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Feathers Versus Guns: The Throne Speech and Canada’s War With Mi’kmaw Nation October 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi’kmaw Nation — again — this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi’kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles — not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.

The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi’kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: “In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins.”

In response, the Mi’kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.

It is more than coincidental timing — it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.

This is not the first time Canada has declared war on the Mi’kmaw. In 1981, law enforcement led an attack on the Mi’kmaw at Restigouche to stop them from controlling their own Aboriginal fishery. During this attack, Mi’kmaw suffered multiple injuries, some severe and numerous arrests.

In 1998, the government intervened in Listuguj because the traditional Mi’kmaw government shut down the logging company that was stealing timber from Mi’kmaw lands and because the Mi’kmaw started to harvest their own timber.

Between 1999 and 2001, Canada once again declared war on the Mi’kmaw Nation at Esgenoopitij (Burnt Church First Nation) in NB to stop them from fishing lobster. This was despite the fact the Mi’kmaw had proven their treaty right to fish lobster at the Supreme Court of Canada. Law enforcement rammed Mi’kmaw fishing boats, injured fisherman and issued numerous arrests.

All of these actions were done in violation of the numerous treaties between the Mi’kmaw and the Crown which were peace and friendship treaties intended to once and for all end hostilities and work together as Nation to Nation partners. Given that our treaties are constitutionally protected, Canada’s actions are not only tyrannical and oppressive, but also illegal.

Today, in 2013, the government has once again decided that brute force is the way to handle The Mi’kmaw women, elders, and children drumming and singing in peaceful protest against hydro-fracking at Elsipogtog. Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.

The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers. Yet, so far, the mainstream media has focused on the burning cars and not the acts of violation and intimidation by RCMP on the Mi’kmaw.

This heavy-handed deployment of heavily armed RCMP cops against women and children shows Canada’s complete disregard for our fundamental human rights and freedoms, and their ongoing disdain for Indigenous peoples. One RCMP officer’s comments summarized government position perfectly: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” The RCMP have it wrong — Mi’kmaw treaties never surrendered our lands and we are still the rightful owners.

Of course, this sounds eerily similar to the words of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris who was reported to have said of the protest at Ipperwash “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

And we all know what happened there — law enforcement killed a peaceful unarmed protester named Dudley George. One might wonder if history is going to repeat itself. If we look to the speech from the throne as any indication, Harper has sent Canada on a direct collision course with First Nations — all in the name of resource development.

Contrary to the Governor General’s introductory comments about Canada using its military force sparingly and that Canada responds “swiftly and resiliently to aid those in need”, the strategic wording indicates a much more ominous plan. Canada’s position vis-à-vis First Nations and natural resources is laid out as follows:

– First Nations are incapable of managing their own affairs and Canada will control them and make them accountable via legislation;

– Canada owns the natural resources and will sell them;

– Canada will make major investments in infrastructure to protect these natural resources;

– Canada will increase military strength to protect Canadian sovereignty; and

– Increased military will protect Canada’s economy from terrorism.

In other words, Canada does not recognize the ownership or rights of First Nations to their lands, waters and natural resources and will expend billions to ensure that no First Nations prevent the extraction of those resources. Canada and its military have referred to First Nations as terrorists before, and will no doubt be labeled as such when they defend their right to say no to mines or hydro-fracking, like in Elsipogtog for example.

This aggressive display of power and intimidation in Elsipogtog was not met with an equal display of violence. Instead, the women, elders and children continued to drum and chant and pray for the health and safety of their peoples, their Nation and the lands and waters for all Canadians. Instead of scaring people away, this unconstitutional show of force is being met with solidarity blockades all over Canada and the United States.

Listuguj in Quebec has blocked a bridge; Six Nations in Ontario has shut down a highway, there are protests outside Canadian embassies in New York City and Washington; and hundreds of rallies, marches, protests and blockades planned for later today and tomorrow. The horrific images of police violence at Elsipogtog inspired First Nations peoples all over Canada to collect supplies, send warriors and advocate for justice. Harper has inspired Indigenous resistance and action on the ground. There will be more First Nation protests and blockades in the coming days as well.

