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Forum Post: Indigenous Nations Are at the Forefront of the Conflict With Transnational Corporate Power

Posted 10 years ago on Oct. 16, 2013, 3:10 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Indigenous Nations Are at the Forefront of the Conflict With Transnational Corporate Power

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:15 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | Op-Ed


On Monday, October 7, 2013, indigenous nations and their allies held 70 actions throughout the world proclaiming their sovereignty. The call to action was issued by Idle No more and Defenders of the Land to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation of 1763, which was the first document in which an imperial nation recognized indigenous sovereignty and their right to self-determination. As we wrote last week, treaties with First Nations are not being honored, and even the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not adequately recognize the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.

In Canada, where the Idle No More movement was founded, an attack is being waged by the Harper government on the rights of the First Nations. A bill referred to as C-45 weakens laws that protect the land and allows transnational corporations to extract resources from First Nations' lands without their consent. Idle No More was founded on December 10, 2012 (the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), when Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike to protest C-45 on an island across from the Canadian Parliament.

The Idle No More (INM) movement has grown exponentially during the past year to become a worldwide movement. At its core, the INM taps into issues that are essential to all people. INM is a struggle against transnational corporations that collude with governments to allow the exploitation of people and the planet for profit, and it is a struggle for a new economic paradigm. INM is also about facing up to the horrific history of the way that colonizers have abused and disrespected indigenous peoples so that there can be reconciliation and justice and so that the peoples of the world can coexist peacefully. And INM is about the recognition that indigenous peoples are stewards of the Earth and must lead the way to protect the Earth and teach others to do the same.

Throughout the year, there have been teach-ins, round dances, flash mobs and rallies to raise awareness of the ongoing racist and exploitative treatment of indigenous nations as well as the continued decimation of their land to extract resources. There have been long walks, rides and canoe trips to call for healing of the Earth and for the recognition of indigenous sovereignty. And there have been blockades and other nonviolent direct actions to stop further degradation of the planet. INM has already achieved some successes.

Idle No More is an indigenous-led movement, but it is not a movement exclusive to indigenous people. As Clayton Thomas-Muller, an organizer with Defenders of the Land and Idle No More, states, "We understand that the rise of the native rights-based strategic framework as an effective legal strategy supported by a social movement strategic framework is the last best effort not just for Indigenous People but for all Canadians and Americans to protect the commons ... from the for-profit agenda of the neoliberal free market strategists that have taken over our governments ... and indigenous peoples have been thrust into the forefront of global social movements not just because of our connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth and our traditional ecological knowledge and understanding of how to take care of the Earth as part of that sacred circle of life but also because our ancestors ... made sure we had the legal instruments to be able to confront the enemies of today and that is what Idle No More is doing in the US and Canada and across the world where Indigenous People continue to live under occupation and oppression."

Sovereignty is Fundamental in the Struggle for Global Justice

The United States and Canada are two of the wealthiest nations in the world. Much of this wealth comes from the extraction of resources on land that belongs by treaty to Native Indians. Rather than honoring these treaties, the governments of the US and Canada have a long history, which continues today, of using laws and even manipulating the process of creating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to exterminate indigenous sovereignty. As the extraction of resources becomes more extreme through processes such as hydro-fracking and tar sands excavation and the serious consequences this has on the health of people and the Earth become more apparent, indigenous nations have realized that their struggle for sovereignty must intensify. The INM movement is one manifestation of this effort.

