by Julian Ichim
On May 15th, people gathered at the Queen St. Commons to participate in a popular education workshop on Venezuela.
The workshop started with Santiago Escobar of the Popular Front Hugo Chavez Network discussing the history of Venezuela’s struggle against imperialism. He then went on to discuss the role of corporate media in working to undermine the people’s struggle, and the role of people’s media as an alternative to inform people of the realities of Venezuela.
He also talked about the current attempts by the United States and Canada to undermine the election of President Maduro of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela by supporting attempts by the opposition to destabilize the country. He ended his presentation by discussing the role of people’s media in giving the people of Venezuela means to inform themselves and mobilize in defense of the revolution.
The workshop ended with people creating a magazine in support of Venezuela and against imperialism and corporate media. We divided into groups and each created several pages. The event was informative and fun and we all agreed we would like to do more popular media and support to support Venezuela.
by Basics Kitchener-Waterloo
The increase of fatal overdoses in Kitchener has forced the local health department to declare a heroin epidemic. Despite this, little has been done to deal with this problem. While more people are getting hooked on this dangerous drug, treatment centres and methadone clinics are forced to turn people away due to lack of funding.
“The wait list to get into a methadone clinic is about two years, and getting into rehab is harder and harder” says community activist Ryan Moore. “At the same time there are more drugs on our streets and people are dropping like flies.”
“Everyone in the downtown community has been affected by this directly or indirectly, and when friends come to me for help to get off of drugs, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere that I can send them, its heartbreaking,” says Jason Lamka, a native activist. “I think the system uses it as a tool to keep poor people down, this is a game to the rich people, who spend millions on the new courthouse and their salaries but they have no money to put into programs we desperately need.”
One point of contention is the role of the Oxycontin ban in this increase of overdoses. Michael, an activist concerned about drug addiction, stated that: “For many people who are sick, the tightening of narcotics prescriptions will just force them to go somewhere else. If people are sick or going through withdrawal they will purchase heroin as the only opiate available. These are powerful drugs that doctors are prescribing and just to cut people off is irresponsible.”
The banning of Oxycontin is simplistic according to Lamka. “Poeple are dying anyways, and its not because they can’t get Oxy. Our society creates a depression and people are getting high to escape it. There’s no jobs, no hope, and no future for many people. Until this is solved, people will get high, and more and more people will die.”
When asked about this, Regional Councillors Ken Sealing and Karl Zehr, who decide how money is spent, declined to comment.
November 2012 in Toronto there was an OIPRD conference on police complaints that put forward the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (PAVIS), the new model of policing. In response to this, KW Occupy, The Spot Collective, and Basics Community News Service interviewed 70 people from the East end and downtown of Kitchener to come up with our own understanding of policing and the PAVIS model.
Experience With Police
Several people mentioned good experiences with officers who have been kind and sympathetic, but this seemed to be the exception and more due to with the individual officers and not systematic policing practices. The most common experiences people had with police were being stopped and searched without being placed under arrest, being asked for their ID, being questioned without counsel present, or even before they have had their Rights read. Other less prevalent but still common experiences were the use of excessive force in arrests, being arrested on charges that are later dropped, having to stay in jail because of lack of bail, being targeted and pressured into giving information on friends or “people of interest”, and being denied basic rights while in custody.
Those who were targeted tended to be homeless people, marginalized communities and racial groups. Political activists are also targeted, especially if they belong to or are organizing one of those groups. There was heavy police presence in the downtown core, East end, Paulander etc.; places where there is higher unemployment, poverty, and immigration.
Increase of Police Violence
More and more police have been used to deal with people with mental health issues. Since they are not mental health workers and lack the training to do so this leads to escalations of violence. Police have also been increasing their use of force toward people whom they perceive as “troublemakers and undesirables” and those considered guilty by association such as friends or family.