The Idle No More flame that he lit last year has never faded — it was just waiting to be fanned once again. The solution has always been there:

1. Respect the Nation to Nation relationship (our sovereignty and jurisdiction over our governments, lands and peoples);

2. Address the current injustices (crises in housing, education, food, water, child and family services, murdered and missing Indigenous women); and

3. Share the benefits and responsibility to protect the lands, water and natural resources like the treaties envisioned.

It’s Harper’s move now — more tanks and RCMP violence or a negotiating table?

Pamela Palmater

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

 

 

 

Protests Sweep Canada Following Paramilitary Assault on Indigenous Fracking Blockade

 

‘Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone’

 

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Police raid on New Brunswick fracking blockade (Photo: APTN reporter Ossie Michelin, via Twitter)

Protests are sweeping Canada following Thursday’s assault by paramilitary-style police on members of indigenous Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and local residents as they blockaded a New Brunswick fracking exploration site.

The group had barricaded a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick since September 30 to block shale gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co, that is moving forward without the community’s consent or consultation.

Thursday morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed the protest, donning camouflage uniforms, wielding rifles, and bringing police dogs to the site. Kathleen Martens with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reports, “[a]t least four RCMP cruisers were burned” in the events following the raid.

The RCMP announced that 40 people had been arrested, citing a court injunction against the protest.

“The RCMP is coming in here with their tear gas – they even had dogs on us,” Susan Levi-Peters, the former chief of the nearby Elsipogtog aboriginal reserve, told Reuters. “They were acting like we’re standing there with weapons, while we are standing there, as women, with drums and eagle feathers. This is crazy.” The media is reporting that some protesters threw molotov cocktails at the police, who reportedly tear gassed the crowd.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, people across Canada mobilized to show solidarity for the besieged blockade, with APTN reporting that First Nations people across the country are putting a call out for an immediate show of support for the Elsipogtog members.

APTN reports that solidarity activists blocked a bridge in Listuguj, and supporters from Six Nations blocked part of a highway near Caledonia on Thursday. Organizers with IdleNoMore in Lethbridge, Alberta held a march through the city immediately following the raid. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Washington, DC and New York on the doorstep of the Canadian consulates.

PowerShift.ca lists over two dozen actions across the country, including solidarity flash mobs and mass marches.

“Protesters in Rexton are standing up to a Texas company that wants to profit on the backs of New Brunswickers while placing the water and the environment at risk,” stated Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

As events continue to unfold, people are using Twitter to post news updates, photos and commentary:

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Tribe Blockades ‘Megaload’ of Tar Sands Equipment August 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Nez Perce leader: ‘We need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land.’

 

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Over 250 protesters faced down police and a ‘megaload’ of tar sands equipment Monday evening on Idaho’s Highway 12. (Photo: Steve Hanks/ Lewiston Tribune, AP)

Calling tar sands development a project of “total destruction,” members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a ‘megaload’ of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig.

The Spokesman-Review reports:

After gathering at a river access point a quarter mile from where the megaload truck stopped before dawn Tuesday, protesters began hiking westward along Highway 12 to a ramp where the roadway splits from Highway 95. At around 10:30 p.m., the Omega Morgan truck that had sat idle began to rumble to life, and a fleet of Nez Perce Tribal Police, County Sheriff, and Idaho State Police vehicles began moving toward a crowd of protesters blocking the roadway.

Law enforcement officers gave protesters 15 minutes to speak out unimpeded. At one point, tribal members were informed they were creating a public nuisance by officers. To which one protester responded, ‘We’re protecting our sovereignty.’

In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting “since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011.”

The blockade broke after a police car drove straight through the group of people, Earth First! Newswire reports. “Police used the usual tactics to break up the blockade, threatening people with mace, pushing activists, separating parents from children, and so on,” they add.

Nineteen individuals, including all members of the Nez Perce executive committee, were arrested Monday evening and released on bail Tuesday.