One of the six core demands of the INM movement is to "Honour the spirit and intent of the historic Treaties. Officially repudiate the racist Doctrine of Discovery and the Doctrine of Terra Nullius, and abandon their use to justify the seizure of Indigenous Nations lands and wealth." This is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on these doctrines as some in the United States celebrate Columbus Day. Columbus used the Doctrine of Conquest to legitimize seizure of land in the Americas. This doctrine "grants invaders legal title to the lands they conquer." Additionally, the Doctrine of Discovery from the early 1800s allowed colonizers to occupy and claim title to any lands, and their resources, that were not part of the European Christian monarchy. And the Doctrine of Terra Nullius similarly permitted colonizers to occupy and claim land that was not settled according to European standards, such as having an established township. These doctrines continue today. The Doctrine of Discovery was codified into law by the Supreme Court decision of Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823, which left Native Indians "with the mere 'right' to occupy their ancestral lands, subject to U.S. dominion." And so it is that Native Indians are subjected to policies that continue to allow corporations to extract resources and poison the air, land and water without their consent.

Although the INM movement began in Canada, it has also taken off in the US. And solidarity between Indian Nations in the US and Canada is developing. This summer, the Dakota Nation Unity Ride from Manitoba met up with the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign canoe trip in Woodstock, New York, to travel together to the United Nations in New York City. Two Row Wampum is the oldest treaty in North America between an Indian nation, the Haudenosaunee, and a European nation. This summer marked the 400th anniversary, which they highlighted with an epic canoe trip down the Hudson River.

The Two Row Wampum treaty "outlines a mutual, three-part commitment to friendship, peace between peoples, and living in parallel forever (as long as the grass is green, as long as the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west)." The Two Row Wampum campaign seeks to uphold the treaty by creating friendship and peace between all peoples and by working together for a sustainable future, as outlined in their campaign goals. They seek recognition of their laws, the right to self-determination, including living in accordance with their culture and laws, and to be leaders in restoration and stewardship of the Earth.

The Dakota Unity Ride and the Two Row Wampum canoe trip landed in New York City on August 9, which is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. They walked together to the United Nations building, where they met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, representatives of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and other officials. The UN press statement describes the theme of the meeting as "Indigenous peoples building alliances: honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements."

This is a positive step, but the fight for sovereignty continues. Sylvia Mcadam, a founder of Idle No More and a professor and author, teaches that sovereignty includes "land, language and culture." It is not just land that has been taken from indigenous peoples but also their language and culture through the forced attendance at residential schools and barriers to access their traditional foods. Mcadam states that her involvement in Idle No More began when she returned to her traditional land with her parents to do research for her current book. She was shocked to see how the land had been developed without consent of the people.

Mcadam reminds us that the First Nations are not a lawless people but that the Creator's Laws are "expressed in everything we do." Colonizers have a lot to learn from Native Indians - not only about caring for the Earth and living in ways that preserve resources for future generations but also about governance. Native Indians are matriarchal societies that practice deep democracy.

While indigenous people describe themselves as people who follow laws, they have suffered injustice on their lands. Last week, a panel of judges at the International Peoples Tribunal on Leonard Peltier issued an executive summary and preliminary findings following three days of testimony from Native Indians who described abuse inflicted by the US government and FBI agents. The tribunal concluded that US laws must be changed in order for FBI agents to be charged for their crimes of assault and murder on Pine Ridge Indian land in South Dakota and elsewhere. Further, the tribunal said justice is dependent on the immediate release of Leonard Peltier. Non-indigenous groups are working in solidarity with Idle No More and other indigenous groups. For example, the Two Row Wampum campaign, led by the Onondaga Nation, works with Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation. This collaboration is particularly evident in the environmental movement.



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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Stewardship of the Land, Air and Water

Central to the Idle No More movement is protection of the land, air and water from corporations that steal resources without any regard for the environmental effects. Indigenous Peoples believe that many harmful substances, such as uranium and oils and gases, were put in the ground because they were meant to stay there. They oppose the extreme methods of extraction being used today.

During the past year, often with leadership from indigenous nations, the environmental movements in the US and Canada (and elsewhere around the world) have escalated their tactics to protect the Earth. Their focus has primarily been on stopping the pipelines that carry bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands and stopping fracking for oil and gas. Throughout the summer, there were numerous direct action campaigns, including Sovereignty Summer and Fearless Summer, which collaborated to blockade roads and equipment to prevent pipeline construction.

