Sunday, March 7, 2010

In solidarity with the Okanagan Indian Band blockade

Young Communist League BC Committee, March 2010

In a heroic attempt to defend their territory, on February 22, 2010 the Okanagan Indian Band established a blockade of the Brown Creek watershed. The Brown Creek watershed is the OIBs fresh water supply which has been affected negatively from clear cutting. Tolko Industries Ltd is the logging company responsible for the blockade as it has been in legal battles for the past seven years to secure logging rights to the previously protected watershed.

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs has supported the OIB, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip saying, “The Courts failed to deal with the proprietary nature of Aboriginal Title to the lands and resources within the territory. With this decision, third party interests are protected at the expense of the community’s drinking water, archaeological history and their constitutionally protected rights. Consequently, the UBCIC will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Okanagan Indian Band to ensure their community’s water, history and rights are defended.”

Much of the OIBs territory has already been sold off to corporate interests, leading to fish bearing streams running dry in the summer. OIB Chief Fabian Alexis has said that this was not an action the band took lightly, but had no choice to defend itself against the advancement of devastating logging practices.

The situation is made all the more tense by Tolko’s continued lying in the media. Tolko has said that its mill will be forced to shut down due to a lack of available logs from the Brown Creek area. This tactic, meant to pit worker against band member, is pure dishonesty. The fact is that Tolko released a statement on January 19th saying the mill might have to shut down periodically due to market fluctuations surrounding wood prices. Also, OIB members have photographed stockpiles of wood at the Tolko mill, adequate to keep production up during the blockade. Tolko has sought court injunctions to have OIB members jailed so that the company can move along without the hassle of respecting human rights.

The OIB blockade is an example to us all of the need for militant struggle in defense of our rights and interests. Clean drinking water is a fundamental right which is being increasingly intruded upon by corporate interests internationally. The OIB is right to stand up against such an injustice.

This struggle highlights the genocidal colonial history of capitalism in BC and of Canada towards First Nations people. The actions of the BC government and the courts make clear the continuing racist nature of the capitalist system and its willingness to sacrifice the interests of the people for the interests of corporate profit. The Young Communist League of Canada calls for youth and students to stand in solidarity with Okanagan Indian Band! Stop Tolko! Protect Aboriginal Rights!

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