Jessica Wallace – Kamloops This Week
Sporting a “Stop Ajax” button, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein told an audience at Thompson Rivers University Thursday that First Nations land titles are key to combatting climate change.
“Indigenous land rights are the most powerful tool for keeping carbon in the ground,” she said.
Klein is on tour promoting her latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which won the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.
She spoke to a group of about 85 people — including First Nations members and Stop Ajax proponents — at the Irving K. Barber Centre in Thompson Rivers University’s House of Learning building.
The talk was initially planned for participants of the Indigenous People and Climate Change conference — which began earlier last week and wrapped up Thursday afternoon — but became open to the public at the last minute.
Klein told the group humanity is in a “spiritual crisis,” having sacrificed land and people for a “fantasy” that relies on fossil fuels.
“It really is now or never,” she said.
A vocal critic of Stephen Harper’s former Conservative government, Klein also expressed distrust for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals despite promises for change.
She said goals reached at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris don’t go far enough and government commitments should be sanctioned.
She also criticized TransCanada’s decision to sue the United States over the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Klein is calling for wide-sweeping political and economic change — an economy based on “caretaking” — and hopes the “stars are aligning” with the plummeting price of oil.
Klein hopes to empower communities to take control of their own energy projects and she said she is against Ajax, the proposed copper and gold mine planned for south of Aberdeen.
Arthur Manuel, former chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band, has known Klein since about 2000, when Klein took an interest in lands-rights issues with the expansion of Sun Peaks Resort.
Manuel said indigenous people are on the “front lines” fighting climate change and hopes people will draw a link between indigenous land rights and climate change, noting “Mother Earth” plays a deep role in first nations culture.
The Skeetchestn and Tk’emlups Indian bands — under the Stk’emlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) banner — last year filed a lawsuit declaring aboriginal title on private lands held by KGHM Ajax, as well as on a greater area that includes part of the City of Kamloops.
The B.C. Liberal government has said it will vigorously oppose the claim.
Manuel hopes Klein’s celebrity will help draw public support for the land-claim battle with the province.
“It’ll be a question of public support on these issues and drumming up support,” he said.
Bill Hadgkiss, 75, opposes Ajax and said he went to listen to Klein speak because she is someone who is “paying attention.
“She’s given us a shot in the arm and kick in the bum to get going,” he said.
Throughout the two-and-a-half hour lecture, there was applause, shouts and tears. A question-and-answer period saw more statements than questions and Klein noted the many “amazing interventions and contributions.”
One First Nations woman was in Kamloops from North Vancouver and said unity is crucial.
“If you’re willing to herd all us cats in B.C., I’m willing to help,” she said. “We have no planet B.”
Manuel said regional meetings with various First Nations groups are in the works