Tag Archives: Protest

New government expected to act on Indigenous issues, thanks to tireless activism

CW: rape, violence against women, anti-Indigenous racism, police brutality

For those who still don’t believe that we urgently need a national inquiry into the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, consider the following:

Earlier this week, it emerged that the British Columbia Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone, and staff working under him, as well as the deputy chief of staff in Premier Christy Clark’s office, had intentionally deleted government emails relating to the so-called “Highway of Tears”, a stretch of Highway 16 notorious for being the site of the disappearance and/or murder of up to 40 women, most of them Aboriginal women, over the past forty years.

The revelation further established the B.C. provincial government as an impediment to resolving the longstanding issue of #MMIW. In the province of Robert Picton and the Highway of Tears, one would think that the government would be more responsive to these concerns, but instead we see bureaucrats and politicians primarily concerned with covering their own asses – and perhaps the asses of law enforcement in the province as well. Just two years back, Human Rights Watch issued a report accusing the RCMP of systemically abusing and raping Aboriginal women in British Columbia, an allegation made on the basis of widespread specific accusations from Indigenous women and girls. The RCMP at the time did not comment on the allegations, and are the law enforcement agency currently tasked with reviewing the B.C. government’s handling of records relating to the Highway of Tears.

Though the timing was coincidental, the parallels with the B.C. situation are clear in a story coming out of Quebec today: eight officers with the Sûreté du Québec were suspended after allegations of sexual assault and abuse against Indigenous women.

In the Quebec case, the probe into the police was led by the provincial Ministry of Public Safety, but conducted by the SQ on its own members – a detail which hasn’t escaped the government’s critics.

These two examples are not isolated incidents. They’re part of a systemic pattern of behaviour. In this country, the lives of Indigenous people, and especially Indigenous women and girls, are considered by many, including many authority figures in government and law enforcement, to be worthless.

This has been a problem for a very long time. Indeed, total disregard for the value of the lives of Indigenous people is the foundational injustice of this colonial nation. The contemporary environment of extreme violence towards Indigenous women is but the latest manifestation in a multi-generational campaign of slow cultural and physical genocide against First Nations peoples.  Continue Reading

TPP update – watch out for last-minute negotiations in the next few weeks

When we last left the TPP, it was on life support.

That was waaaay back in early August, when supposedly final negotiations in Hawaii completely broke down over fairly major differences. This gave hope to folks like me who have long been terrified of this insidious “trade” agreement.

(For some background on the Trans Pacific Partnership, see my summary here.)

But just as zombies are hell-bent on devouring brains, international corporate interests are hell-bent on extracting profits and rents wherever they can, and so the pressure to get a deal done – and soon! – is relentless.

Part of the big rush is related to Canada’s upcoming election; negotiators seem determined to seal the deal before we go to the polls October 19th. For the life of me, I’m not sure what they’re worried about; as Green Party candidate Paul Manly points out, the Big Three Parties are uniformly in favour of this sovereignty-destroying, regulation-eroding, wage-suppressing calamity of a treaty. Regardless of this election’s outcome, Capital will get what it wants out of these negotiations.

Another major component of the time pressure has to do with next year’s US election. Due to arcane Senate rules, any treaty must wait several months before receiving approval, meaning a deal must be sealed within the next few months to avoid running into the heavy-duty American election season, when nothing of substance can get done because the parties become completely incapable of cooperating.

(And we trust these people to make decisions on our behalf?)

Over the past week, negotiators from Mexico, Japan, Canada, and the United States met in Washington to try to resolve outstanding disputes surrounding the auto sector. But it seems that they weren’t able to resolve their differences, at least according to this Japan Times article: Continue Reading

The beautifully effective #ShellNo blockade is a model for disruptive protest

In case you missed it, Greenpeace activists in Portland, Oregon put on a master-class in disruptive protest over the past few days. Intent on blocking a Shell icebreaker, the MSV Fennica, from travelling down the Willamette River to the Pacific Ocean and on to the Arctic to take part in deepwater oil drilling, thirteen brave souls rappelled off of a bridge and blocked its path.

Greenpeace being Greenpeace, there was a lot of fanfare and bright colours and loud bragging in the media – and good on them, because this was a very well-executed operation.

The blockade was a step above the typical Greenpeace banner-drop (though hopefully it won’t lead to the serious felony charges that were absurdly laid in that particular case). The beauty of it was that it was an attention-drawing conversation piece which actually directly addressed the issue it was protesting.

The Fennica was delayed for over forty hours from embarking for the Arctic. Shell’s work can’t legally begin until it’s arrived. Effectively, Greenpeace took away two days from Shell’s extremely narrow Arctic drilling season while drawing attention to the reckless profiteering the company is engaging in.