Most dangerous is violence by proxy. For example, a native activist was arrested in plain sight, only to be released, given a business card, and told to contact the police with information on another activist, making it look to bystanders as if he was an informant. In another incident, police told activists and gang members that an article written about an informant was about them, leaving the writer open to violence. Police have also played gang members off each other, particularly by giving false information
Police Presence at Community Centers
More and more police are present in community centres and public spaces. Groups that receive public money are “encouraged” to be police friendly. Police in these spaces have asked about other activists, street people and minorities. While some see this as the police being nice, others are worried that police are using this as a way to gather information and intimidate. For example, during the conduction of several interviews for this report, police made their presence known. Another example is that CSIS, an intelligence agency, has advertised to recruit in an immigrant community space. Questions that police ask people when they “chat them up” are also revealing. By asking how is so and so doing, people feel that police are quietly building their friendship maps and keeping tabs on people.
There are less panhandlers downtown, but this has nothing to do with an improved economy. Instead, intensified police presence downtown has focused on the removal of undesirables to make it “more comfortable” for the economic group they are trying to attract. Businesses are quick to refuse service to those not “dressed nice enough”, even if they have money, and use police to remove them by force. Furthermore, people have noticed an increase in ticketing people of lower income as a deterrent for them to be downtown.
Generally speaking, people feel that the police have the final say. Even when the court gives a verdict of not guilty, it does nothing to make up for the time spent in jail. People felt the police complaints process was useless, and of those interviewed, not one has had a complaint successfully resolved. Some felt that protests and the CopWatch program were one way of holding police accountable.
Police and Politics
The people saw the police as a political organization. Those interviewed felt that the police’s effect on grassroots politics is negative; activists were being arrested on charges later dropped, police are infiltrating activist groups and using informants to gather information on political meetings, activists and protests. Some felt that attending demonstrations made them targets, especially if they come from a poor or working class background or were racialized.
Tactics at Protests
Heavier police presence was noted at protests. People had their pictures taken and observed retaliation for attending such as getting picked up later on charges, being followed, or getting “jacked”. People have been told not to attend protests and felt intimidated from openly participating in political activity afterwards, especially if they came from a marginalized background. More interesting are the bail conditions those arrested have faced – they cannot associate with political people or legal democratic political groups, attend demonstrations, etc.
It is obvious to those interviewed that these conditions are aimed at stopping people from participating in political activity and has nothing to do with law and order. People have seen an increase in police attempts to recruit informers, infiltrate political organizations etc.
by Laura Lepper
In February 2013, members of the Commission in Support of Indigenous People’s Struggles (of the Canadian chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles) travelled to join fellow members from Mishkeegogamang and Savant Lake on their traditional territories, 1,700 km north of Toronto. We saw the apartheid-like conditions that lead people to call the region the “deep North.” Everyone we met shared a story of severe displacement, dispossession and social trauma at the hands of state-supported projects such as residential schools and the mining and forestry industries.
In order to strengthen the alliance between grassroots struggles of Indigenous activists in different nations, and build a common front among people’s struggles from all directions, the Commission was formed at the 2013 ILPS ‘Right to Exist, Right to Resist’ conference. It is currently composed of delegates from struggles in the native communities of Six Nations, Mishkeegogamang, Savant Lake, and the groups Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood, CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group, and the Anti-Colonial Working Group of the Law Union of Ontario. Delegates organized a trip to the northern Ojibway communities out of a deep understanding that building an effective Commission must come from strong relationships built out of shared understanding from on-the-ground experience and concrete struggle.
Gary Wassaykeesic of Mishkeegogamang and Darlene Necan of Savant Lake introduced us to people in their communities and the nearby cities and towns. The trip began in Thunder Bay, with the Sleeping Giant rock formation always on the horizon. Our last visit was in Pickle Lake, the most northern community in the province that has year-round access by road. Pickle Lake airport is the entry point for much of the region’s mining and many of the 49 fly-in-only Indigenous communities in the region such as Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Attawapiskat.