One of those arrested, Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation (Nimiipuu Nation), Brooklyn Baptiste, told indigenous independent media site Last Real Indians that the action was taken because of tribal opposition to the economic and long-term environmental impact of the shipments—namely the development of tar sands oil which he described as “total destruction.”

“As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.”

According to Reuters, the load is one of two planned shipments by Oregon hauling company Omega Morgan.

 

The ‘megaload’ parked during the day. (Photo via @KXLBlockade/ Twitter)

A video of Monday’s blockade shows protesters chanting and banging drums in a face-off with police and the ‘megaload.’

Indigenous Rights are the Best Defense Against Canada’s Resource Rush April 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Roger’s note: Governments in power and political pundits are fond of invoking the “rule of law,” which is supposed to be sacred in a democracy.  However, when it is not in their self interest, the rule of law is ignored with impunity.  The actual operational principle is “might makes right.”  This article shows us how in spite of having the law on its side, the Canadian First Nations Peoples are not considered to be a legitimate force for lack of political clout.  The Idle No More movement is challenging this notion.  In the end, as has become evident to me over the years, it is not law or elections or government that determine social and economic justice, but rather organizing action outside of the electoral and juridical structures.  In the world of capitalism, government’s first loyalty is to the corporations who are in effect the owners of government; only massive social movements, fueled by anger and a sense of justice and human values can override this phenomenon.

First Nations people – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet

In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.

(Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.

Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.

This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.

In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.

How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.

He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.

“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”

This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.

Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprising may be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”

The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.

No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.

Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.

But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.

This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”

Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.

Martin Lukacs

Martin Lukacs is a writer and activist, and an editor with the Canadian grassroots newspaper the Dominion

Indigenous Nationhood: Beyond Idle No More January 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Idle No More.
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Published on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by Taiaiake

by Gerald Taiaiake Alfred

Our collective action in Idle No More has shown that there is support among Canadians for a movement that embodies principled opposition to the destruction of the land and the extension of social justice to Indigenous peoples. When we as Indigenous people have a political agenda that’s consistent with our Original Teachings – to have a respectful relationship with the land and the natural environment and to have a respectful relationship among all of the nations that share this land – we have seen that this is a powerful draw for many people in our own nations and

in the broader society.

But it is clear too that the movement has plateaued. Much of the passion, urgency and attention Idle No More generated is dissipating in the wake of Chief Theresa Spence’s fast and the “13 Point Declaration” supported by Chief Spence, the Assembly of First Nations and the two Canadian opposition parties – which to many people in the movement represents a cooptation of the movement’s demands by the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations in support of their ongoing negotiations and long-running bureaucratic processes.

The question in the minds of many people in the movement who are committed to more serious and transformational goals is how do we revive the momentum driving us towards fundamental change that we had at the start of the movement? I think that the only way to keep this movement going is for us to see our actions in Idle No More as part of a larger and long-standing commitment to the restoration of Indigenous nationhood.

We need to focus our activism on the root of the problem facing our people collectively: our collective dispossession and misrepresentation as Indigenous peoples. Now is the time to put ourselves back on our lands spiritually and physically and to shift our support away from the Indian Act system and to start energizing the restoration of our own governments. Our people and our languages and our ceremonies should be saturating our homelands and territories. Our leaders should answer to us not to the Minister of Indian Affairs or his minions. Our governments should be circles in which we all sit as equals and participate fully and where all of our voices are heard, not systems of hierarchy and exclusion legitimized and enforced by Canadian laws. Restoring our nationhood in this way is the fundamental struggle. Our focus should be on restoring our presence on the land and regenerating our true nationhood. These go hand in hand and one cannot be achieved without the other.

Idle No More has been a good and necessary thing. Like thousands of others over the last couple of months, I am proud to have been a whole-hearted participant in educating the wider public, making the connection between our Native rights and the democratic rights of all citizens, and arguing for the protection of the environment under the Idle No More banner. But the limits to Idle No More are clear, and many people are beginning to realize that the kind of movement we have been conducting under the banner of Idle No More is not sufficient in itself to decolonize this country or even to make meaningful change in the lives of people.