We highlight three active campaigns that are being led by indigenous nations: The Red Nation's efforts against an Enbridge pipeline, the Nez Perce fight to stop Megaloads from carrying humongous pieces of equipment through their lands and the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society, which evicted a fracking company, SWN Resources, from its land. On February 28, Marty Cobenais from the Indigenous Environmental Network led the beginning of an occupation, which included building a sacred fire on top of a pipeline that runs across Red Lake Tribal land in Leonard, Minnesota. The pipeline carries bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands, which is being mined and poisoning the land of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Canada without their consent. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge, and the Red Lake tribal members say that it is illegal. They understood that there was a requirement that if there were a permanent structure over the pipeline it would have to be shut down. Unfortunately, that has not happened, and in fact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously this summer to allow the pipeline to be expanded to carry more tar sands bitumen even though hundreds attended the hearing in opposition to it.

The occupation is ongoing and is being supported by indigenous and non-indigenous environmental organizations. In October 2013, Winona LaDuke and the Indigo Girls led a weeklong Honour the Earth horseback ride along the route of the pipeline to raise awareness. They are very concerned about spills from the pipeline, which are inevitable. Enbridge has a poor safety record.

Spills have occurred already. In 2002, 48,000 gallons spilled near Cass Lake, Minnesota, and continues to pollute the water table. In 2010, more than 800,000 gallons spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and nearly 300,000 gallons remain today. And last year, 50,000 gallons spilled near Grand Marsh, Wisconsin. The pipeline runs through the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lakes Huron and Michigan, and so it threatens to contaminate large supplies of fresh water.

A very similar battle is occurring between the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia and Enbridge. There the Yinka Dene is accusing the British Columbia government of violating international law by issuing permits to Enbridge Inc. for drilling and tree removal in their territories along the proposed path for the Northern Gateway pipeline, despite their opposition and the lack of consultation on the proposed pipeline. They made the accusations in a 15-page submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Although the fight against Enbridge and the governments that collude with them have not made much progress, the Nez Perce in Idaho have won a significant victory. Last month a judge ordered the prohibition on the use of 100 miles of roadways through tribal lands to transport huge pieces of equipment, called Megaloads, made by General Electric that are used in extracting Canadian tar sands. Tribal members filed a court case in August to prevent the Megaloads from crossing their land, something that is already illegal but wasn't being enforced. They also blockaded the road in August to prevent passage of a Megaload. During the four-day blockade, eight of nine Nez Perce Tribal Council leaders were arrested.

The judge's decision suspends the passage of Megaloads for now and may be lifted after an impact study is completed. However, another significant aspect of this decision is that the Nez Perce Tribal Council must be involved in future decisions to permit the Megaloads to use roads through their lands.

Another active occupation to protect tribal land is in New Brunswick, where the Elsipogtog have been taking action for months to stop a Houston-based company, SWN Resources, from exploring their land to begin fracking. Tribal members blockaded SWN work trucks throughout the early summer to prevent them from testing the land for potential fracking. In addition to blockading, some of SWN's equipment was destroyed.

There was a temporary peace beginning in late July, when SWN Resources agreed to leave for the summer. Negotiations at that time included dropping charges against 25 of the 35 people who had been arrested. SWN did say it expected to return in September. When SWN Resources recently attempted to return, it was met with an eviction notice and another blockade, which included a sacred fire. The Elsipogtog First Nation and Mi'kmaq Warrior Society contend that the land being explored was supposed to be held in trust for them but that the Canadian government has done such a poor job of caring for the land that the tribes are concerned whether the land will be able to support them. Along with the eviction notice, they are claiming sovereignty over the land and their responsibility to care for it.

