R.I.P. Matt Cicero: Anarchist Militant, Journalist, Community Organizer

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Apr 222021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

On March 16, 2020, our comrade Matt departed for the spirit world. We have lost one of the most committed anarchists in our part of the world, and the loss is felt intensely due to the tragic circumstances of his death.

Many people who did not know Matt well will probably remember him as the guy that bombed the bank back in 2010. At this time, there was a major mobilization of anarchists preparing for the G20 summit in Toronto. Several months prior to the summit, a group calling itself FFF (Fighting For Freedom) released footage of the firebombing of an RBC branch in Ottawa. The footage was dramatic – a black-clad figure runs out of the bank minutes before it explodes in flame.

Although he never confessed to the action, I think that Matt would have wanted to be remembered for this action. He was arrested for it, jailed, and put on trial, but charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Six years after the bombing, he posted an article entitled “6 reasons I support arson (as a tool of social change)” on his blog. “I think it’s an example… of direct action, and I think that social movements in Canada are far too pacified, they are way too comfortable with the ideology, with non-violence as an ideology, not as a tactic, but as the only possible way forward,” he said. “I think social movements need to become more militant and I wanted to highlight that, which I think the action does.”

The communique released by FFF explained the reasons why RBC had been targeted. They had been a major sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, which had involved a massive crack-down on the street population of that city, and RBC was also a major financier of the Alberta Tar Sands.

It’s important to note here that Matt was one of the anarchists who was at the forefront of indigenous solidarity organizing. 2010 really was the year that anti-colonial politics came to the forefront of anarchist analysis in so-called Canada. It was through the relationships that anarchists formed with indigenous people around that time that began to significantly shift anarchist discourse. Matt was one of the pioneers of this, and he remained active with IPSMO (the Indigenous People’s Solidarity Movement – Ottawa) for the better part of a decade.

Matt was a committed activist. Serious, principled, and intense, he knew what he believed and had the courage of his convictions. His stubbornness often led to him butting heads with other activists, as for myself, I usually found myself agreeing with him and supporting his stance. He thought that radical politics should be about action. When it was time to throw down, you knew Matt was game.

It is difficult to grieve Matt, partly due to the tragic conditions of his death. I have not spoken to anyone who had really spoken to him in the past two years. Not only was he estranged from his family, it seems that he was also estranged from his friends. It would seem that his mental health deteriorated, and he was living in a tent by the Ottawa river, close to the War Museum, and not far from Asinabka, the Algonquin sacred site currently be desecrated by a huge condo development.

The circumstances of his death were mysterious. Apparently, the police told his mother that he had fallen out of a tree. I was a part of a group that visited the tree, and we all agreed that it just wasn’t possible that that had happened. Not only was the tree not very tall, it was a spruce tree, and it would have been impossible to climb without breaking branches, and no branches were broken. What is known is that he died of blunt force trauma and the police didn’t rule it a suicide.

We are still trying to put the pieces together, so if you do have information that would help us understand what happened in the last two years of his life, we would encourage you to write us. Even though we can’t change what happened, understanding what happened can be an important part of the grieving process.

We also have some soul-searching as a movement to do. There have been a significant numbers of deaths of despair amongst activist men in the past few years. To name a few: Derek, Dave, Hugo, Jean, and Charles. What is leading our comrades to such depths of emotional pain? Is it the state of the world, or it is something about the way that activists treat each other?

The reality is that, despite our best efforts to change the world for the world, things are not improving on planet Earth, and in fact, many of the gains made by previous generations of activists are now being undone. This can be deeply disheartening, especially for people who have based their whole lives around struggling to make the world a better place.

There is another question that is more disturbing, and that is whether it is something in the activist scene is killing us. Has the anarchist culture become deeply toxic? Both Dave and Matt were being excluded by their respective activist communities at the times of their deaths. In both cases, it seems likely that this was a factor in the deterioration of their mental health. Is a toxic activist culture partly to blame?

In any case, Matt’s body is gone, but his spirit has moved on. Perhaps the freedom that he desired so passionately was not possible in this world, but I hope that where he is now, his spirit will know true freedom.