After all, there is an emerging scientific consensus that Arctic oil should be considered “unburnable” and should be left alone. Even the US Department of the Interior concludes that there’s a 75% chance of a major spill if drilling gets underway in the Arctic. And not only are efforts to drill in pristine Arctic waters problematic, it turns out they’re also unpopular:

Conflict transformation scholar Tom Hastings described the #ShellNo protest in Portland as follows: “So many Portlanders turned out over two days. Yes, they brought down the airborne activists and cleared the kayakivists out of the way and bullied their oil rig through. But they lost, big time, in the view of Portlanders. I saw entire families just out to support for hours on end. So many kids! And spirits were so good, so sweet, so positive. Big oil lost; they just don’t know it yet.”

Continue Reading

ICYMI – Unist’ot’en Camp appeals for help amid increased harassment from RCMP and Chevron

Even for folks who follow these issues closely, it’s hard to keep track of all the nightmarishly ill-conceived energy mega-projects that cartoonishly diabolical corporations are proposing or constructing in Canada right now. And to be fair, when you’ve read one apocalyptically gloomy worst-case if-it-breaks-we’re-all-fucked scenario, you’ve read them all.

But the devil is (usually) in the details, and that’s quite true in this case. Oil and natural gas companies are multi-billion-dollar enterprises, and they’re not exactly well known for their compassion or naivety. It should be no surprise that they have detailed and nuanced plans to get their politically toxic pipeline projects built, whatever the costs may be.

It also shouldn’t have been surprising to me that the pipeline that’s closest to being built is one that I personally hadn’t heard of up until a few days ago, but I was surprised nonetheless.

I mean, most activisty types have heard of Line 9, or Northern Gateway, and Keystone XL made quite a name for itself as well. But if you’ve heard of the Pacific Trail Pipeline, well, congratulations, I guess. You either live in Kitimat or you’re contending for your town’s Activist of the Year award. For the less-well-informed, here’s a backgrounder from Vice: Continue Reading

Oka, 25 years later (or, Indigenous land defence, 523 years later)

On July 11, 1990, a long-simmering dispute over a stand of pine trees escalated into a major stand-off between Indigenous land defenders and local and provincial police just outside of Oka, Quebec. Eventually, the Canadian army would be called in by a nervous provincial and federal government.

Throughout the 78-day standoff, the people of Kanesatake, who were trying to protect their land (including a burial ground) from being turned into a golf course, were vilified, slandered, attacked physically, dismissed, demonized, and denied the basics of life:

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon remembers seeing the SQ [Sûreté du Québec]  tactical squad moving in the morning of July 11.

“I thought, ‘They’re going to kill everybody up there,’” he said.

When he heard a police officer had died, he had one thought: “We’re going to pay for this one. This is not going to go under-answered.”

What happened next, Simon said, left his community traumatized.

“It was incredible. The SQ would not allow any food to come in to our territory. Our people were systematically searched illegally,” he said.

Ultimately, the mayor of Oka called off the proposed golf course and the dispute was seemingly resolved. The usual blue-ribbon government panel made recommendations which were ignored, and the media’s attention moved on.

Today, the typical “On this day in ___” stories recap the basic narrative as it was established at the time – a narrative which is resolutely ahistorical. The issue of the golf course and the pines is presented without context.

What goes unmentioned is that this indigenous burial ground was located where it was because for generations, white people in Oka wouldn’t allow indigenous bodies to be buried in their graveyard.

What goes unmentioned is that land which had been guaranteed to them by the French crown in the 1700s was covertly signed over to the government without their knowledge in the early 1800s, and never returned.

What goes unmentioned is hundreds of years of aggression both macro- and micro-, of the daily violence of settler colonialism, of the slow-motion genocide which has been perpetrated against Indigenous people.

What goes unmentioned is that Oka was just the latest – and most eye-catching – in a long tradition of Indigenous land defence. Continue Reading

“A massive campaign of serious disruption” – the way forward for the environmental movement?

Next Sunday, July 5, Toronto will play host to a March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate. The march aims to unite labour, the environmental movement, and activists from First Nations and racialized communities, and organizers hope to draw thousands of people to the streets. From their call to action:

This July, Toronto will host a Pan American Climate Summit and an Economic Summit, where politicians will face a choice: listen to corporate leaders from across the Americas gathering to advance an economic austerity agenda that is increasing inequality and causing a climate crisis felt disproportionally in the global south – or listen to the people.

On the eve of those summits, let’s make sure they hear our demands:  a justice-based transition to a new energy economy, in which corporate polluters pay and ordinary people benefit.

The only way to overcome a small, powerful group who have a lot to lose is to build a massive movement of people with everything to gain.