On October 7, in solidarity with the days of action to proclaim indigenous sovereignty, activists in Houston delivered an eviction notice from the Elsipogtog to the office of SWN Resources. Office staff members refused to accept the letter, so it was left on the receptionist's desk and copies were faxed directly to the office. The letter requested a response within 48 hours.

At present, the blockade continues. Some of the chiefs met with David Alward, premier of New Brunswick, but the talks have not been satisfactory. Alward would not allow members of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society to attend the meetings. The Mi'kmaq Warrior Society is calling for solidarity actions October 18, when they expect SWN to serve a court injunction. The blockade has brought together tremendous support from the surrounding community and tribes across Canada.

Moving Toward Peace and a Healthy Planet for Future Generations

Also on October 7, members of Veterans for Peace and their allies held a ceremony in the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in New York City to mark the 12th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan and to oppose all wars. As they did last year, the veterans read the names of those who were killed in wars and laid flowers at the base of the memorial. However, this year, the organizer, Tarak Kauff, began the ceremony by recognizing the 500-year war against First Nations and read the names of Native Indian warriors who were killed.

A shift seems to be happening in public awareness of the ongoing effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples and the importance of indigenous leadership in the struggle to heal and protect the Earth. During the past year, the indigenous-led movement in collaboration with non-indigenous allies has grown, and the tactics being employed to protect the land from extreme energy extraction have escalated.

Just as we must abolish imperialism abroad, we must also end it at home. To accomplish this, we must begin by understanding the ongoing 500-year war against Native Indians, and we must begin to speak about it. The Idle No More and other indigenous-led movements seek a peaceful solution that recognizes the sovereignty of indigenous peoples and their laws so that everyone can live in peace. And they understand that if we are to end the practices that are destroying the Earth, we must learn from those who are stewards of the Earth.

It is time for all of us to be Idle No More. We face common opponents - corporations that profit by exploiting people and the planet and the governments who collude with them. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently being negotiated, continues this global exploitation of the planet and people by transnational corporate interests. It is time to end imperialism and the neoliberal economic agenda that perpetuates this destructive behavior.

It is time for solidarity, cooperation, reconciliation and restoration of peaceful human relationships and the land, air and water. It is imperative that we act now so our children and future generations will have the opportunity for healthy lives. The future is literally in our hands.

This article is the second in a two-part series on the ongoing struggle for indigenous rights. The first article was It Is Time to Recognize the National Sovereignty and Human Rights of Native Indians.

To hear Margaret Flowers interview with Clayton Thomas Muller, Sylvia Mcadam and SuZanne MoniQue Patels of Idle No More on Indigenous Nations Around the World Proclaim Sovereignty click here. http://clearingthefogradio.org/indigenous-nations-around-the-world-proclaim-sovereignty/

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Canadian Police Use Military Tactics to Disperse Indigenous Anti-Fracking Blockade

Friday, 18 October 2013 13:12 By Oscar Leon, The Real News Network | Video Report


Oscar León, TRNN Producer: Thursday, October 17, 2013, in New Brunswick, Canada, indigenous protesters refused to comply a judge injunction ordering them to surrender the siege of SWN equipment store.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved in, fully armed, 200 men strong, arresting many elders. Pictures of agents in camouflage with automatic assault weapons and dogs flowed trough Twitter and other social media websites.

SWN Resources Canada is a Houston-based energy company working on shale gas extraction using fracking, a system that injects water and chemicals to the ground to harvest gas.

Scientists and activists warn that such procedure can contaminate the ground and the water supply. The company had been conducting seismic testings with the trucks detained inside the compound by the activists.

Miles Howe, a reporter for the Media Co-op, was among those arrested. He published:

"We are currently surrounded by about 75 cops, all guns drawn. Several are in military fatigues. Rubber bullets have been fired in the woods. Molotovs were thrown earlier from warrior side. Currently still in standoff."