We traveled to Savant Lake, a small settlement of Ojibway people of the Saugeen Nation, to see Darlene’s trapline. A trapline is an area of ancestral land where a family will hunt and trap animals for food. In 2004, Darlene’s mother was kicked off her trapline because Abitibi Bowater/Resolute was spraying herbicide, which was poisoning traditional food sources. Her story is not unique among her people. Darlene shared stories of Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), along with treeplanters, burning cabins and destroying camps put up by Anishinaabe people.
There is special interest in the land around Savant Lake, since CN Rail goes right through the town. While industry wants to transport gold through Savant and prospect on Darlene’s land, many members of the Saugeen Nation are impoverished and essentially homeless. There is also interest in Savant because of its proximity to the ‘Ring of Fire’ – an area of muskeg swamps in the James Bay Lowlands. Ontario has plans for massive escalation of mining development in the Ring of Fire, despite Indigenous leaders calling for a moratorium on mining in the area.
We drove about an hour north of Savant to the community of Mishkeegogamang. Jon Thompson, of the Dryden Observer, reported that of the 1,644 people living in Mishkeegogamang First Nation, 8.6 people live in every house, leading to crises of overflowing septic tanks, homes without electricity or sewage, hundreds on constant suicide watch, and traumatizing poverty. Over 1,000 more are in jail and nearly 300 people have lost their lives suddenly since 1981.
Mishkeegogamang is on what is called Treaty 9 territory. Tom Wassaykeesic, a band councillor working hard to seek justice for his people, explained: ”According to the governments…we surrendered the land and all its resources. But our ancestors never agreed to surrender anything. We’ve always believed that the spirit and intent of the Treaty No.9 is to share the land.”
The original site where the treaty was signed is now underwater. In 1934, the Ontario government chose to build a hydro dam to supply the Pickle Crow Gold mine with hydro. Water began to rise in 1935, washing away homes, gardens and gravesites for the man-made Lake St. Joseph. People were not told they would be flooded and awoke to find water rising in their homes.
The dispossession of the people of Mishkeegogamang only continues. Highway 599 runs right through the reserve and is crucial for the vast gold mining industry in the area, which results in billions of dollars coming from Ojibway land and resources. The East-West route for the Ring of Fire development will include Mishkeegogamang, but as Tom highlighted, the continual promise of social development and employment has only resulted in continual disappointment.
Mishkeegogamang has a band council under the Indian Act. Gary and Tom continuously emphasized that this political system imposed by Canada has resulted in levels of corruption that have been dangerous for the people.
Pickle Lake and Central Patricia Path
Our visit to Pickle Lake, 20 km north of Mishkeegogamang, continued to reveal the displacement and apartheid conditions of the region.
The long history of mining around Pickle Lake has brought Native people to the town from the many fly-in communities such as Round Lake, Bearskin Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug only to face eviction and segregation. Tom Wassakeeysic’s family, like many others, lived in a former mining house on Central Patricia Path until “white guys from the township” told them they had 3 days to move to the Mishkeegogamang reserve so that white mining workers could live there.
We were told many stories of police brutality in the town. George shared an intense story of being harassed, tasered and arrested by the OPP “while just waiting for a cab.” A state-of-the-art OPP detachment centre stands in stark contrast to the run-down buildings of the economically depressed town. There are 13 OPP officers in this town of only 400 people.
On our drive back to Thunder Bay, Gary stated: “There’s a lot of potential now. With this group that came up [ILPS], I think you opened the door for other organizations to come in… to visualize, to support. And you’re coming into a community where that’s what people need right about now.”
These relationships and commitments extend to ILPS membership and beyond, as people committed to struggling against colonialism and imperialism, for true justice for Mother Earth and her peoples. This destructive system makes the links between us every day by raping the land in Northern Ontario to fuel financial centres and capital accumulation in Southern Ontario. Thus we must continue to form relationships in struggle which connect the defense of land in the North with people power in the South.