Those of us in the movement need to ask ourselves this hard question: what have we accomplished through Idle No More? There’s been politicization of some Native people. There’s been some media attention. There have been rallies and demonstrations. Great art and music has been produced. These are all good. But in terms of meaningful change in the lives of people and the struggle for justice, things are no different now than when this whole thing started. The federal government has not responded or felt the need to address in any way the challenge we’ve presented so far. We are in danger of becoming institutionalized and predictable as a movement, or worse, becoming kind of a giant Facebook rant that like all Facebook rants is a closed circle easily ignored which has no real relation to things actually happening in people’s lives. What this means if we are committed to making change and achieving justice for our people is that we need to alter our strategies and tactics to present more of a serious challenge on the ground to force the federal government to engagement our movement and to respond to us in a serious way.

I believe that what our movement needs is a mobilization of people on the basis of Indigenous Nationhood, led by traditional chiefs and clan mothers, medicine people, elders and youth, to start acting on our inherent rights on the land and to demand respect for our traditional governments. In practical terms, we need to go beyond demonstrations and rallies in malls and legislatures and on public streets and start to reoccupy Indigenous sacred, ceremonial and cultural use sites to re-establish our presence on our land and in doing so to educate Canadians about our continuing connections to those places and how important they are to our continuing existence as Indigenous peoples.

If we do this we can, once again, make the Assembly of First Nations, the mainstream media, the opposition parties hear the true voice of Indigenous people in this country and if we are strong and tenacious in demonstrating our commitment to these goals, we can force the federal government to take us seriously.

Now is the time to transgress, reoccupy, rise… as Original Peoples.

© 2012 Gerald Taiaiake Alfred
Gerald Taiaiake Alfred

Gerald Taiaiake Alfred is a Kahnawake Mohawk author, educator and professor at the University of Victoria where he specializes in studies of traditional governance, the restoration of land-based cultural practices, and decolonization strategies. His books include Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto and Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors: Kahnawake Mohawk Politics and the Rise of Native Nationalism. Read more of his work on his website. Follow him on twitter: @Taiaiake

Neoliberalism No More: Making Common Cause to Defeat the Harper Agenda January 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Roger’s note: there is an old Canadian political saying that goes like this: the NDP are Liberals in a hurry.  The truth is that Conservatives are Liberals in a hurry (as Republicans are Democrats in a hurry).  In a hurry to what?  In a hurry to protect and expand the rule of capital over living human beings.  It is not just the Harper agenda but rather the agenda of Capital that we are talking about.  Replacing Harper’s Conservatives with either Liberals or watered down NDP will not stop but only slow down the agenda.  The Idle no More Movement and the passionate radicalism of large elements within the First Nations peoples are important and hopeful signs.  Such movement should not be diluted by believing that electoral politics is a solution to the destruction of our human rights and of the very planet we inhabit.
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Rabble.ca

by Archana Rampure

Stephen Harper has an agenda and it is all about turning Canada into a resource-extraction economy. He would like to make sure that nothing and no one stands in the way of exploiting the oil and the gas, the minerals and the water.

When Aboriginal people stand up for their rights and demand that they be consulted before natural resources are ripped out of the earth, the racist rhetoric begins to fly. When environmentalists suggest that this is a short-sighted, unsustainable and one-time-only plan, they are called radicals and terrorists. NGOs that network with the Global South peoples whose resources we exploit find themselves replaced by mining companies.

The list goes on: trade unions are demonized as big labour and compared to big corporations as though there is any real comparison between the power and influence wielded by corporations and that of the union movement. Aboriginal communities are abandoned by a Federal government which accuses their leaders of financial mismanagement.

These are the smoke-screens being put up to obscure a neo-liberal agenda that will brook no opposition. What I remember from my first anti-free trade protest more than a decade ago still rings true: deregulation, privatization and globalization is still the name of the game.