The Globe and Mail reported that after the protesters refused to disperse, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets. RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) reported 40 arrests. This is a statement in the RCMP website:

"The New Brunswick RCMP has arrested at least 40 people for various offences including firearms offences, uttering threats, intimidation, mischief, and for refusing to abide by a court injunction on Route 134. . . ."

The Real News spoke to Pamela Ross, one of the activists that had been in the blockade.

Pamela Ross, Protester, New Brunswick, Canada: This has been a peaceful protest all along, and people have been misled on what the whole warrior society and what warriors, First Nations warriors are in the first place. You know, they're protectors of the people. So that's why the warriors were the first people arrested, because they are willing to put themselves out in front of everybody else.

Everyone's protesting because the government of New Brunswick, originally the Liberal government of New Brunswick, introduced shale gas fracking to New Brunswick. And people were totally against it. And then an election came around, and the Conservative government was very critical and criticizing the Liberal government, you know, about the shale gas, and a lot of people voted for them because they thought that the Conservative government was against it. But the Conservative government has turned around, and they seem to be all for it as well.

León: A live shot was reported, but neither side took responsibility for it. Five police cruisers were set on fire after the initial raid. Images like this one published in News World YouTube channel circled around the internet and TV newscasts. While it is presumed that Mi'kmaq people did it, until now no evidence has surfaced onto who set the cars on fire.

This is a video of the aftermath of the arrest published by Chris Sabas, an independent reporter working in Toronto with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She had been following the story.

The siege that started on Sunday, September 29, 2013, after months of active nonviolent direct action by native Acadian [incompr.] communities, and after years of campaign against shale gas, protesters draw the line.

Worth mentioning is Submedia's TV coverage of the blockade. This is part of one of their special reports from the side of the blockade. Unidentified: We have Mi'kmaq, we have Acadians, we have English. So we all came together. That's why we became a unity camp. Before, we were like this, we weren't getting along, until when they started messing our water. Then we became this.

León: This is a video by Chris Saban of Chief Aaron Sock entering the blockade.

Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock and several council members were among those arrested on October 17. This marked the end of a blockade maintained for more than two weeks. But it does not end the resisting of the indigenous people and the activists and citizens. After the arrest, demonstrations of people protesting in solidarity were reported by mainstream media as well as social networks. Ontario Provincial Police reported that 30 to 40 First Nation protesters [inaud.] and shut down Highway 6 in southern Ontario between the communities of Hagersville and Caledonia.

Just one day before, speaking on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II,-- David Johnston, Gov. Gen. of Canada: I bear the happy wishes and deep affection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. León: --Governor General David Johnston, in the annual Speech from the Throne in Parliament Hill, Ottawa, pointed at the immense importance raw natural resources have for the Crown and the Commonwealth.

Johnston: Since Canada's earliest days, our economy has been built on our abundant natural resources. Directly and indirectly, the natural resource sector employs 1.8 million Canadians, many in skilled, high-paying jobs. Resource development generates $30 billion annually in revenue that supports health care, education, and programs Canadians cherish. Canada's energy reserves are vast, sufficient to fuel our growing economy and supply international customers for generations to come.

León: The Canadian indigenous fight to preserve its resources from industrial exploitation has many similar characteristic compared to those of the South American indigenous. In Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador, they all advocate for the necessity to balance civilization's growth and the well-being and preservation of our planet and its biosphere.

For The Real News, this is Oscar León.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

The End of Impunity? Indigenous Guatemalans Bring Canadian Mining Company to Court

Sunday, 20 October 2013 11:07 By Arij Riahi, The Dominion | Report


Montreal - For the first time, a Canadian mining company will appear in a Canadian court for actions committed overseas. Hudbay Minerals, Inc, will be standing trial for murder, rapes and attacks committed against Indigenous Guatemalans by security personnel working for Hudbay’s subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN). The court case is proceeding thanks to a precedent-setting decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which ruled this past July in favour of the Mayan Q'eqchi' people of Lote Ocho, near El Estor, Guatemala. “It is a massive victory for our clients and for human rights,” Cory Wanless, an attorney with the Toronto-based Klippensteins law firm, told The Dominion. “Before this decision, no claim brought by individuals that had been harmed by Canadian mining abroad had ever gotten into Canadian courts at all. They didn’t even have the ability to forward their claims.”