Rest in peace, Matt, you were a good anarchist, and I will honour your memory. More importantly, I will honour your spirit by continuing the fight that you dedicated your life to – the fight for freedom, for autonomy, for Mother Earth, and in solidarity with the oppressed against the state.

It seems right to end by quoting the FFFC communique released after the bank bombing:

We pass the torch to all those who would resist the trampling of native rights, of the rights of us all, and resist the ongoing destruction of our planet.

A memorial is being organized by Matt’s friend Albert Dumont, an Algonquin spiritual leader. It will be held on May 16. By pure coincidence, a massive global day of action happens to be planned for that exact day. So, wherever you are, if you do want to honour Matt’s memory, consider torching or smashing something in his honour, or at least lighting off some fireworks.

For details regarding the memorial service, please write vertetnoire@riseup.net. If you have photos or videos of Matt, please share them with us. We would also encourage people to reach out to share their memories of Matt, which could be shared at his memorial.

A song-in-progress is being written by Matt’s friend. If you have memories of actions that Matt participated in, and want them to be part of a song that will be sung at his memorial, please check out this video: https://youtu.be/-BjzjBghTf8 and get in touch.

Charges Dropped Against Lennoxville Rail Blockade Defendants

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Apr 172021
 

From Blockade Defense

We are a group of people who, back in february 2020, held an all-day railroad blockade in so-called Lennoxville, Quebec, on stolen Abenaki land, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en land defenders and against the ongoing violence of colonialism. We have recently learned that the criminal accusations that had been laid against us have finally been withdrawn and that our case has been closed.

On the one hand, it brings us joy to avoid the stress and hassle of a criminal trial, and even moreso considering how the Sherbrooke police shamelessly lied to us and broke their own protocols in order to arrest us on that sunny winter day.

On the other hand, however, we find it important to remember and acknowledge that the criminal charges we were facing come from a State (and its whole legal system) that sees nothing wrong with colonial genocide, with murdering and dispossessing indigenous folks, and with destroying life in the name of profit. So-called Canada and so-called Quebec are on stolen native land, and no amount of laws or repression will ever make us see this as fair or acceptable. Our action was one of many others in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en people who have been continuously threatened and harassed by the RCMP and pipeline industry goons.

The funds we had raised for our legal battle will be split evenly between the lawyers who supported us, the Tyendinaga and Hamilton friends who are facing trial for their own solidarity blockades, as well as the Unist’ot’en Camp Legal Fund.

No reconciliation without decolonization.

Queen Victoria Statue Vandalized with Red Paint After Curfew on Saint-Patrick’s Day

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Mar 192021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade declares: End the monarchy in Canada; end monarchies everywhere!

March 17, 2021, Montreal — The Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade re-united in Montreal last night on an anti-colonial Saint-Patrick’s Day. They defied curfew to again vandalize the landmark bronze statue to Queen Victoria — unveiled in 1900 and located on Sherbrooke Street at McGill University — this time in red paint.

According to Pádraig Patel of the Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade: “There is a renewed focus on the brutal legacy of the British monarchy, which is a clear symbol of racism and colonialism. Forget about celebrity distractions, let’s focus on getting rid of monarchs as one important action linked to our movements for social justice.”

Another member of the brigade, Sujata Sands, mentions: “We do regret that we were unable to topple the statue tonite, as those cool kids did back in August 2020 to the John A. Macdonald statue.”

A third member of the Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade, Lakshmi O’Leary, declared: “Just put the British Royal Family, all of them, into a limousine, give them a drunk French chaffeur, and let nature take its course.”*

Concerning the Queen Victoria statue, the Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade wrote on St. Patrick’s Day 2019: “The presence of Queen Victoria statues in Montreal are an insult to the self-determination and resistance struggles of oppressed peoples worldwide, including Indigenous nations in North America (Turtle Island) and Oceania, as well as the peoples of Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, and everywhere the British Empire committed its atrocities. Queen Victoria’s reign, which continues to be whitewashed in history books and in popular media, represented a massive expansion of the barbaric British Empire. Collectively her reign represents a criminal legacy of genocide, mass murder, torture, massacres, terror, forced famines, concentration camps, theft, cultural denigration, racism, and white supremacy. That legacy should be denounced and attacked.”

