And the Native Students Union are independently donating an additional $200 from their own organization
The Native Students Union (NSU) have announced they will be donating a total of $200 to the Unist’ot’en legal defence fund from their own organization, while the UVSS Advocacy Relations Committee — comprised of the NSU, the Students of Colour Collective (SOCC), UVic Pride, the Society for Students with a Disability (SSD), and the UVic Feminist Collective/Third Space — have promised to donate an additional $6 000.
These donations are separate from the $1 000 that the entire UVSS board pledged to donate to the Unist’ot’en legal defence fund at a board meeting in January — a motion put forward by Kolin Sutherland Wilson, Firekeeper of the NSU and the UVSS board representative.
“The cost of such a battle will be and has always been very large,” says Sutherland-Wilson. “Especially in terms of time, money, commitment, everything… Our donations are just a tiny speck in what will be necessary if they are to be successful in this endeavour … [but] every little bit helps, even if our donation isn’t very large compared to the financial dues that will be necessary for the ongoing legal battles.”
The battle that Sutherland-Wilson is referring to involves the ongoing conflict on Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory in Northern British Columbia, where a B.C. Supreme Court injunction has allowed for Trans Canada’s Coastal Gaslink pipeline expansion to commence, in spite of dissent from Wet’suwet’en clans, houses, and hereditary chiefs.
“When we have what is one of the most blatant cases of Indigenous people being dispossessed for the sake of industry, the silence that UVic has been expressing is unacceptable.”
Sutherland-Wilson hopes the donations from the UVSS board, the Advocacy Relations Committee, and the NSU will both raise awareness of the situation and force UVic to make a statement.
“[UVic holds] a lot of values that mention their commitment to Indigenous peoples in general,” says Sutherland-Wilson. “So when we have what is one of the most blatant cases of Indigenous people being dispossessed for the sake of industry, the silence that UVic has been expressing is unacceptable.”
Sutherland-Wilson feels that the $6 000 from the Advocacy Relations Committee and the $1000 from the UVSS are a statement in themselves, and if that doesn’t make UVic respond with an official statement, he doesn’t know what will.
“Money speaks, money talks. Money is a language that UVic should understand,” he says. “[A donation] is a sacrifice on our part, [for] what we feel is a very important cause. We’re giving up certain privileges by making these donations and in that regard, we’re saying that what’s happening is bigger than all of us.”
Sutherland-Wilson notes that colonialism and reconciliation affects us all.
“Despite … coming from countless backgrounds, cultures, villages, nations, languages, and a whole diversity of human experiences on a diverse array of unique landscapes, we face the same colonialism, the same Indian Act, the same legislation, the same judiciary,” he says. “Any success that the Wet’suwet’en claim in the courts — it’s a success for all of us.”