Wanless represents the Q'eqchi' plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the company of negligence in its ground management of the Fenix open-pit nickel mine project. They allege that security personnel—under the control of Hudbay—gang-raped 11 women, shot dead an Indigenous leader and outspoken critic of mining practices and left another man paralyzed from the chest down after sustaining a gunshot wound.

Grahame Russell of Rights Action, a Canadian organization working mainly with Indigenous communities in Central America, has been doing solidarity work with the Q'eqchi' people for almost 10 years and has worked closely on the case. “Two major pre-trial issues were fought over. One was jurisdiction, and one [was] whether Hudbay could be held accountable—directly or via its subsidiary CGN—over what happened in Guatemala,” Russell told The Dominion.

“We won on both counts. First, the company accepted that Canada can be the appropriate jurisdiction. Second, the judge decided in our favour, saying that it is appropriate to try to hold Hudbay accountable [for their negligence] in Guatemala.”

Russell explained that the conflict is rooted in unresolved tensions around what can be referred to in Canada as “prior land claims.” The events in question occurred between 2007 and 2009 in the context of a land dispute between the Q'eqchi' people and the mining company. “The specific context of the attack, rape[s] and murder is related to the mining company wanting to get the Q'eqchi' people off their land so they can get the mineral resources under the ground,” Russell said. “There have been waves of repression in this region related to Canadian mining companies going back to the 1970s and early 1980s. This is an old story that is replaying itself out all over again.” Rachel Small is an environmental justice activist working with communities impacted by Canadian extractive industry. “The abuses carried out by Canadian mining companies in Central America are part of a long and violent history of colonization, which continues today,” she told The Dominion.

Small, who visited the Q'eqchi' community of Lote Ocho in 2010, said the Hudbay case is a classic example of environmental injustice. “Resources are being extracted for the benefit of Canadians—and primarily Canadian stockholders—at the expense of primarily Indigenous communities in Guatemala. It’s a blatant example of one of the ways that colonization plays out today and the costs are unimaginably huge for the communities who are being exploited.”

The Superior Court of Ontario’s decision, written by Judge Carole Brown, concluded that there was enough initial evidence to allow the actions to proceed to trial. Judge Brown emphasized that Hudbay is headquartered in Toronto, is incorporated under Canadian laws and was fully in control of its subsidiary. Hudbay has decided not to appeal the ruling.

The court decision argued that “the pleadings disclose a sufficient basis to suggest that a relationship of proximity between the [Q'eqchi'] plaintiffs and the defendants [Hudbay and CGN] exists, such that it would not be unjust or unfair to impose a duty of care on the defendants.” The decision also listed a number of factors that might, at trial, prove the proximity between Hudbay and its subsidiary. This problem of proximity is one that has sunk many attempts to hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts for human-rights abuses committed in other countries. Most mining companies have a complex corporate structure with a head office in one country, smaller offices in others and operations in the Global South. In courts, they have repeatedly been able to draw a line between the legal responsibility of a parent company that controls management and the subsidiary that controls daily operations on the ground. In November 2012, a group of Congolese people exhausted all legal options with a final failed attempt to drag Anvil Mining in front Canadian courts for its involvement in a massacre of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company admitted to a United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) that it had provided transportation, food and lodging to the Congolese soldiers who committed the massacre. Yet the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that there was no sufficient link between the company’s Quebec office and the events that led to the killings, and that Quebec’s courts therefore had no jurisdiction over the matter. At the time of the events, Anvil’s headquarters were in Australia. Wanless said that Hudbay’s corporate ties to Canadian law might explain why the case was allowed to go through while the Anvil case never made it to court. “The question in [the case of] Hudbay is different because there was no question that Ontario did have jurisdiction over Hudbay. It was an Ontario company through and through.”

