Saturday, January 25, 2014

Phil Fontaine gets greeting worthy of the Native Face of The Keystone Pipeline

I do not know the name of the President and CEO or the Founder or the Spokesperson or anyone who would represent the face of TransCanada.

I do know that TransCanada is the name of the company that is building the Keystone pipeline. I know the Keystone pipeline has become the literal line in the earth. The line that cannot be crossed. Not only for Native People but for non-Native people as well. That part is obvious.

What isn't so obvious is what former National Chief Phil Fontaine was thinking when he took on the role of "Native Face of the Keystone Pipeline". In the midst of a resurgent Native rights movement that has networked internationally through the Idle No More campaign, he should not have been surprised with the response he received in Winnipeg.

On January 23, Fontaine was making his first public appearance back home and his first major speech since becoming the Native Face of the Keystone Pipeline. Guess what happened? He was met with protest.

Yes, the images of the former National Chief being shouted down before having a chance to speak at the University of Winnipeg are embarrassing. It's Native people yelling at Native people and the whole thing looks like the climax of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. With the accusations creating feelings of awkwardness and shame but no real damage. "You're as traditional as a tootsie roll," someone screamed out. Yeah, pretty embarrassing.

Nevertheless, I have to commend the people that stood up and took a public stance even though it would be seen as acting against one of their own. They were there because they had been compelled. This is the line in the earth.

We know Fontaine was there because he was getting paid. Winnipeg may be his home turf but the city also has the largest population of Native people in Canada and has hosted many Idle No More actions.

What happened seems predictable in hindsight and when results occur that are not surprising we usually consider the action planned.

Phil should have known. If he didn't know, that's a blemish on his character or his intelligence. People in TransCanada knew, that's why they got Fontaine on the payroll.

Before Fontaine became the Native Face of The Keystone Pipeline he was the most reasonable Native Leader of Our Time. Why deal with pesky or uppity when you can deal with reasonable? The image of the calm softspoken white haired Fontaine being challenged by a group of people with drums and facepaint dovetails into the classic Canadian stereotypes.

One one side the noble Indian and on the other side the pesky savage. It's the grand trope of western society. They never get tired of that one. In the battle for hearts and minds of the mainstream Canadian public; there is no doubt whom the majority will support.

If the line in the earth can be defined by the reasonable Fontaine on one side and the thuggish modern day savage on the other side that perception can only benefit TransCanada.

Why do I get the feeling that somewhere in TransCanada's communications' bunker people are smiling, laughing and high-fiving each other.

I like Phil. He seems to be a good man, but he's on the other side of line in this one and my gut is telling me that he is not just getting paid, he's getting played.