Gentrification and pipelines what’s the connection?

Melina Laboucan-Massimoof the Lubicon Cree Nation spoke by phone to the 50 or so people at the Town Hall about what the Tar Sands projects are doing to her land.  There is “no hunting cause the land is cut off or contaminated,” she said, noting that three tumours were found on the carcass of a recently killed moose.  “We can’t access our traditional medicines and have elevated rates of cancer and respiratory illness” because of contamination.  Maximo said that the tailings ponds from the tar sands are “hundreds of kilometers long and leach into the water table” with chemicals that cause cancer.  Some communities have to have bottled water delivered to them because they can’t drink local water.

What does this have to do with gentrification?  When indigenous people are displaced from their land because they can’t maintain their way of life or find a way of supporting themselves, some of them find their way to the DTES.  Now gentrification in the DTES is increasing land prices and rents and displacing people again from the DTES community they are building.

Bea Starr of the Power of Women told the group that she was from the Helsiuk Nation in Bella Bella which the oil tankers will pass if the pipelines are allowed.  Bea said she didn’t want to lose abalone, sea urchins and seaweed that are traditional foods of her people.

Mercedes Eng read a statement from the Not for Developers Coalition, in solidarity with people who are fighting the pipelines. “Low income people in the DTES have never consented to condos and gentrification,” she said.

Herb Varley, who chaired the meeting, noted that displacement, whether in the Alberta Tar Sands or DTES is “usually preceded by dehumanizing the people who are about to be displaced.”  Before contact, he said, taking indigenous land was “justified” by saying indigenous people were “savages.”  “Now its ok to push people out of the DTES because they’re called ‘drunks,’” he explained.

Robert Bonner said he was pleased with the amount of young people coming out to Idle No More events, and encouraged everyone to get involved  in opposing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s legislation and fighting homelessness.”What’s happening to aboriginal people is happening to everyone,” he said.

Massimo told the crowd that her people were resisting the oil corporations by doing public education, speaking to parliaments in England and Norway, educating investors about how to disinvest, lobbying politicians, having teach-ins and blockades and even one court case against Shell. “We feel a lot of support,” she said, “But a lot more needs to be done.”