Since the July 22, 2013, decision, Rights Action has reported that some Mayan Q'eqchi' women have received threats pressuring them to withdraw the lawsuits. “This is a new wave of intimidation,” said Russell, who speaks with members of the community on a weekly basis. “In the past, it has targeted Angelica Choc—the wife of Adolfo Ich, [the man] who was shot and killed. Now, it is targeting the women, trying to turn some women against the other women.” When asked to comment on the threats, both Small and Wanless said they are an unsettling development, but one that is not surprising. Small highlighted how geographical isolation could add to the community’s vulnerability.

“The fastest way to reach Lote Ocho requires an uphill drive in a Jeep or all-terrain vehicle, followed by an over-two-hour trek up the side of a densely forested mountain,” she explained. “The limited access to communication with family, friends and allies in other places certainly impacted Lote Ocho’s ability to respond to threats and attacks.”

Though the pre-trial decision has been hailed as a victory, the trial to follow could still take years. “[The decision] is absolutely a breakthrough, but this won’t all of sudden bring proper and full accountability,” said Russell. “It was a step that had be fought for and won, but there is still a hugely long way to go.”

Small said the injustices committed in other countries implicate Canada’s whole political and economic system. “Canadian government actively supports the [mining] industry, both financially—such as through pension plan investments—and politically.” She listed a host of political players, including Canadian embassies and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, who negotiate international trade deals and partnerships with mining companies operating in the Global South.

For Small, this means that the problems faced by the Q'eqchi' won’t be solved in one courtroom. “We’re looking at complex systems...that serve to concentrate power and resources in the hands of a small few, especially at the expense of Indigenous peoples. It’s going to be a long struggle to reverse these patterns, and one that needs to play out on more than one continent and in a multitude of settings.” Wanless was cautiously optimistic about the court’s decision. “This case is the first of this kind but I think that claims like this are going to be much more common,” he said. “It is no longer possible for Canadian courts to deny that this is a Canadian problem that deserves a Canadian solution.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Can Fracking Showdown on Native Land Help Break Canada's Cycle of Colonialism?

Friday, 25 October 2013 13:19 By Leanne Simpson, Yes! Magazine | Op-Ed


In the mid-1990s I moved to Mi'gma'gi to go to graduate school. I was expecting to learn about juvenile Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River. I was naive and misguided. Fortunately for me, the Mi'kmaq people saw that in me and they taught me something far more profound. I did my first sweat in the homeland of Elsipogtog, in the district of Siknikt. I did solidarity work with the women of Elsipogtog, then known as Big Cove, as they struggled against imposed poverty and poor housing. One of them taught me my first song, the Mi'kmaq honor song, and I attended her Native Studies class with her as she sang it to a room full of shocked students. I also found a much needed refuge with a Mi'kmaq family on a nearby reserve. What I learned from all of these kind people who saw me as an Nishnaabeg in a town where no one else did, was that the place I needed to be wasn't Mi'gma'gi, but in my own Mississauga Nishnaabeg homeland. For that I am grateful. Nearly every year I travel east to Mi'gma'gi for one reason or another. In 2010, my children and I traveled to Listuguj in the Gespe'gewa'gi district of Mi'gma'gi to witness the PhD dissertation defense of Fred Metallic. I was on Fred's dissertation committee, and Fred had written and was about to defend his entire dissertation in Mi'gmaw (Mi'kmaq) without translation—a groundbreaking achievement. Fred had also kindly invited us to his community for the defense. When some of the university professors indicated that this might be difficult given that the university was 1,300 kilometers away from the community, Fred simply insisted there was no other way. He insisted because his dissertation was about building a different kind of relationship between his nation and Canada, between his community and the university. He wasn't going to just talk about decolonizing the relationship, he was determined to embody it, and he was determined that the university would as well. This was a Mi'kmaw dissertation on the grounds of Mi'kmaw intellectual traditions, ethics, and politics.