To me, much of this comes down to the sharp new focus on bilateral trade agreements that this Federal government has made its trademark. Free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements seem to be the Harper Conservatives answer to every problem we are facing. Their relentless drive to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU is emblematic of their mistaken policies: at a time when Canada`s industrial heartland is struggling with the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs, we are deep in the final stages of negotiating an agreement that might open up other sectors of our economy to transnational competition.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a“next generation”free trade agreement that Canada and the EU have been negotiating since 2009. Make no mistake about this — it might not be called a free trade agreement but it will be Canada’s most expansive free trade initiative since NAFTA. It will impact the ability of our elected governments to regulate and it will have a huge impact on how municipal and provincial governments use procurement for local economic development or for environmental sustainability. As far as we can tell from the leaked documents that have been made public so far, the provisions that it will include on investor-state dispute resolution will once again allow foreign corporations to bypass our legal system and appeal to secretive tribunals. The EU’s demands around intellectual property translate into billions of extra dollars for brand-name pharmaceuticals.

And the Canada-EU CETA is only one among the stack of free trade deals that the Harper government has tied itself to: there are now on-going negotiations on free trade between Canada and India, Japan, Korea, Morocco, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and a number of other countries. There are also multi-lateral trade agreement negotiations that we are participating in such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Investment promotion and protection agreements are another key feature of this government’s foreign policy initiatives: in 2011 and 2012 alone, FIPAs have been negotiated between Canada and the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia, the Slovak Republic, Benin, Kuwait, Senegal, Tanzania, China – the now infamous one! – and Mali.

At a time when Canada is supporting a resource war in Mali, and when we “partnering” with multinational mining corporations as part of our international “development” work, it hardly surprising that this government is so enthusiastically supporting Canadian “investment” and “investors” in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe.

This foreign policy — where the ultimate goal is to extract resources — is a mirror reflection of Harper’s economic roadmap for Canada. What the Global North exported to the Global South has now come home to us all: if we do not form Common Cause to stop this government, our home on native land will continue to experience the consequences of a single-minded drive for resource extraction combined with an attack on universal public services. It is more than time for us to come together, to act now, for ourselves and for those with whom we have Common Cause — aboriginal peoples, immigrants and migrants, environmentalists, trade unionists, students, seniors, the poor and the marginalized, activists — anyone who still believes that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal model of life. We cannot wait till 2015. We have to act together now.

Today, I will be standing up against Harper and his neo-liberal vision for us all as part of a joint day of action called by Idle No More and Common Causes. I hope it will be the first of many actions that Common Causes is part of, that it sparks the kind of committed, continuous action that will help us build a better Canada, and a better world.

© 2013 Archana Rampure

Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

HARPER GOVERNMENT IS COUNTING ON CANADIANS NOT UNDERSTANDING January 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Idle No More.
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COMMENTARY · 10th January 2013, http://www.terracedaily.ca
Merv Ritchie

Harris_and_Victoria

As the controversy grows regarding the Indian people of Canada the Stephen Harper Conservative government of Canada is once again banking on the lack of knowledge by Canadians of the Canadian system of governance.

In a manner similar to Harpers two previous prorogations of parliament, it is only due to the inability of Canadians (and Canadian media personalities) to fully comprehend the procedures of proper government principles is Harper able to continue unchallenged. The proper functioning of a civil democracy depends on the government following the rule of law and respecting all parliamentary procedures. All of democracy fails when inappropriate actions are taken for expediency. This is what has happened in Canada since 1867 in regards to the Indians.

The British never went to war against the Indian people who originally inhabited the land we call Canada. The Indians (from the Latin word indigenous) were allies with the British in conflicts with the Americans and the French. There was a long standing tradition of mutual respect. Many Treaties were signed to ensure this mutual respect was fully and completely understood.

Origin: 1640–50; Latin indigen ( a ) native, original inhabitant ( indi-, by-form of in- in-2 (cf. indagate) + -gena, derivative from base of gignere to bring into being; cf. genital, genitor) + -ous

The Indian people of The Sacred Circle have been been on a respectful mission to settle these issues (click here) since the mid 1800’s.