That final line got me to thinking about an excellent piece on mass movement building by Steve D’Arcy I read earlier this week. The article, titled “A Path to Victory Against Austerity in Ontario?”, examines the history of resistance to the Mike Harris government’s austerity regime in the mid-1990s in an effort to create strategies for anti-austerity activists going forward. One of his main points is that large numbers of people in the street is not by itself sufficient to force governments to alter their policies:

Big business would never allow an elected government, of whatever party, to reverse the policy trajectory of recent years — the “austerity” agenda — simply because that agenda is unpopular and lots of people are protesting it. No, only a massive campaign of serious disruption could force the hand of elites and raise the political cost of austerity to the point where proceeding with austerity would be judged by big business to be too dangerous to their interests.

This is critically relevant for the environmental movement to take note of. The past year has featured numerous massive marches for the environment, and precious little actual progress.

Last September, hundreds of thousands of people around the world took the streets for the People’s Climate March, coordinating the action with an international summit on climate change in New York City. Unlike the march, which was the largest climate-focussed rally in human history, the summit was a failure, with no major action announced.

In March, Londoners again took to the streets in the tens of thousands to urge action at this winter’s Paris Climate Summit. Naomi Klein, speaking by remote video link, urged protestors to be the change they wanted to see: Continue Reading

NEB delays reversal of Line 9 pipeline amid public pressure and a First Nations court challenge

The sad sorry saga of Line 9B has been dragging on for far too long – but luckily for us all, it’s gonna drag on a while longer.

If you’ve never heard of Line 9, then you’re like most people. Given the huge potential for disaster that this pipeline represents, it’s been embarrassingly under-covered by the media.

Here’s a song about it!

“Line 9 Song” by Byron, used under an Attribution-Noncommercial license

Line 9 is an already-existing pipeline which runs from Montreal to Sarnia, and for the past forty years or so it’s been transporting refined light crude oil westward. Enbridge, which owns the pipeline, applied to the National Energy Board for permission to reverse the pipeline’s direction, increase the volume it was allowed to transport, and switch over to transporting unrefined tar sands bitumen.

There’s a lot of issues with this plan. Bitumen has to be transported at a considerably higher pressure and temperature than light crude, and there are serious concerns about the integrity of the forty-year-old pipeline. A similar Enbridge pipeline of similar age burst near Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2010, spilling over three million litres of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. The fact that bitumen, unlike crude oil, sinks in fresh water made the disaster significantly worse, necessitating a complicated multi-year cleanup and causing massive damage to wildlife and the health of local residents.

That the oil spilled in a river is significant, because Line 9 crosses 36 different tributaries of Lake Ontario. A major spill of bitumen could be catastrophic for the world’s fourteenth-largest lake, which is the source of drinking water to over 9 million people in Canada and the United States. Continue Reading

TPS’s new body cameras: tamper-friendly, a privacy nightmare, and a private-sector cash grab

The rhetoric of the police apology is highly distinctive.

More often than not, the apology never happens, of course, because police forces are great at not acknowledging police brutality or corruption or lawbreaking. The victims become the perpetrators, and the thin blue line is all that stands between all that is decent and the depraved anarchist thugs.

Occasionally, though, some cop does something so brazen and unforgivable that the force must respond publicly, and when they do, they do their utmost to throw the perpetrator under the bus.

One hears of bad apples, and of tireless service, and of how most cops are really great people; while “mistakes were made”, nobody particularly high-up or important made them; and if you just for God’s sake trust us, things will work out better next time.

After Sammy Yatim, a distressed teenager with the world’s tiniest switchblade, was murdered on a Dundas streetcar two years ago by a cop who had so many other options at his disposal, we heard these same tired slogans and excuses and empty promises, from police apologists in the press and from TPS spokespeople.

But there was a lot of disbelief in the community. After so many years and so many deaths, that “Trust us” rang pretty goddamn hollow. Continue Reading

#BreakC51 – why mass civil disobedience is logically the next step

The club is all their law – stand up now, stand up now!
The club is all their law! Stand up now!

The Diggers’ Song, 17th-century English protest ballad

As was widely expected, Bill C-51 passed its third reading in the House of Commons last night. All that remains are the largely pro forma rituals of Senate approval and royal assent, and this hideous bill will become the law of the land.

For those who have been backpacking in bush country since the winter, Bill C-51 will radically expand the legal definition of terrorism to include any activity that “undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada,” including: “Interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada.”

It also gives CSIS and the RCMP expanded police powers; this CBC article summarizes them in detail, but the new powers include lowering the threshold for arresting suspected “terrorists”, criminalizing the “promotion of terrorism”, allowing CSIS to “disrupt” suspected “terrorist” activity (without oversight), authorizing courts to remove “terrorist material” from the internet, allowing for secret court proceedings, and expanding the “no-fly” list.

Given the impossibly open-ended definition of terrorism promulgated in this bill, it’s easy to see the potential for abuse. Continue Reading

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