Some previous attacks on Queen Victoria statues in Montreal:

* Henri Paul was the driver of the luxury Mercedes with Lady Diana that crashed in Paris in 1997. Every member of the British monarchy deserves a drunk French driver!

Blockade Defense: Website launched to support #ShutDownCanada defendants

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Mar 182021
 

From Blockade Defense

There are currently at least sixty people still facing serious criminal charges from the 2019 and 2020 raids on Wet’suwet’en territory and the solidarity movement known as Shut Down Canada. Dealing with criminal charges is often an isolating and scary experience, especially when the legal system intentionally tries to make people feel alone and powerless. We think a support campaign is the best way we can fight back against these forces and show the state that we will not allow our friends and comrades to be criminalized. If we can support one another now, then we can support one another in all the struggles to come.

More than avoiding repression, what matters is how we deal with it. We need to always be finding ways to show those targeted they are not alone — this makes it easier for them to get through it with strength and integrity. As people move through the justice system, displays of solidarity and practical support make a real difference in the outcome. We need to show that those who are brave and take risks will be supported if we want to be brave together again in the future and see our movements grow.

We want to provide a space where defendants can write about their experiences with repression and criminalization, statements of solidarity, and updates about the charges, which will be posted on our Updates section.

We want to help defendants to fund raise for their legal battles, where we provide links to different defendants and communities’ GoFundMe pages.

We want to help defendants feel more supported in the incredibly isolating process of state criminalization, and are offering a PO box where letters of support, postcards, and zines can be sent, which we we then forward to defendants.

And, finally, we want to create an email campaign to pressure for charges to be dropped or for prominent figures to publicly support charges being dropped. We have created a basic sample template for a (polite) email, and a list of talking points that defendants have given us, and compiled a list of emails for it to be sent to.

Please share this campaign on your various data-mining surveilance platforms and use the hashtag #BlockadeDefense

Solidarity with land defenders at 1492LBL

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Feb 282021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Since July 2020, Haudenosaunee land defenders of Six Nations have blocked a housing development called Mackenzie Meadows slated for construction on Six Nations territory, near the settler community of Caledonia, Ontario. Land defenders refusing to see their lands further destroyed for colonial interests occupied the construction site last summer, renaming it 1492 Land Back Lane. Following the re-occupation of their territory, an injunction was granted to Mackenzie Meadows and enforced by the OPP in August. Land defenders fought back against the OPP’s violent eviction, temporarily retreating from the site. Shortly after the raid, land defenders backed by the community of Six Nations blockaded Argyle Road and Highway 6, and re-took Land Back Lane from the fucking police. In October last year, the police attempted to arrest a number of land defenders, shooting some with ‘non-lethal’ projectiles. The police were ultimately chased off by determined land defenders, having some of their cruisers fucked up on the way out. This last violent attack by the OPP led land defenders and Six Nations community members to tear up Argyle road, disrupt CN rail lines running through their lands, and erect barricades in order to defend themselves from further police attacks.

On February 15, 1492 Land Back Lane land defenders completed their roll-back of various barricades in order to allow Six Nations community members access to the highway. While the road barricades have been removed, land defenders remain committed to their goals, vigilant of violent repression by the OPP, and aware that they are now in a more vulnerable position.
This past fall, anarchists and accomplices responded to calls for solidarity by the land defenders of 1492 Land Back Lane with actions against infrastructure critical to the Canadian economy.

We continue to stand in solidarity with 1492 Land Back Lane, and invite all who envision a world without colonial domination to stay abreast of the situation on the ground and continue to support the land defenders. Should the OPP attempt to take advantage of the land defenders’ increased vulnerability to bring violence to 1492 Land Back Lane, the response must be swift and expansive. In preparation for this possibility, we urge anti-colonial accomplices and allies to make plans to take action against the state and capital, calling on the lessons of the #ShutDownCanada movement of last winter.

In solidarity with the land defenders of 1492 Land Back Lane! Fuck Canada, fuck the OPP!