Concrete Next Steps: Building a Home and Building People Power
We in the ILPS Commission in Support of Indigenous People’s Struggles are in the process of working with our friends in Mishkeegogamang to see how best to support the efforts of the community to seek justice, especially for the youth.
Our immediate next step is to support a group of Saugeen women who are addressing the lack of housing in their community, their forced disconnection from the land, and the lack of institutions under people’s control. This summer, we are organizing for a group of people to join the building of a log cabin for a Saugeen woman who needs a home immediately. She wants to live directly on the land that she is fighting to protect from the incursion of mining and the poisoning of traditional food sources by forestry companies. She is leading the building of homes for many other young families who need housing and is also building a general store by the highway to address the need for resources and employment.
Her strength and vision is clear: “We’re put in these areas to look after earth and her people. That’s why I’m going to do my best to walk with the people.”
by John Clarke
As we approach May Day, it is worth considering the impact of the mounting austerity agenda on the poorest part of the working class and some of the ways the poor are fighting back as part of an emerging common front.
Since 1995, people living on social assistance in Ontario have seen their sub poverty incomes reduced by about 55%. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has responded to this by initiating the Raise the Rates Campaign to challenge cutbacks by the Liberal Government and to press for the restoration of social assistance. We joined with a wide range of local anti poverty organizations and with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Ontario) in this fight.
Towards the end of last year, the Liberals announced the elimination of the vital Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) that people on social assistance used to maintain housing or obtain it if they were homeless. It was replaced with a patchwork of locally administered, underfunded programs.
The Raise the Rates Campaign took up a huge fight on this issue. A week of action was organized in some thirty communities, with demonstrations, occupations and even road closings. This effort, along with other initiatives, forced the Government to put back $42 million in funding for the new programs. It was a partial victory but it showed that we are not powerless and can fight back successfully.
As a Provincial Budget looms, the austerity driven attacks on the poor from Queen’s Park are going to intensify and we will face greater struggles ahead.
Here in Toronto, the impact of economic downturn and social cutbacks has reached the level where homeless people are being left to die on the streets. Last year alone, there were forty two recorded homeless deaths. In recent months, we have challenged the appalling overcrowding in the homeless shelters. The response of the Mayor and administration was to claim that all was well and that the shelters were meeting needs.
OCAP and many allies mobilized to demand that the city government respond to the crisis on the streets. We held two occupations at Metro Hall and City Hall, setting up shelters for the homeless in both places. Police were used to clear us out but we didn’t give up. After months of community action, City Council voted to reduce the occupancy rate in the shelters.
We are not raising our voice against something we are powerless to stop. We are fighting to win. OCAP intends to build the size and strength of our resistance to poverty and austerity and to unite with communities and unions fighting back. Poor and working people did not create the crisis that has led to government cutbacks and we won’t let them make us pay for it.
by Jordy Cummings
A few years back, were you as dependent on your cell phone as you are now? I thought not. Now that you’re hooked, big business is gonna jack up the price.
Music player, camera, video games, social media, schedule, all in one handy little device, what the business press call “mobile devices”. Capitalism’s constant drive to innovate in order to stay afloat and make a profit has produced a little device has more raw power, more memory, and a higher resolution than the top-of-the-line computers from only a few years ago.
There are three major telecommunications companies in Canada: Bell, Rogers, and Telus. Some small players have entered the game with discounted, albeit lower quality service.
An inherent factor to capitalism is towards concentration. The big fish swallowing little fish, or sometimes the little fish join together and become yet another big fish. Instead of competition between corporations, there is competition within corporations or competition between different monopolies. When a new product is introduced, producers compete by lowering prices, getting you hooked. Then, like a dope pusher, the prices get jacked up and you no longer have a landline, and they’ve got you strung out with a three year contract and a phone that’ll maybe last a year, tops. Your boss is used to having you at his beck and call to answer emails, and your social existence has become tethered to your device. So you’ve got no choice, unless of course you want to go cold turkey, and the boss and your friends aren’t going to be happy about that.
