(Cree Nation deputy grand chief Mandy Gull (far left), Cree Nation Youth Grand Chief Kaitlynn Hester-Moses (second from left) and activist Clayton Thomas-Muller (second from right) are joining the Sami peoples in their fight against a planned railway development in Finland. Credit: Greenpeace Canada)
Three First Nation leaders are in Finland this week rallying against a planned railway development through the Boreal Forest that has parallels to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Cree Nation deputy grand chief Mandy Gull, Cree Nation Youth Grand Chief Kaitlynn Hester-Moses and activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, who’s also a member of Pukatawagan Cree Nation, are joining Greenpeace Canada and the Indigenous Sami peoples in protesting the railway.
The Finnish and Norwegian governments are planning an Arctic Corridor railway that would cut through the Boreal Forest, carrying goods from Rovaniemi in northern Finland to the Arctic Ocean in Kirkenes, Norway.
Greenpeace has argued that this project threatens the health of the Boreal Forest, including the reindeer population that Finland’s Indigenous peoples, the Sami, rely on.
“Everything that they do – their way of life, their activities, their relationship with the seasons and the cycles of the year, it’s all around reindeer,” said Gull. “It’s their livelihood. This is what they’re doing to supplement their income, but most importantly, it’s a part of their identity.
“They are people of the reindeer.”
The group has created a boundary through the Boreal Forest, at select locations along the planned railway route, with banners that read “Our Land Our Future” and “No Access Without Consent.”
It’s a similar tactic seen with the Trans Mountain pipeline protests.
And this rally in Finland comes on the heels of the Federal Court of Appeal’s game-changing ruling on the project.
Last week, the court ruled the federal government failed to properly consult with Indigenous peoples on Trans Mountain. Further, the National Energy Board made a “critical error” when it neglected to consider the pipeline’s impact on the Southern resident killer whale population on Vancouver’s coast.
Thomas-Muller is using Trans Mountain as an example to the Sami in Finland.
“As Indigenous peoples, we can go up against these huge, massive developments and win,” he said. “Many Sami that I have spoken to here view the train corridor in the same way that First Nations view the Trans Mountain pipeline, that they have a very direct, right-of-way.”
The Finnish and Norwegian governments are planning to open the railway in 2030.