Why do elected and hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs disagree?

Editor’s note: Former JUSTnews editor Philip Symons published this timely op-ed in the CUSJ Googlegroup, and we felt it was so informative we had to share!

Why do elected and hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs disagree on whether pipelines should go through their territory?

Just like our elected members of parliament, Wet’suwet’en elected Chiefs and Councils keep the next election in mind if they wish to stay in power. So naturally, elected Chiefs and Councils favour short-term popular goals, such as job creation and pipelines, as do our own elected Members of Parliament. 

Hereditary chiefs have no such constraint. In that way, they resemble environmentalists, social justice activists or our youths, who can all take a longer-term view. They see pipelines as a threat to our survival, and, in the Wet’suwet’en’s case, as a threat to control over their territories. They’re also concerned about long-term problems like the climate crisis.

There is a potential solution to short-term thinking by our federal government: like the Wet’suwet’en, we non-indigenous people have an un-elected governing body, the “Senate.” Unfortunately, there’s a catch! (Isn’t there always?)

Our Senate has power to consider only legislation passed to it from the elected House of Commons. And the House of Commons can eventually pass that legislation without incorporating recommendations from the Senate, if it so wishes.

So the Senate is a largely ineffectual body, which, while it could potentially consider the long-term effects of legislation, including climate change and more, currently has no incentive or power to do so.

That could be changed. Some suggestions to follow in a future post…

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.