Meanwhile, the small players on the market are at loose ends. Wind Mobile in particular seems to be looking for a buyer and there has been a rumor mill circulating about Rogers engulfing it. Others point to a chance that some the smaller players- Wind, Mobilicity and Public Mobile- may merge into a mega-corporation. Either way, the virtue that these smaller firms offered working class people, is cheaper voice plans and more flexible contracts, albeit often with problems such as inferior reception or limited geographical range. They filled a market niche and even encouraged the larger companies to lower wireless bills, which have come down 10 percent in the last few years. Surely, any loss that the larger corporations took from decreased “talk” rates was offset by exorbitant growth in data usage.
But with these firms struggling, this will mean the end of cheaper phone plans and flexible contracts, and either the entry into, or replication of, the big Rogers/Bell/Telus machine. This is what happened with Fido, which had very decent service including the popular CityFido plan, but when it was taken over by Rogers it stopped offering that plan and stopped being a real option.
A lot of people will say that with less corporations competing for your mobile device usage needs, the price will inevitably go up – so the solution is for there to be more choice on the market. But this is only how capitalism operates in the first phase of any new product coming onto the market. To simply think that having more companies will, in a sustainable way, keep prices down is to ignore the fundamental logic of how the system works. Certainly, consumer advocacy campaigns aimed at discouraging monopolism in the mobile sector should be supported. But we should also call for publicly owned data networks, free and accessible data and telephone service, and for the infrastructure of telecommunications to be managed as a public utility. All of the important benefits that mobile technology has brought to our lives can then be sustained, while cutting out the capitalist logic of profit.
by Tom Keefer
The Two Row Wampum is one of the oldest treaty relationships between the Onkwehonweh (original people) of Turtle Island (what Indigenous nations called North America before European colonization) and European immigrants. This treaty was made in 1613 between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee as Dutch traders and settlers moved up the Hudson River into Mohawk territory. The Dutch initially proposed a patriarchal relationship with themselves as fathers and the Haudenosaunee people as children.
According to Mohawk historian Ray Fadden, the Haudenosaunee rejected this notion and instead proposed that:
“We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers. [Our treaties] symbolize two paths or two vessels, travelling down the same river together. One, a birch bark canoe, will be for the Indian People, their laws, their customs and their ways. The other, a ship, will be for the white people and their laws, their customs and their ways. We shall each travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will make compulsory laws nor interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.”
Well aware of the political and military strength of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Dutch agreed with the principles of the Two Row. As was their custom for recording events of significance, the Haudenosaunee created a wampum belt out of purple and white quahog shells to commemorate the agreement. The Indigenous legal scholar John Borrows described the physical nature of the Two Row Wampum as follows:
“The belt consists of two rows of purple wampum beads on a white background. Three rows of white beads symbolizing peace, friendship, and respect separate the two purple rows. The two purple rows symbolize two paths or two vessels traveling down the same river. One row symbolizes the Haudenosaunee people with their law and customs, while the other row symbolizes European laws and customs. As nations move together side-by-side on the River of Life, they are to avoid overlapping or interfering with one another.”
The Two Row Wampum treaty made with the Dutch became the basis for all future Haudenosaunee relationships with European powers. The principles of the Two Row were consistently restated by Haudenosaunee spokespeople and were extended to relationships with the French, British and Americans under the framework of the Silver Covenant Chain agreements. It was understood by the Haudenosaunee that the Two Row agreement would last forever: “as long as the grass is green, as long as the water flows downhill, and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the West”.
While 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the introduction of the Two Row to Europeans, it is important to note that the concept of the Two Row and the idea of reciprocal relationships of peace, friendship and respect between different entities has a much deeper connection to the Haudenosaunee world view.