Teresa Spence, the elected Indian Chief currently on a hunger strike, has taken council from Treaty Chiefs. She is now finally following the right and proper procedure by requesting a meeting with the Queens representative. When Canada was incorporated as a Country, and later when the constitution was repatriated from Britain, Canada had an obligation to respect the intent and spirit of these treaties. If the Indigenous nations who signed these treaties feel Canada has neglected to honour them they have the right to return to the other signatory to the document, the Crown of England. Today this means Queen Elizabeth and her representative in Canada, the Governor General.

In British Columbia the Crowns representative, Governor Douglas, followed the British rule of law by making treaties and purchasing land from the Indian Nations. Subsequent to Douglas, successive governments in British Columbia have ignored international law. The same applies to various legislative acts of the Canadian Parliament; such as the legislation which allowed the Residential School system, Canada has since apologized for.

Expecting the indigenous peoples to be completely literate and knowledgeable on the various aspects of law is to ignore the reality of the Indian peoples. Most people of European decent were raised by parents and grandparents who could read and write. For many western generations the knowledge and skills required to survive in western society was shared. For most indigenous people reading and writing skills of parents and or grandparents only existed two or three generations. Only today are the survivors, of these ancestors who signed the Treaties, beginning to fully recognize how wrong they have been treated. The rest of the world is also witnessing how badly Canada has treated the Indian people they signed treaties with. The treaties are, after all, internationally recognized obligations.

If the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, will not respect the documents signed by her predecessor and Queen Victoria’s father, King George III, the Indian people will have to plead to the International Court for these treaties to be respected. Queen Victoria had an understanding similar to her fathers by respecting and protecting the original inhabitants; honouring the Royal Proclamation of 1763. She is quoted as stating; “It is not in our custom to annex countries”. Wars were not engaged in; treaties of mutual respect were made.

These respectful transactions were continued through her reign as the Queen of England, 1838 to 1900. It was the corporate elite, those desiring to benefit financially by theft or fraudulent behaviors, which had Queen Victoria and King George III act as protectors.

In Canada today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is claiming his new legislative actions are required to meet financial objectives. This might be true however in respect of these treaties signed on behalf of Canada he has reneged on Canada’s international responsibilities.

The demand to meet with the Queens representative then is to elevate the discussion to a more serious level.

Canadians did not understand the prorogation of Parliament was a damaging, unprecedented action, which harmed the integrity of Canada’s Parliamentary democracy. The media in Canada did not inform Canadians properly of this inappropriate behaviour.

Today the media is unlikely to inform the public on the entirely appropriate behaviour of the Indigenous nations to demand their treaties be respected. In all likelihood the media will promote hate and bigotry by mis-informing Canadians.

http://www.terracedaily.ca/show10719a0x300y1z/TREATIES_AND_HUNGER_STRIKE_TO_LIBERAL_GUILT_ON_IDLE_NO_MORE_

 

Champions of ‘Idle No More’ Stage Blockades Across Canada January 16, 2013

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Published on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 by Common Dreams

Demonstrators and spin-off protests undeterred by mild divisions within fast-growing movement

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Though not officially sanctioned by the Idle No More campaign, First Nations chiefs and activists have picked up the momentum and are rallying across Canada Wednesday as part of a national day of action in solidarity with the ongoing environmental and indigenous rights campaign.

A protestor holds a flag aloft and an Idle No More spinoff protest in Cayuga, Ontario on Jan. 16. (Photo via @CBCHamilton)

Chiefs unsatisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s slow response to First Nations demands have declared the day to assert their rights and hopefully hasten official recognition and legislative action.

Demonstrations, round dances and rallies occurred across Canada while roadblocks of local railway lines and a large demonstration at North America’s busiest border crossing have also been confirmed.

“We’re sending the message very clearly with the railway blockade that [there’s] going to be no more stolen property being sold until such time that they come to the table and deal with the original owners,” said Terry Nelson, a former chief of the Roseau River First Nation in southern Manitoba.