The defense was unlike anything I have ever witnessed within the academy. The community hall was packed with representatives from band councils, the Sante Mawiomi, and probably close to 300 relatives, friends, children, and supporters from other communities. The entire defense was in Mi'gmaw, led by community Elders, leaders, and Knowledge Holders—the real intellectuals in this case. There was ceremony. There was song and prayer. At the end, there was a huge feast and giveaway. It went on for the full day and into the night. It was one of the most moving events I have ever witnessed, and it changed me. It challenged me to be less cynical about academics and institutions because the strength and persistence of this one Mi'gmaw man and the support of his community changed things.

I honestly never thought he'd get his degree, because I knew he'd walk away rather than compromise. He had my unconditional support either way. Fred is one of the most brilliant thinkers I've ever met, and he was uncompromising in his insistence that the university meet him halfway. I never thought an institution would.

All of these stories came flooding back to me this week as I watched the RCMP attack the nonviolent anti-fracking protestors at Elsipogtog with rubber bullets, an armored vehicle, tear gas, fists, police dogs, and pepper spray. The kind of stories I learned in Mi'gmagi will never make it into the mainstream media, and most Canadians will never hear them.

Instead, Canadians will hear recycled propaganda as the mainstream media blindly goes about repeating the press releases sent to them by the RCMP designed to portray Mi'kmaw protestors as violent and unruly in order to justify their own colonial violence. The only images most Canadians will see is of the three hunting rifles, a basket full of bullets and the burning police cars, and most will be happy to draw their own conclusions based on the news—that the Mi'kmaq are angry and violent, that they have no land rights, and that they deserved to be beaten, arrested, criminalized, jailed, shamed, and erased.

The story here, the real story, is virtually the same story in every indigenous nation: Over the past several centuries we have been violently dispossessed of most of our land to make room for settlement and resource development. The active system of settler colonialism maintains that dispossession and erases us from the consciousness of settler Canadians except in ways that is deemed acceptable and non-threatening to the state.

We start out dissenting and registering our dissent through state-sanctioned mechanisms like environmental impact assessments. Our dissent is ignored. Some of us explore Canadian legal strategies, even though the courts are stacked against us. Slowly but surely we get backed into a corner where the only thing left to do is to put our bodies on the land. The response is always the same—intimidation, force, violence, media smear campaigns, criminalization, silence, talk, negotiation, "new relationships," promises, placated resistance, and then more broken promises. Then the cycle repeats itself.

This is why it is absolutely critical that our conversations about reconciliation include the land. We simply cannot build a new relationship with Canada until we can talk openly about sharing the land in a way that ensures the continuation of indigenous cultures and lifeways for the coming generations. The dispossession of indigenous peoples from our homelands is the root cause of every problem we face, whether it is missing or murdered indigenous women, fracking, pipelines, deforestation, mining, environmental contamination, or social issues as a result of imposed poverty. So we are faced with a choice. We can continue to show the photos of the three hunting rifles and the burnt-out cop cars on every mainstream media outlet ad nauseam and paint the Mi'kmaq with every racist stereotype we know, or we can dig deeper.

We can seek out the image of strong, calm Mi'kmaq women and children armed with drums and feathers and ask ourselves what would motivate mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters to stand up and say enough is enough. We can learn about the 400 years these people and their ancestors have spent resisting dispossession and erasure. We can learn about how they began their reconciliation process in the mid-1700s when they forged Peace and Friendship treaties. We can learn about why they chose to put their bodies on the land to protect their lands and waters against fracking because—setting the willfully ignorant and racists aside—sane, intelligent people should be standing with them. Our bodies should be on the land so that our grandchildren have something left to stand upon.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.