The Two Row is a foundational philosophical principle, a universal relationship of non-domination, balance and harmony between different forces. The Two Row principles of peace, respect and friendship can be extended to any relationship between autonomous beings working in concert. These include nation-to-nation relationships, dynamics between lovers and partners, and the relationship between human beings and our environment.
While the Two Row Wampum was created to commemorate the introduction of the Dutch Republic and is derived from Haudenosaunee traditions and philosophy, it is also consistent with the outlooks of many other Indigenous peoples seeking to accommodate themselves to the sudden arrival of Europeans on Turtle Island. Almost universally, Indigenous peoples extended their hands in peace and friendship to the newcomers to their lands, and sought to improve their lives through trade and friendship with these newcomers. But at the same time, Indigenous people were intent upon maintaining their own ways of life.
The Two Row can function as a framework for decolonization right across Turtle Island, since holding true to the Two Row means supporting the right of Onkwehonweh people to maintain themselves on their own land bases according to their own systems of self governance and organization. These traditional Indigenous systems are opposed to the values of the capitalist economic system. Rather than being driven by notions of “profitability” and production for markets, traditional Indigenous economics are based upon localized subsistence production taking place in harmony with nature.
In this framework, people do not “own” land, but belong to the land as a part of creation and safeguard it on behalf of coming generations. In most traditional Indigenous societies, resources and wealth were shared, and production was geared towards meeting human needs, rather than the of commodities to be bought and sold on the market.
The Two Row Wampum remains a treaty relationship that Haudenosaunee and other Indigenous nations defend today, even if the Canadian state has failed to uphold the principles of the treaties it inherited from the British Crown. Since the capitalist economy which so degrades and exploits the majority of non-Indigenous people has proven incapable of upholding this agreement, it is time for those who support Indigenous rights on the non-Indigenous side of the Two Row to reclaim these principles. We should not be surprised that the rapacious British Crown and the imperialist Canadian state is not willing to respect the self-determination of Indigenous peoples or uphold the Two Row Wampum. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of people in Canada cannot be won over to living by the principles of genuine peace, respect and friendship with Indigenous peoples on this land.
With the rise of a new cycle of Indigenous struggle through the Idle No More movement, and with the global crisis of capitalism intensifying, the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum is a perfect moment for us to start redefining this relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
For more information about the Two Row Wampum, please visit http://tworowsociety.com/.
Police are taking lessons from the British occupation of Northern Ireland, and applying them to poor communities in Southern Ontario. This is the chilling conclusion of BASICS Kitchener-Waterloo’s research into the new PAVIS (Provincial Anti-Violence Strategy) model being deployed in Kitchener.
PAVIS supposedly focuses on crime prevention and building relationships with youth and mobilizing communities, however, it is actually about using counter-insurgency tactics to police communities in Canada.
In November, Kitchener community activist Julian Ichim attended a conference held by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)—a body which is supposed to investigate complaints about police. Yet, the main purpose of the meeting was for OIPRD to promote a community policing model based on counter-insurgency techniques. Expert speaker, Dr. Webb, claimed that this model of policing is effective in Northern Ireland.
At a conference that was supposed to ‘consult’ with the community, Ichim says “Half the delegates walked out in disgust at their voices being silenced.”
The OIPRD is an allegedly independent body from the police force. But the board doesn’t seem to have much independence: “It’s funded by the government, and one out of every two people who works there is an ex-cop,” Ichim said.
Kitchener’s PAVIS is basically the same as Toronto’s Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS). This is a model of intensive police repression on targetted poor and racialized communities which has been used for the past few years in Toronto. It also resembles the model of counter-insurgency policing that Dr. Webb was referring to at the OIPRD conference.
Last year, a Toronto a police superintendent attended a Jane and Finch Crisis Support Network meeting to intimidate the community. The group’s purpose is to discuss police brutality and safety in Jane and Finch—a working-class area in Toronto and designated TAVIS area. At the meeting, the police officer verbally attacked the group’s chair, Sabrina ‘Butterfly’ Gopaul, and many community members were forced to leave the meeting visibly upset.