APTN National News reported Wednesday: “Rail blockaders in Manitoba. CN confirms regional traffic has been shut down.”

Rail blockaders in Manitoba. CN confirms regional traffic has been shut down. fb.me/21aVHcafB

Also, the Global News announced earlier:

Posts on social media Wednesday morning called on supporters to meet at the Red Sun Smoke Shop and Gas Bar just northwest of Winnipeg to join a convoy headed to the intersection of the Trans-Canada and the Yellowhead highways near Portage la Prairie. A blockade of a railway near the intersection is planned.

Occupy Carlisle (@occupycarlisle) tweeted: “Via Rail says blockade between Belleville, Ont. and Kingston, Ont. has forced company to stop trains #IdleNoMore”

Another large grassroots group led an “economic slowdown,” targeting the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mich.

Organizer Lorena Garvey-Shepley was clear to point out the action was “not a blockade,” adding, “we don’t want to inconvenience people too much. But we want to be in places that are going to get us noticed and allow us to get our information out.”

MT @jvrCTV: protest blocking US bound traffic at Windsor-Detroit crossing. May be moving off road now pic.twitter.com/kj8ETJuR

Organizers held a “peaceful walk” towards the bridge concluding with a rally at the base on the Canadian side.

Organizers reiterated that today’s actions are expected to be peaceful though protesters are prepared to get arrested.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabaska Chipewyan First Nation said that if the indigenous movement’s demands are not recognized soon, more dramatic actions, including roadblocks, can be expected.

“The people are upset with the current state of affairs in this country and things are escalating towards more direct action,” he said. 

Across Canada, protestors marched the streets—often blocking traffic—banging drums and carrying banners blatantly displaying “Idle No More.”

protest in Sarnia by Aamjiwnanng – about 100 including kids from local daycare asking for clean air pic.twitter.com/Xk9w8epx

More pictures from today’s actions can be seen here.

CBC News has listed a partial overview of the solidarity actions planned for Wednesday.

_____________________

Though inspired by the Idle No More movement, Wednesday’s actions—particularly the bridge and street blockades—highlighted protest tactics not condoned by the campaign’s founders, marking potential divisions as the movement grows beyond itself.

“If you have an impromptu blockade that doesn’t follow the legal permits, then you’re irritating the public and that’s not the purpose behind Idle No More,” said Sylvia McAdam, one of the movement’s four originators. “A lot of our children and elders are involved in the [Idle No More] activities, so their safety is our priority.”

The movement leaders are instead focusing on a Jan. 28 Idle No More International Call-to-Action during which they will protest at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill as “MPs return to the legislature after their winter break.”

In a recent interview, McAdam specified that, despite heavy media attention given to co-founder Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s recent hunger strike, Idle No More has no one leader, saying:

The grassroots movement of Idle No More is the face of all grassroots people…The founders might be considered guides or maintaining the vision, but Idle No More has no leader or official spokesperson.

A recent press release on the Official Idle No More website echoed this sentiment:

This movement has been guided by Spiritual Elders, dreams, visions, and from peoples’ core values. We are here to ensure the land, the waters, the air, and the creatures and indeed each of us, return to balance and discontinue harming each other and the earth.

January 11th’s official Day of Action and meeting between First Nation leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper exposed a rift in leadership when Idle No More leaders, namely Chief Spence, rejected the meeting on the basis it did not meet their demands while a number of other Chiefs partook despite the protest.

A poll on the official Idle No More website asks “Do you think the media is playing up the perceived divisions within IDM?”

The poll will run for a month, but thus far readers have responded 56 percent voted ‘Yes, we are stronger than ever!’, 14 percent responded ‘I’m not sure’ while 30 percent said ‘No, there are divisions and the media is playing it just right.’

Canada’s Energy Juggernaut Hits a Native Roadblock January 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 by The Star

by Linda McQuaig

Those who believe we can freely trash the environment in our quest to make ourselves richer suffer from a serious delusion — a delusion that doesn’t appear to afflict aboriginal people.

