After the JRP inappropriately and disrespectfully cancelled the first day and a half of the hearings in Bella Bella, the hearings finally began on Tuesday afternoon. I was so impressed with the poise and resolve of the Heiltsuk people. They refused to be intimidated by the panel’s actions yet they were equally determined to prove the panel’s negative assumptions and prejudices wrong. They were respectful and complied with the panel’s requests in regards to how the hearings should proceed yet they cleverly showed their solidarity in ways that were not forbidden by the panel. A great example of this was the rule of no placards or anti-Enbridge signs. Not one was present at the hearings; however, the sea of red armbands made it evident that everyone there stood in solidarity. Because of the delay in the start of the hearings I missed the last day and a half of the hearings. From what I have heard, there was disappointment around the discrepancy between what the panel considered valid oral evidence and what evidence the speakers were giving. It is such an unfortunate situation as I feel that the locals have such an intimate and nuanced relationship with their land and seas that the panel doesn’t comprehend some of the connections being made. It is a lack of understanding from the panel not the speakers.
I am so grateful to the Heiltsuk for welcoming me in, showing me the strength and warmth of their community, and for including me in their incredible feasts! I have definitely left a piece of my heart in Bella Bella.
Mr. Kenneth Bateman, one of the three members of the Joint Review Panel:
Ms. Sheila Leggett, one of the three members of the Joint Review Panel:
Mr. Hans Matthews, one of the three members of the Joint Review Panel:
Jim White spoke during the opening ceremony.
Chief Toby Moody getting a hug from panel member, Ms. Sheila Leggett.
Marven Robinson from the Gitga’at, showing support.
Armbands of solidarity.
The incredible Evelyn Windsor. I couldn’t hold back my tears as she recounted being taken from her loving family to be sent to residential school when she was five years old. This is the first time Evelyn has spoken publicly about her ordeal. She had locked the memories away for years as she watched those that couldn’t, go mad. My heart was ripped out of my chest thinking about all the families put through such devastating circumstances.
Michelle Brown, giving the family perspective.
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