-anarchists

Another Word for Settle: A Response to Rattachements and Inhabit

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Feb 152021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Black and white PDF for printing (imposed)
Colour PDF for reading

It was winter 2020 and in the aftermath of the most inspiring anti-colonial uprising of my lifetime, I read Rattachements[1] (Re-attachments in English) and Inhabit[2]. The trains had started up again across the country, and COVID-19 was starting to reorder our lives mere weeks after we had been doing our small part to help shut down Canada. In and around Tio’tia:ke (Montreal) where I live, there were many Indigenous-led initiatives, including solidarity rounddances that blocked traffic downtown, and of course the month-long blockade of the railway tracks that run through Kahnawá:ke. On and around the island, the engagement of settlers in #ShutDownCanada took a number of forms including clandestine sabotage of rail infrastructure, demos and vandalism of RCMP property, and multiple rail blockades, one of which lasted a few days.

Coming down off of these events, it was especially jarring to read the proposals in Inhabit and Rattachements. Both texts are representations of political thought coming out of communities in the US and Quebec that are heavily influenced by the writings of the Invisible Committee in France and European Autonomist movements. This political tendency is sometimes labelled tiqqunist, appelist, or autonomist. It is a political orientation that has a significant amount of sway among a segment of those who were engaged in the settler-initiated[3] portions of the organizing in Montreal last winter, and these two texts seem to be important reference points for these people. Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 stifled what could have been an opportunity for deeper analysis of some of the political differences between those of us who organized together that winter. I would like to clarify my disagreement with the anti-colonial strategy, or lack thereof, put forth by Inhabit and Rattachements. I hope that in future broad coalitional moments of solidarity like last winter, we might be able to better understand where our potential for collaboration could break down. I also hope that critical engagement with the analysis proposed by these texts will limit the extent to which it influences the contours of settler-initiated anti-colonial solidarity in years to come.

Rattachements

Taking issue with dominant currents of environmentalist action (on the one hand activists who ask the government to take action to save the environment, and on the other individuals changing their consumption practices to do the same) the writers of Rattachements propose a new approach to dealing with the ecological crisis and colonial capitalism. This new approach is one of building an “ecology of presence” through the construction of communes[4]. The writers see the project of reconnecting to that which “has been torn from them” as both material and spiritual. They wish to truly inhabit land from which to attack the machinery of capitalism while also building new forms of life there. Foundational to their understanding of the problem is an assertion that they did not choose to be thrown into a world bent on its own destruction, a world structured by colonial capitalism[5], wherein their “affects are captured” and their connection to the land has been severed.

The writers forward that “[d]efending the land necessarily means learning to inhabit it, truly inhabiting it necessitates defending it.” In doing so they assert that their reconnection to the land is a precursor and integral part of anti-colonial struggle. An “ecology of presence,” they write, can be found in the connections between Indigenous peoples and their territories, including the Zapatistas’ resistance against the Mexican government and the material and territorial autonomy of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka. However, the writers are rejecting an analysis of social position from jump. They appear to not think that the position of subjects within systems of domination is relevant to their analysis or strategies of resistance to those systems. But the writers are nonetheless settlers speaking to (mostly) other settlers. The abstraction they employ is thus dangerous, as they go on to say that “it is when communities affirm that they themselves are part of the territory, of this forest, of this river, of this piece of the neighbourhood, and that they are ready to fight, that the political possibility of ecology appears clearly”. This statement can easily be seen as a call for settlers to understand themselves as belonging to the land in order to defend it, or at the very least, on a level playing field with Indigenous people when it comes to assertions of what the future of land in this place should resemble. Whether or not this is the intention, this opens the door to settler self-indigenization being understood as a decolonial strategy. In a settler colonial society like Quebec or Canada, the state exists in large part to secure settler access to land, and Indigenous people are always threats to that access. This is both the history and present of all settler societies. We need not look far to find examples where settlers relating to the land in a way that resembles Rattachements’ “ecology of presence” has already been put into practice effectively against Indigenous people.

