Wet'suwet'en Montreal benefit

A Wet’suwet’en benefit concert is happening in Montreal

We spoke to singer-songwriter Elisapie about the concert she co-organized for the Unis’tot’en Camp.

It’s not quite spring, but it’s not quite not spring, which means that pretty soon, Montreal music lovers of all stripes are going to have to wise up to the fact that once again, they can (and should!) go to shows on days other than Friday and Saturday.

This Wednesday offers a wonderful opportunity to do just that — and to participate in a little bit of social justice as well.

Wet’suwet’en benefit organizer
Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, Montreal Wet’suwet’en benefit co-organizer

Organized by multidisciplinary artist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine and musician Elisapie Isaac (whose The Ballad of the Runaway Girl was shortlisted for the 2019 Polaris Music Prize), tomorrow’s Benefit Concert for Wet’suwet’en in Montreal will feature an incredible group of artists coming together in solidarity with and support of the land defenders at the Unis’tot’en Camp, and includes the likes of Random Recipe, Lydia Képinski, Jesse Mac Cormack, les Soeurs Boulay, Nomadic Massive, and 2018 Polaris Prize winner Jeremy Dutcher.

Yesterday, I talked to Elisapie about the show, and her feelings with respect to some of the issues and people that led to its inception.

Dave Jaffer: So, why are we talking today? 

Elisapie Isaac: Why are we talking today? [Laughs.] I guess you are interested in knowing about this Wet’suwet’en and Tio’tia:ke [aka Montreal] benefit show that Natasha Kanapé and I decided to do, which will be Wednesday night at la Tulipe. It’s a big gathering — music, arts, expression in all forms. We decided we needed because so much has happened since the new year. It’s been kind of crazy and stressful for a lot of people, people I know, anyway. Just sitting there and seeing all these talks about Wet’suwet’en and not being informed, and getting the same, same, same, same information in newspapers or on radio, it has been a little bit overwhelming. [The show] is to simply say that we care and more people than we think care about the land protectors. 

DJ: The line-up of musicians is quite large and diverse, and includes both indigenous and non-indigenous artists. Is there a reason for that?

EI: Being indigenous women, we are very sensitive to the issue. We also wanted to have non-indigenous people with us because sometimes we feel like they probably feel like, “Oh, I’m not indigenous, why would I have a say in this?” I think it’s wrong; I think people have the right to and people should support each other. 

DJ: Where is the money going?

EI: We want to send the money to the Unis’tot’en Camp, because they’re going to be needing a lot. A lot of people were arrested. And they’ve been fighting this for the last 10 years, so it’s normal that we want to [create] awareness. And not just them — most indigenous people, and [activists that some] people call “very aggressive.” And it’s not true. They’ve been very peaceful, trying to get the message across. 

Montreal Wet’suwet’en benefit
Elisapie Isaac, Montreal Wet’suwet’en benefit co-organizer

DJ: This concert doesn’t seem like it was planned for very long. How did it come together?

EI: It was something that I was thinking about constantly, and [I thought], “Who can I possibly talk to that can relate to me?” I’m just an artist, I don’t organize shit in my life. [Laughs] I have people organizing my life for me. But I was like, “I have to do something. We have to do something.” So I texted Natasha, I’d say, two weeks ago?

DJ: Yeah this just sort of happened. I got a press release on Friday. 

EI: It was all confirmed maybe Friday? We’ve had a few people who, right away, were like, “yes, yes, yes,” but we had to also wait for Unis’tot’en Camp, [who] we wrote to once we knew this was actually possible because POP (Montreal) said, “We’re going to help you out, don’t worry.” It was very quick but we also had to wait for (Unis’tot’en Camp’s) approval. It’s been pretty amazing, but there was a lot of texting, and so I think that’s why my back is hurting. [Laughs] I was on vacation in New York City with my kids and I spent the whole time texting. That’s something I hate doing but I had to because we had to try to gather people quick. 

DJ: Do you find that the artists assembled all have similar views about and knowledge of the issues at play, and history, and colonization, and the country, or do you think it’s more about solidarity?

EI: I think most of the artists, we already knew that they’re sensitive — it’s something that they care about. Now, does every person know every detail of all the things that they have to know? Probably not. But what’s really nice is that they’re going to. It’s really important that we take the time to gather some information that we can share. It’s still very vague for a lot of people. But they’re definitely sensitive to the cause. ■

The Montreal Wet’suwet’en benefit concert is happening at la Tulipe (4530 Papineau) on Wednesday, March 11, 8 p.m., $35

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