardens in St. Catharines to show support for the Wet’suwet’en people. According to Jennifer Dockstader, executive director of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, the number of threats and the level of racism towards the First Nations people found in the Niagara Region have increased. As a result of this, Dockstader had to send notices to the staff at the centre to be careful and mindful of their colleagues and community.

Dockstrader along with other St. Catharines residents have continued to campaign and speak out against racism towards not only Niagara’s Indigenous communities but Indigenous communities nationwide.

“If you see one of our people being harassed, it means the world to us if non-Indigenous people will step forward with us to stop that,” said Dockstrader. “It’s like any situation of bullying.”

According to Dockstrader, racism towards Niagara’s First Nation peoples also extends to their children who report being bullied in school even during anti-bullying awareness days and movements. She hopes that moving forward, residents will work together to stop the perpetuation of racism and hate crimes despite their political alliance or views on the construction of the pipeline.

Residents are encouraged to remain educated on the current situation surrounding the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia and also remove hate and racism from the discourse. To become engaged with the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, interested individuals can contact executivedirector@fenfc.org.

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