A Modern Treaty to Save Our Peoples and The Planet

Left to Right: Stephen Lewis, Pam Palmater, David Suzuki, photo by Ian Mauro Climate Tour 2019

This blog is an excerpt of the speech that I gave at the Climate Tour with David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis, on October 4, 2019 in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the University of Winnipeg on Treaty 1 territory. (Check against delivery).

Kwe n’in telusi Pam Palmater. It is an honour to be here on Indigenous territory covered by Treaty one. Thanks to the elder for opening & to UofW for hosting us. Oct.4th important day to remember lives lost due to murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

We have a hard truth to face. We are in the middle of two major crises: Canada is killing our people and the planet and we are here to stop it!

The first crisis is that the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls found that Canada has and continues to commit genocide against Indigenous peoples – specifically targeting Indigenous Women and Girls.

The second crisis is that Indigenous science and western science have both confirmed that we are headed for a massive climate disaster.

To say that we are in a crisis of epic proportions would be an understatement. We need to act now to end the genocide of Indigenous peoples & stop the ecocide of the earth. Because we know that the pain of Indigenous peoples is the same pain felt by the planet. And the pain of this planet is felt first and foremost by Indigenous peoples.

Settler governments in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and all over the world have colonized Indigenous territories with horrific acts of violence to peoples and the earth. The colonizing mentality pervades our governing systems and allows governments and corporations to treat people and the planet as resources to exploit – as though they were lifeless commodities. Extractive economies – now largely benefiting transnational corporations – have been authorized by governments land leave destruction in their wake.

We’ve seen tears from Indigenous mothers whose daughters have been murdered by the thousands. We’ve also seen the heartbreak of killer whale mothers mourning the losses of their offspring who can’t survive in an oil tanker dominated eco-systems.

And if we, as First Nations and Canadians, don’t act quickly – many more people, plants and animals will die. We no longer have the time to debate politics – the crisis in Canada is now a matter of life and death for all of us. It won’t be good enough in 50 years to look back and say we tried, we had the best intentions, or we gave it our best effort. We either do or die. And right now, Indigenous peoples are dying. Our planet is dying. But you all know this. We can no more deny the ecocide of climate change, than we can deny genocide of Indigenous peoples. The statistics, the research and the scientific evidence before our eyes is too overwhelming. Climate change is greatest threat to all life on earth – humans, plants and animals.

Who bears the disproportionate burden of environmental destruction, water contamination and more pipelines? Indigenous peoples do. That is because genocide and ecocide go hand in hand. This earth has suffered a great assault, in part because of massive human rights violations to its caretakers – Indigenous peoples. Similarly, Indigenous peoples have suffered a great genocide in part because of the violence committed against our lands, waters, and ecosystems on which we depend.

Our society’s economy has been constructed in a way which exploits ands abuses Indigenous women and the land with relative impunity. Well now, we all stand to pay the price of the impending climate disaster and corresponding the human disaster that will follow – all while large corporations reap the benefits.

In the end – we will all suffer – if there is no drinkable water, farmable land or pollinators.

What we need is a new treaty – a modern treaty that binds us all together – the people and the planet. A treaty that commits us to work together for the benefit of all Nations of peoples and living beings without discrimination, racism, sexism genocide or ecocide. A treaty that commits all people to heal our divisions so we can commit to protecting our collective futures.

We must remember that our collective futures includes the plants, animals, birds ,fish, and insect Nations. They too have as much right to live on this planet as we do and if we have any hope of surviving, we’ll need every bee hive, every coral reef and every killer whale pod to maintain our precious eco-systems.

This modern treaty can be a reality.

It doesn’t matter what we call it, whose idea it was, where it originated or whether we agree on all aspects of it. This new treaty is about combining social justice and earth justice together to pave the way to a better future for all. The dual crises facing us requires that we do everything in our collective power to save our planet.

This will require a societal revolution that goes beyond superficial changes and the glacial pace at which governments operate. It will require that we change everything and that will mean we need to get uncomfortable.

We don’t need everyone for a revolution to save the planet. We don’t have time to wait around until the genocide and climate change deniers are convinced. If we wait, it will be too late for us all.

Every single right we have ever gained – human rights, environmental protections or native rights – have been advanced by small numbers of people – sometimes only individuals pushing forward despite the odds. We can do this with all of you in this room. But we cant wait for all of you. We will forge ahead because we have to – its the only way to give Indigenous peoples and this planet a fighting chance.

Other people will join when they see our successes. There will always be genocide deniers & climate change deniers, but we have an obligation to forge ahead anyway. If the lands are toxic from tar sands, and the water polluted from mining, none of our children will survive – whether they are Canadian or Indigenous. That’s why we need to work together.

Together, we not only have the power to stop these abuses, but we can return Canada to its original treaty vision. Every single one of you has the power to stand up for what is right and save not only yourselves, but all those who can’t advocate on their own – for all of those whose voices that are not counted – the bees, the whales, the trees and the tiniest insects.

None of you can do it alone and we don’t expect you to – the original treaty vision for Canada was premised on us working together to benefit from and protect the lands and waters which sustain us. Our advantage and our strength is in our collectives.

Canada wouldn’t even exist without the treaty agreements between sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Crown. This original treaty vision was meant to protect the ecosystem on Turtle Island for as long as long as the grass grows, the rivers flow and sun shines.

We are faced with two global crises – genocide and ecocide.

We must use the spirit and intent of our original treaties to forge a new future Canadians – get out and vote in your system – use your numbers, your wealth, your influence and your privilege to force the change. But don’t stop there – the pressure must continue in full force post election in all forums – in Parliamentary and Senate Committees, in where you spend you money (or don’t), in the media, in the boardroom, in your advocacy and at the United Nations.

Indigenous peoples will always be there on front lines, but we cant do it alone – we need you and you need us. Our very lives depend on it.

We can protect the lands and waters and we can save lives. I believe in the power of the people to rise up and be the government of the people, by the people, for the people as it was intended. This generation was meant to lead our Nations back to balance. We were meant to protect this territory for our future generations. I believe in the power of our peoples to unite under a new treaty.

Let’s end genocide against Indigenous peoples and ecocide against our planet.

Lets work together for the radical changes we need to save our people and the planet.