SSMU in Solidarity with Unistot’en

Legislative Council Passes Unistot’en Camp Motion

SSMU Legislative Council convened for the first meeting of the new year on January 24. Motions passed include a motion to donate to Kitibi on behalf of the former McGill Student’s Moroccan Association, and a motion on policy time length consistency, which would render the expiry dates of certain policies uniform.

At the centre of the meeting was a motion to declare SSMU’s solidarity with the Unistot’en Camp. The motion was introduced by Arts and Science Senator Bryan Buraga, drafted in tandem with SSMU Indigenous Affairs Commissioner Tomas Jirousek.

“In British Columbia, there has been a blockade in the unceded Unistot’en territory [against] a national gas pipeline that is attempting to be built,” explained Buraga. He went on to say, “recently, the BC Supreme Court administered an injunction to allow the RCMP to clear this blockade and this has led to a standoff.”

The motion intends to demonstrate solidarity with Indigenous students and with the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

As per an amendment put forward by Councilor Flaherty, the motion includes no overt opposition to the pipeline that Coastal GasLink wishes to build on Unistot’en territory. The amendment removed the explicit mention of any opposition to the construction of the pipeline, whilst leaving in a condemnation of the negligence on the part of Coastal GasLink in building a pipeline without the proper consent from Indigenous leaders. Flaherty’s reason for proposing the amendment was to properly account for the likely possibility that many McGill students may, at some point, work in the oil and gas industry. Referring to the original third clause of the motion, Flaherty asked “why was it included to also be in opposition to the pipeline? Wouldn’t it be enough to be in opposition to the violation of the Unistot’en Camp and Indigenous People’s [rights]? […] I feel like the RCMP’s actions were immoral and illegal from the UN’s standpoint, but I don’t know how necessary it is to be opposed to the pipeline in the private sector.”

Councilors Price and Frenette echoed Flaherty’s caution in explicitly condemning the pipeline itself. Price said, “many of my peers are trained in oil and gas. While I do understand that it is important to uphold a certain level of ethical and moral standards. […] I don’t think we should necessarily take this opportunity to attack a different issue, when what is specifically occurring are the RCMP violations.”

The amendment was passed with a margin of four votes; however, many councilors viewed this as playing with semantics, rendering the motion contradictory and an empty gesture. Councilor Hobbs expressed her dissatisfaction with the amendment: “I think it’s kind of ridiculous that we amended it. You can’t really stand in solidarity with someone [halfway]. It’s either all or nothing. […] Now I feel like the motion itself is just kind of empty; it has no meaning or power, whatsoever.”

“Solidarity with [the Wet’suwet’en Nation] and the opposition to the pipeline itself are inextricably linked,” said Buraga. He added, “it is impossible to hold both of these conflicting positions at the same time. We either stand in solidarity with them and oppose the pipeline, or we don’t stand in solidarity with them at all.”

Still, the motion passed with overwhelming support.