'We are the ones who will make a difference,' says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

David Ball

Metro asked B.C. public figures for their resolutions for 2017 — and what keeps them hopeful after a year panned by many as a bit of a write-off.

Dec 30, 2016 - Ahead of New Year's Day, Metro asked several B.C. public figures and artists for some of their resolutions for 2017 — and what keeps them hopeful after a year that's been panned by many as a bit of a write-off.

    Here's what one of the province's most prominent and outspoken indigenous leaders — Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the 110-member Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs — wanted to share with Metro's readers.

    Metro: Do you have any resolutions for 2017 — both personal and for the world?

    Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: I generally don’t engage in those, because I try to carry with what I’ve been doing for the past 18 years — our member communities look towards the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to support them on a whole number of issues. Being guided and directed by them is important, and we'll keep doing that in the New Year.

    Is there something you have learned in the past year?

    I'm incredibly proud of those British Columbians who have come together in such a very meaningful way to stand in defence of the environment, which is what makes B.C. one of the most beautuful places on the planet.

    For example, the decade-long battle with Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal — that (battle) was carried forward a broad coalition of non-indigenous and indigenous people. The same applies to our ongoing battle with Kinder Morgan, Site C and Lelu Island (Pacific Northwest LNG plant).

    There’s been a real convergence of commitment in B.C. — of people stepping forward to defend our interests against the predations of the corporate world.

    I’m also incredibly proud of the UBCIC and its deep roots in history of the province of B.C. We’ve been in the field and the trenches since 1969, and we’ve been pretty much consistent in defending our inherent right of self-determination and supporting member communities that are standing up. I’m proud to carry that work forward.

    Is there any lesson or inspiration you'd like to offer people who want to make things better but feel discouraged by what’s going on in the world today?

    We need to understand that we will prevail in these struggles — as long as we know we’re in this together.

    We need to work together for the sake of our grandchildren and future generations. That’s a responsibility that applies to all British Columbians. These aren't just simply indigenous issues: the water and environment are things that impact everyone. As we move forward, more and more people are realizing that climate change and the impacts it’s having are very real; they require all of our efforts.

    What gives you hope for the next year?

    At the end of the day, we can no longer depend on the courts or governments. Yes there's been bitter disappointments, but we need to realize that we can only depend on each other. I think 2017 is going to be an incredibly intense year, I don’t think there’s any question about that.

    As we go into 2017, we need to bear in mind that we are the ones who will make a difference. And we can defeat these very real threats to our environment — to our rivers and streams, our wild salmon, and our coast.

    How will you be spending New Year's?

    I'll probably be here at home with my wife Joan in Penticton, where I’ve been home for the holidays pretty much. You know, the rest of the year I’m on the move, traveling throughout the province supporting communities. So Christmas is the only time all year when I can actualy be at home for as long as I have. It’s been very quiet.