Similar encounters have started to occur during meetings on police brutality in Kitchener. Dianne, an activist, recounted: “We had a call-out for people to go to the Queen Street Commons [generally a safe haven for organisers] for people to talk about their experience with police brutality. The Police came right in, tried to chat people up, and took our fliers.”
Kitchener-Waterloo is not taking PAVIS laying down: fighting back is the priority for this year’s annual day against police brutality.
Joey, a coordinator of the March Against Police Brutality, said, “Our focus this year is to release a People’s Report in response to the OIPRD report.”
The people’s report will be a consultation not run by OIPRD police sympathizers. The community is also planning a protest on March 15—the 16th annual International Day Against Police Brutality.
“Our main mission is to raise awareness of how much police brutality there is and how very little is done about it,” Dianne, one of the coordinators said.
At last year’s anti-police brutality demonstration in Kitchener, police used horses to push the crowd, including young children, off the public road.
Kitchener-Waterloo’s 3rd annual March Against Police Brutality will take place on March 15, 5pm at City Hall. All are welcome.
by Laura Lepper
In March and July 2013, two Six Nations women Francine “Flower” Doxtator and Theresa “Toad” Jamieson will be dragged through the Canadian courts once again for their defense of their nations’ lands. These women, along with other Six Nations land defenders, have consistently maintained that the Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction over Haudenosaunee peoples.
As these Haudenosaunee land defenders face the courts, they assert that the courts violates both the Two Row Wampum treaty and the rightful law – the Great Law of Peace – of the stolen land on which the courthouse stands. Toad stressed on December 12th, 2012 to the courts: “I don’t accept your law…See this Two Row wampum flag? There’s supposed to be separate ruling.”
The charges against Flower and Toad stem from the provocations of anti-Native rights activist Gary McHale and the Ontario Provincial Police on the reclaimed land of Kanonhstaton located just outside of Caledonia, Ontario. Kanonhstaton means “the protected place” in Kanienkehaka, the Mohawk nation’s language.
In 2006, Haudenosaunee people of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory reclaimed land in “dispute” for more than 150 years in order to stop development of a Caledonia subdivision on stolen land.
In reaction to the reclamation, Gary McHale and his followers, under the name of “Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality” (CANACE) set about a political movement against “native lawlessness,” “land claim terrorism,” and “race-based policing.” CANACE played a leading role in trying to establish a “Caledonia Militia” to stop land defenders.
Throughout the past year, several land defenders have faced charges and legal restrictions that have kept them from the reclaimed land of Kanonhstaton. Several of these charges have come as a result of provocations stemming from McHale’s incursion into Kanonhstaton. On February 18th, 2012, escorted by OPP officers, McHale instigated conflict by marching towards the house on the reclaimed land; and on July 7th, McHale tried to grab onto land defender Sean Toulouse to place him under “citizen’s arrest.” As Toulouse pulled back, McHale called for the OPP to charge Toulouse with assault, which the OPP did. This whole act can be seen on a YouTube video posted by McHale’s organization.
Throughout September 2012, McHale and his followers repeated this charade in order to criminalize more land defenders. Gary McHale was recently nominated by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation and awarded a Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
As part of a campaign to resist the racist criminalization of land defenders and the fight for Indigenous land rights and sovereignty as asserted by the Two Row Wampum, the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group (Toronto), the Two Row Society (Toronto), Friends of Kanonhstaton (Niagara) and Grand River Indigenous Solidarity (Kitchener-Waterloo) organize a strong supportive presence each time that Flower and Toad face the courts.
Criminalizing land defenders, disobeying treaties and violating Indigenous land rights is essential to the vested interests of the Canadian state to remove all obstacles to the exploitation of Mother Earth and her people. McHale’s actions attempt to further pave the way towards this goal.
