By Céline Chuang
June 12, 2018
My Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I want to acknowledge that this courtroom, this city, and all of us stand on traditional, ancestral and unceded territory, that of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh, stewards of this land since time immemorial. I am here today as I was on the day I was arrested for participating, like others, in nonviolent civil disobedience – standing in solidarity with Indigenous people, here on these territories, and across Turtle Island. I mean no disrespect to the court in my actions. I simply wish to live in a way that honours those whose voices, stories, and wisdom predate the court system on these lands, and whose rights remain unrecognized. I hope that one day we will not only adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in theory, but put each of its articles into practice as a starting point for true reconciliation.
Myself, I come from a migratory people, a family tree with a history of displacement like many living in diaspora. It is here on these territories that Indigenous Elders, siblings, and friends have generously taught me the beauty and resonance in being rooted to a place, in speaking to ancestral knowledge, power, and pride, in protecting the land and water as sacred. I work in the Downtown Eastside and have been gifted with friendships with remarkable women whose songs and drum beats nourish both my spirit and my resistance. Like them I work for a world free of violence – violence against Indigenous women, two-spirit and trans people, and violence against the land and the earth. I carried their medicine with me up to the mountain as a way to honour them, knowing my decision was out of this deep and abiding respect; for these warrior women as well as for future generations whose home is under threat.
I understand that my actions have consequences and am prepared to accept these peacefully. I hold, like many others, to the necessity of standing in firm allyship with Indigenous people and to the words of the prophets and poets before me, “let justice roll like rivers.”
Céline Chuang was arrested on April 28 blocking the gates to the Kinder Morgan tank facility where construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project is underway. She was part of a mass non-violent direct action with approximately 200 other people of faith. Céline is serving 75 hours of community service. Above is her statement to judge Kenneth Affleck who has refused to hear any defense involving Indigenous land rights or climate change, stating that because the pipeline has not been built there is no immanent danger.