Dear John,

These have been ten long months on the ancient forest blockades, a vast and growing community of the deeply concerned doing whatever is peacefully possible, from love and with great self-sacrifice, to draw the era of industrial forestry ravaging the land in your own electoral backyard on Pacheedaht territory, to a close.

It hasn’t been easy keeping people fed, warm and supported 24-7 on the frontlines that long, whatever the weather. It hasn’t been any easier dealing with the onslaught of mass raids of militarized RCMP swooping and scooping people with harsh and erratic overreach in their illegal exclusion zones, unlawfully arresting people–journalists, legal observers, Indigenous youth, nowhere close to breaching the BC Supreme court injunction. Or the threats of rubber bullets and tear gas on tree-sitters, the towing and impoundment of vehicles, the assaults on Indigenous youth, the violation of peoples civil liberties while you stay smugly sidelined.

Then there are the people damned brave enough to defend the rare scraps of real forest in the face of the injunction and the battalion of well-armed and disorganized Mounties, some perched 100′ up in ancient hemlocks or cemented into the roads, arrested with the use of helicopters or jackhammers and what cost to taxpayers?

Has it not occurred to you how severe is the ecological and climate crisis that has brought people out in droves, many from a new generation of bright and committed youth, to do these kind of things? I saw a banner on the frontlines that read: “Protecting the last 2.7% of the old-growth shouldn’t be so radical”.  Exactly!

But there is more to the forest than the trees and this one thing is really bugging me: that the only thing you had to say about the blockades, that were spawned at Fairy creek,  in all these months was to gloat over how the folks involved didn’t care about Indigenous rights or they’d have picked up and left when the band Chief whose authority presides exclusively over reserve lands asked for third party activists to leave the territory.

All of a sudden John Horgan was the born-again champion of Indigenous rights, but not once as I am aware have you made any ounce of effort to meet with a prominent and well-respected elder on that territory who has provided pivotal leadership in asserting his rights to defend his sovereign territory in the face of a gag order placed on him and many others and who has asked for support from far and wide and it has shown up in spades, showing you up in equal measure.  I know you know who I am talking about and I know you have avoided him and that is cowardly.

This shows that you may be the one who still has a problem respecting Indigenous rights, except of course, where Indian Act band councils can be manipulated by the process of revenue-sharing agreements that offer meager financial crumbs in exchange for expansion of resource extraction industries that sign away the rights of title-holders to exercise their rights and responsibilities to defend their land. When nations sign these agreements, it is under economic duress: log and take a cut or log and get nothing, as usual. These agreements do not constitute free, prior and informed consent, a basic condition of the very declaration of Indigenous rights that your government signed into law.

So what gives? As the situation on the ground becomes more tense and less safe for many of your constituents, your presence is known by your conspicuous absence. Where is the leadership people expect of an NDP Premier? Where is the respect for the Indigenous leaders in this epic struggle to turn back the tides of classic resource colonialism and to protect the last of the landscape that existed, cared for and sustained Indigenous people on this coast for time immemorial?  The colossal atrocity of mass graves of 215 children in Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc speaks directly to the privileged negligence of generations of settler-colonial power-holders, upholding the gross inequities and injustices of colonial power relations and white supremacism that devalues Indigenous lives.

So, my question to you is when will you speak directly with elder Bill Jones, a residential school survivor and strong leader and the Indigenous youth leading the direct action movement in your electoral backyard and listen deeply and respectfully to what they have to say and what they are asking of the Premier by way of healing and not repeating the wounds of the past?

I publicly challenge you with Bill’s prior consent to accept this as an invitation to do so on camera,  as soon as possible. Bill has requested a dinner, with tea and conversation.

Will you accept?

Bobby Arbess
Victoria, B.C on Lekwungen territory