A Vancouver protester highlights the environment on Jan. 11. (Photograph: Ben Nelms / Reuters)

Aboriginals tend to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their approach has long baffled and irritated Canada’s white establishment, which regards it as a needless impediment to unbridled economic growth.

Nowhere is this irritation more palpable than inside Stephen Harper’s government, with its fierce determination to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” regardless of the environmental consequences.

So it’s hardly surprising that the Harper government has ended up in a confrontation with Canada’s First Nations.

Certainly the prime minister has shown a ruthlessness in pursuing his goal of energy superpowerdom.

He has gutted long-standing Canadian laws protecting the environment, ramming changes through Parliament last December as part of his controversial omnibus bill. He has thumbed his nose at global efforts to tackle climate change, revoking Canada’s commitment to Kyoto.

And he’s launched a series of witch-hunt audits of environmental groups that dared to challenge the rampant development of Alberta’s oilsands — one of the world’s biggest sources of climate-changing emissions — as well as plans for pipelines through environmentally sensitive areas.

But, while there’s been some resistance from provincial governments, opposition parties, and environmentalists, Ottawa’s energy juggernaut has continued to surge ahead.

At least until now. With the First Nations, Harper may have met his Waterloo.

Among other things, Harper’s attack on Canada’s environmental laws included rewriting parts of the Indian Act, thereby removing safeguards for native land and waters that are protected in the Constitution.

Of course, even with the Constitution on the side of aboriginals, it’s hard to imagine a group consisting of some of the poorest people on the continent taking on the federal government, backed up by corporate Canada, and winning.

After all, the First Nations are divided, and the government has deftly exploited these divisions. Furthermore, many influential media commentators side with the government, helping it portray aboriginals as impractical dreamers unable to understand the dictates of the global economy.

And restless natives have been a permanent political backdrop in Canada, unable to even ensure clean drinking water for themselves, let alone shape the government’s agenda.

But what’s new and potentially game-changing is Idle No More, the youth-based native initiative that, suddenly and unpredictably, has grown into a feisty grassroots movement — one that has shown the potential to attract activists from Occupy Wall Street, the Quebec student movement and even middle-class Canadians starting to wonder if barbecuing weather in mid-January suggests we’re playing too fast and loose with the environment.

Idle No More grew directly out of the resistance to Harper’s energy juggernaut. Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq and spokesperson for Idle No More, notes that changes in the omnibus bill make it easier to overcome native resistance to energy projects. For instance, the changes would enable a handful of natives, without support from the band majority, to surrender reserve land to Enbridge, enabling it to build a pipeline.

The Harper government will undoubtedly mobilize resources and cunning against Idle No More.

Whatever happens, it’s hard not to be inspired by this gutsy, earthy band that has asserted itself in the tradition pioneered by native-influenced governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, both of which have passed laws giving Mother Earth legal protections.

Canadians have reason to be ashamed of our treatment of aboriginals — from residential schools to the continuing failure to provide basic necessities like water, housing and education to people whose ancestors were here long before ours arrived.

Ironically, their insistence on their constitutional rights, as Palmater notes, may be the last best hope of Canadians to reverse our own culture’s reckless disregard for the dictates of Mother Earth, who ultimately is more demanding and unforgiving even than the global economy. Rising GDP levels won’t mean much if we’re swamped by rising sea levels.

The very least we can do is to get behind this ragtag group that has, in a few short weeks, shown more wisdom than our “advanced” society has mustered in decades.

Linda McQuaig’s column appears monthly. lmcquaig@sympatico.ca

© 2013 The Star
Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is a columnist for the Toronto Star. She first came to national prominence in 1989 for uncovering the Patti Starr Affair, where a community leader was found to have used charitable funds for the purpose of making illegal donations to lobby the government. McQuaig was awarded the National Newspaper Award for her work on this story. The National Post has called her “Canada’s Michael Moore”. Linda is the author (with Neil Brooks) of Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, published by Beacon Press.