Courage – A Dispatch from COP26, Glasgow
Jack Woodward, QC
I went to the “water ceremony” as a hardened sceptic, but I left in tears. About 100 people gathered in the bitter Scottish cold, including Chief Jordan Michael from tiny Nuchatlaht, in Nootka Sound. Jordan is a logger; a tall, fit, practical, Vancouver Islander who made his way to Glasgow to be part of the last best chance to save the planet.
My skepticism started to crumble at the gathering place itself – at the statue of Dolores Ibarruri, “La Pasionaria” — commemorating the 534 Scots who volunteered and died fighting fascism in Spain in 1936 – 1939. They gave up everything. That was courage, beyond anything ever asked of us in our comfortable lives.
The ceremony was by indigenous people of the Americas, and I heard a little Spanish, and some native tongues. The elder was from an American tribe who are fighting a pipeline bringing oil from the Alberta tar sands through their territory. We Canadians are not accustomed to being the bad guys. I was embarrassed that I could not say: “It’s okay – when we get home to Canada we will fix that.” The fact is, Canada is doing the very worst thing: building yet more pipelines, right when all such projects must stop immediately or there will not be a livable future for our children and grandchildren.
“We are not landlords; we are caretakers” I heard the elder say. And, once again the invocation: “seven generations.”
“I honour all the Scottish ancestors also.” said the elder, graciously. “All our ancestors made sacrifices so we could be here – and we owe that same care to those who come after.” So, there in the wind on the banks of the Clyde, in one of the grand old capitals of Empire, with a modest gathering of witnesses, and knowing her efforts might be futile, she performed the ancient water ceremony. That took courage, and her courage brought tears to my eyes.
Courage is what we need from our political leaders right now. We need Prime Minister Trudeau to admit that TMX is a mistake, and stop building a new oil pipeline to export yet more deadly pollution. We need our NDP government in Victoria to stop sponsoring the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a climate crime that will spread deadly methane across the Pacific.
It takes courage to do the right thing.
Jack Woodward, QC, from Glasgow, Nov 8, 2021.