Ever since a group of Sliammon (Tla’amin) protesters took a stand against the BC Treaty process, some people have been claiming that the peaceful action was an assault on democracy.
For instance, on June 16th, Sliammon Nation Chief Clint Williams commented, “It’s unfortunate that a small group prevented our Members from voting on whether or not we should proceed with the Treaty… Our challenge now is to give our Members their democratic right to vote on the Treaty.”
The British Columbia Treaty Commission issued similar words in a statement that was issued earlier today, commenting, “Tla’amin members prevented from casting a treaty vote Saturday should be able to exercise their democratic right to vote.”
Chief Commissioner Sophie Pierre even went so far as to say, “The small number of Tla’amin members who blocked the doors to the polling station in Sliammon village near Powell River have trampled on the rights of the Tla’amin people.”
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was more remorseful, commenting, “We understand that due to protests at the polling stations, the Sliammon First Nation has postponed the June 16th vote on the ratification of the treaty… It is disappointing that the vote was disrupted due to these actions. Our government believes that a person’s right to vote should not be denied and we hope that community members use the democratic process to express their agreement or disagreement with the proposed treaty.”
I have a thing for rational arguments, so I’ll admit, there is some truth to these words. After all, voting is (usually) a democratic process and the protesters clearly stopped that process from moving ahead.
However, there is a blindspot these arguments carefully navigate around: There’s alot more to democracy that having a simple right to vote.
In a democracy, it is also the people’s right to protest and to be fully informed before making decisions that could affect them. It is also the people’s right to demand transparency and accountability. It is also the people’s right receive it.
More than democratic rights, these are basic human rights and I for one applaud the protesters for peacefully defending the integrity of their Nation.
I wish more people would follow their lead. The BC Treaty process is diseased.