Uniting our struggles in defense of Indigenous land rights and the Two Row treaty builds powerful resistance to this goal of capitalist exploitation. Building a supportive force at each court date is one part of the relationship building, education and actions of resistance necessary to build the movement.
Join us for a rally, round dance and court support for Flower on March 19th at the Cayuga courthouse, and later in July 2013 for Toad.
About the Author: Laura Lepper is a non-Indigenous member of the Two Row Society, based on Haudenosaunee territory in Brantford, Ontario.
by Jesse M. Zimmerman
Successive Conservative governments led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper have moved to make Canada an “energy superpower.” As a result, Alberta’s tar sands have become central to Canada’s economy.
The tar sands are a massive patch of submerged oil, totaling 140,800 square kilometers. Extracting petroleum from the tar sands requires a lengthy and expensive process that uses a large amount of fresh water and ejects an enormous amount of greenhouse gases.
Needless to say, the tar sands can cause irreversible damage to the planet. Indeed, as Dr. James Hansen, a NASA scientist, said last year: “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” Yet, the government is currently planning to expand the tar sands project by building pipelines across Canada in order to export the petroleum to international markets.
One of the proposed pipelines is the “Northern Gateway,” which runs from Northern Alberta to the Pacific Coast of Kitimat in British Columbia. Many organizations and First Nations communities have opposed this pipelines for many reasons, including: the possibility of oil tankers capsizing near the fragile eco-system of the Pacific Coast; the possibility of pipe leaks; and that the pipe route is located on indigenous territory. It does not help that Enbridge—the company that would be developing the Northern Gateway—has had a history of major oil spills. In 2010, Enbridge spilled a total of 34,122 barrels of oil, forcing entire communities to evacuate.
The opposition to the Northern Gateway has been fierce, and the pipeline has now become a hard sell for both Enbridge and the Harper government. However, rather than abandon the project, another route is being sought — one that is much closer to home.
Since 1976, a pipeline called “Line 9,” has transported oil through Southern Ontario. Initially, Line 9 carried crude oil from Sarnia, through Ontario, and into Quebec. In the 1990s however, the flow was reversed so that oil flowed from Montreal to Sarnia. Now, Enbridge is proposing to reverse the flow once again, but this time to carry tar sands oil instead of crude oil.
The larger plan is to have Line 9 connect to other pipeline infrastructure from the West, and to carry the tar sands oil to Montreal and further on to Portland, Maine in the United States. The ultimate goal is to pump tar sands oil from Alberta to the Atlantic coast in order to bring tar sands oil to international markets.
The National Energy Board has approved the reversal of one part of the existing Line 9 infrastructures—the flow from Sarnia, Ontario to Hanover, Ontario. Enbridge is now seeking approval for the rest of the line to be reversed.
Enbridge’s Line 9 plan presents a huge threat to the communities that live alongside the route—that’s 9.1 million people who live within 50 kilometers of it. Indeed, Line 9 was originally created to transport conventional crude oil—not tar sands oil, which is a far more corrosive and acidic type of petroleum. There is no telling of what tar sands oil could do to the aging pipe.
Further, the pipe runs through many water sources, including both the Humber and the Don River in Toronto—the city’s primary drinking sources. The pipe also runs through many waterways near major city centers, including Kingston, Hamilton, Burlington, Ajax, and London; as well as eighteen First Nations territories. And—when we consider Enbridge’s track record—there is also the catastrophic risk to those communities in the event of a spill.
Communities that live along Line 9 have started to mobilize against Enbridge’s proposal. Considering that we live in the days of superstorms and unprecedented heat waves, mobilization may be the only way we can get out of the bind we now find ourselves in. The past few years, with the Occupy movement and Idle No More, have given us examples of how to mobilize and resist callous and short-sighted policies—examples of how people-power from the grassroots is a potent force to be reckoned with!