Occupying Forces

3 min readMar 10, 2022

There is more than one kind of occupying force, and more than one kind of genocide.

Photo by Stefan Keller, Kellepics via Pixabay

The world is looking on in horror at the war in Ukraine, the scorched earth policy of Putin and his cronies and the incredible human suffering that has resulted from this occupation of a peaceful, democratic sovereign country.

Today, I was reminded that there is more than one way to decimate a population, destroy their homeland and shatter their peaceful existence.

An article on the front page of my daily paper reminded me that, since 1792, the colonial occupying forces have done these things here, literally right where I live.

My condominium building is near the waterfront of False Creek — an inlet off Georgia Strait, which itself opens up into the Salish Sea and then the Pacific Ocean.

But here wasn’t always land here. Before European colonization, this was an ecologically diverse area of tidal flats that stretched for miles east of where my concrete bunker is now situated.

The first peoples of this area used to say, ““When the tide is out, the table is set”. Shellfish, mammals, birds, fish, whales and a complex web of plant life characterized this micro-climate where the rain forest met the sea.

Photo by Beachfan1000, via Pixabay

But thanks to European settlers, the table is pretty bare these days. What was once a productive, ecologically balanced natural gem is now a polluted industrial port. Where there were once 300 foot towering cedar trees, now there are rows of towering concrete condos.

The Tsleil Waututh First Nation is one of three Coast Salish communities who shared the bounty of the age-old ecosystem. Their name means “People of the Inlet”. Today this proud people number in just the few hundreds, thanks to the importation of smallpox, measles, alcoholism, and of course flat out racism.

The newspaper article reported that the Tsleil Waututh had commissioned a ground-breaking groups of reports that together provide the “first comprehensive look at the cumulative effects and habitat destruction since colonization that resource extraction, poor fishery practices, pollution and industrialization have had” on the shoreline.

The reports look at water quality, wildlife and historical ecology, They measured erosion, pollution and other impacts of development by settlers that has resulted in devastating loss of habitat, homes, food, way of life and culture.

We are very quick to condemn Russia and Putin and their war crimes, and rightly so.

But viewed through the truths that the Tsleil Waututh reports make clear, there is more than one kind of occupying force, and more than one kind of genocide.

It’s way past time to pay attention to the wisdom of the People of the Inlet. I hope it’s not too late.


Recreational writer, collector of antique corkscrews, urban gardener and management consultant to social profit organizations. Proudly Canadian.