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Loyalist College talks about pipeline protests and Indigenous communities

At a town-hall meeting at Loyalist College about recent pipeline protests, Paul Latchford, director of Loyalist’s Indigenous Circle on Education, speaks about how everyone has a connection to the natural world. Photo by Sarah Cooke, QNet News

By Sarah Cooke [1]

BELLEVILLE – Loyalist College held a town hall meeting Wednesday on pipeline protests and the college’s role in supporting Indigenous communities.

Paul Latchford, director of the college’s Indigenous Circle on Education [2] and a member of Tyendinaga Mohawk community, offered his perspectives on why Indigenous-led actions [3] have sprung up across the country in response to construction of a natural-gas pipeline on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C.

“We’re not understanding that some of these things are not renewable and we can’t replace them,” Latchford told the crowd.

“We will all have to work together; all of our teachings suggest that this time is close, when all of the races of people will come together because of the natural world.”

He said that while he isn’t sure what the next step should be, awareness plays a big part. The town-hall meeting was a valuable opportunity to address issues such as division and a lack of understanding, Latchford said.

Asked what Loyalist College can do to show support for the Indigenous community, Latchford said that patience plays a key role.

“The ruling political party took their time (responding to recent rail blockades and other protests), and … they didn’t react aggressively immediately. And I think that’s the key: to give time.”

Michael Cooke, Loyalist’s senior vice president/academic, built upon Latchford’s response.

“We can say, ‘What did Loyalist College do?’ Well, at least we can say that we took time today, and hopefully we will find other times to continue the conversation,” said Cooke. “There are visible signs around the college that we can pay attention to, and use the Indigenous centre on education as a place for dialogue.”

Ten per cent of Loyalist’s student population is Indigenous, he noted.

Cooke agreed with Latchford that patience is a critical tool in finding common ground.

Western society has a “we-have-to-keep-things-moving” mentality, he said: ” ‘We have to keep the trains moving’ – well, maybe we don’t. Maybe we just have to wait and see. Maybe we have to just listen, and not try to solve things right this minute.”