Take, for example, the story of the white hunters in Mi’kma’ki (the Chic Choc Mountains in Gaspésie, specifically) who in 2004 had already grown frustrated about the incursion of logging in the area and who, having hunted on the land for quite some time and feeling rather connected to (even “of”) the territory, were faced with a new threat: the establishment of a “Mi’kmaq-controlled area which would offer outdoor activities for a fee” (a “pourvoirie”). This new project threatened their ability to hunt for free. In response to this, while meeting in a “communal tent” on the territory, the white hunters concocted a plan to identify as Indigenous in order to help add legitimacy to their claims of connection to the land. They founded an organization which would come to be named the Metis Nation of the Rising Sun, and successfully prevented the establishment of the pourvoirie. This story is not an outlier in our area, rather merely one example of a widespread phenomenon wherein settlers, feeling very attached to the land they are living on (and maybe even having some communal inclinations) feel moved to defend their control of it from threats that include Indigenous people who have their own pre-existing claims and relations to the same land. Often, this involves claiming an Indigenous identity, but it need not necessarily. What continues to be crucial for the advancement of settlement is the ongoing procurement of land by settlers and the entrenchment of the idea that this is our land, whether the possession is property based (I have the deed and so this is mine) or spiritual (I know the land, I feel connected to the land, and so I belong here).

Looking to other settler colonial contexts, we can see more examples of the risks of communal settlement undertaken with radical political aims. The Kibbutz movement in Palestine, for example, is a story of self-organized communes set up from the early 1900s onward, beginning with the second wave of Jewish settlers fleeing pogroms from Eastern Europe. The settlers of the first Kibbutz had anarchist ideals of egalitarianism, rejected the “exploitative socio-economic structure[6]” of the farms established by the first wave of settlement, and hoped to undermine the developing capitalist economy with their communes. They sought to establish “a cooperative community without exploiters or exploited[7]“, and did so in 1910 after gaining access to land “which had recently been bought by the Palestine Land Development Company from the Jewish National Fund.[8]” This first farm was such a success that “before long, kvutzot were being set up wherever land could be bought.[9]” These communes, while viewing themselves as a viable alternative and considerable threat to the capitalist mode of production, were also serving the Zionist settlement of Palestine. Today they are commonly understood as an important part of Israel’s national story, and approximately 270 settlements still exist (despite their internal organization and anarchist character having shifted significantly) in occupied territory. It is clear that while the anarchist and anti-capitalist ideals of such projects may be inspiring, the settler colonial context calls for attention to the impacts of settlement on Indigenous peoples, not merely the ideals or internal politics of communes[10].

Land Back vs. Back to the land

Rattachements emerges from and endorses an understanding that settlers too have been dispossessed – of connection to land, of spirituality and knowledge. It leans hard on this claim to try to get other settlers to feel moved to action. The zine, written within and circulating among social circles dominated by white settlers with varying radical politics, posits that a solution to the ecological crisis lies in these (again, primarily settler) milieus’ ability to create communes. These communes will then be able to establish material and political autonomy by rendering spaces (land, wastelands, buildings, churches, houses and parks) “liveable”[11]. In other words, they propose to settle and squat, communally, the land, whether it has already been built on by other settlers or not, asserting that this is a strategic necessity rather than merely a lifestyle choice.

I too believe that capitalism is a system which alienates us from each other and the living beings we depend upon. And yet I believe that we must be more specific: colonial capitalism has created a country wherein, by and large, settlers own land, and have the resources and relative freedom to build a variety of relationships with it. This comes at the expense of Indigenous peoples, who have been dispossessed of their land, and the languages, cultures, and spiritualities that emerge from and inform their relationships with that land. Rattachements suggests that a crucial part of the anti-capitalist/anti-colonial ecological struggle is shifting settlers’ affective and spiritual relationships with the land in a context where our material relationship with the land – one of ownership of that which has been stolen — remains unchanged and fundamentally colonial. A group of settlers buying a communal house together outside the city as part of a strategy of revolutionary ecology has little to nothing in common with Indigenous peoples reoccupying their traditional territories. The latter is a direct disruption of colonial development projects and environmental destruction and is recognizable as part of a lineage of Indigenous resistance to displacement and genocide.[12] The former misrecognizes itself as somehow sharing something with that lineage, when in fact it is possible because of, and shares much more with, generations of encroachment and expansion by settlers.

Absent from the program of ecological struggle proposed by Rattachements is an explicit call for the return of land to Indigenous communities. Instead, they call implicitly for an increased presence of their (settler) milieus on that land, in part in order to potentially support Indigenous struggles. Despite the acknowledgment that land has been stolen (and the lauding of Indigenous relationships to land as ones to look to as examples for the readers of the zine) what is missing is the proposition that “Land Back” in the literal, material sense, is an important piece of the ecological struggle, and one to prioritize leaps and bounds above settlers going back to the land. In the Land Back Red Paper released in 2019 by the Yellowhead Institute, the writers tell us that “the matter of Land Back is not merely a matter of justice, rights or ‘reconciliation’; Indigenous jurisdiction can indeed help mitigate the loss of biodiversity and climate crisis. […] Long-term stewardship of the land allows for constant reassessment, planning, and adaptation.” This leads to an efficacy of protection of biodiversity and hope against climate change thanks to the culturally specific world views passed intergenerationally through a presence with and in defense of the land.[13]

It must not be seen as a necessary precondition for decolonization that settlers develop relationships (spiritual or affective) with land that we occupy. Settlers deciding to prioritize building these new relationships with the land does not bring us closer to decolonization. Focusing on settlers’ spiritual or affective relationships to the land as an important part of anti-colonial struggles sidetracks and warps our ability to focus on the much more central problems of settler colonial Canada. The dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ lands is a partial but crucial piece of struggling against settler colonialism and climate change. Regardless of the politics of the settlers, our relationships with land are most often built through a tactic of land ownership, due to the relative ease of access to the financial means or social connections that allow for this. I am thinking, for example, about the many collective land projects that have been initiated by radical settlers in so-called Quebec, which all involve owning the land. To think of building a land-based spirituality on a foundation of land ownership does not make sense, these relationships would be colonial, not revolutionary. In other words, the relationship between settlers and land must change primarily on a material basis, not a spiritual or affective one. Indigenous peoples have articulated that “Land Back” will give them the power to rebuild knowledge, languages, culture, and autonomy. This is the substance of decolonization; it is crucial that Indigenous peoples be free to develop and regain their relationships with the land rather than settlers taking it upon ourselves to do it in their stead.

On Inhabit and settler territorial autonomy

In Inhabit, a text coming out of appelist/tiqqunist/autonomist networks in the so-called US, the desire for territory is expanded.The goal articulated in Inhabit is the extension and multiplication of the isolated communes of Rattachements. Yet unlike Rattachements, whose authors claim to be committed to their own understanding of an anti-colonial politics, Inhabit does not articulate an anti-colonial politic at all. This is not necessarily surprising, as anti-colonial politics seem to be less present in settler radical milieus in the US than in Canada, but it still matters.[14] “Our goal”, they say, “is to establish autonomous territories—expanding ungovernable zones that run from sea to shining sea. Faultlines crossing North America leading us to providence.” Like the westward expansionists of yore, the writers of Inhabit posit a better way to use the land and suggest that pockets not yet taken up in service for their revolution be transformed in their image. In other words, one can read the writers of Inhabit as promoting their vision of Manifest Destiny: the expansion of land use in their vision, faultlines moving unimpeded across a vast and unclaimed North America. Perhaps following the paths of the railroads that came before?

Inhabit’s authors seem unable or unwilling to engage with settler colonialism. With the exception of the mention of incidental interaction between settlers and Indigenous families in contexts where they are already comrades, race and colonialism are invisible in their text. The authors’ unwillingness to engage with the larger collectivities of Indigenous life and their settler colonial context betrays their colonial understanding of the land itself. In proposing territorial expansion without concern for the claims to land that cover this continent already[15], Inhabit calls to its readers with imagery of the settler state national project – from sea to shining sea: “Build the infrastructure necessary to subtract territory from the economy,” they urge. But the land has never been just territory, and settlers occupying it has more often looked like removing Indigenous peoples than subtracting it from the economy. One need only look to the southern US to see how, for example, white people squatting “vacant” land was an intended consequence of the process of allotting Indigenous people land far from their communities. The US banked on the fact that these communities would be unable to prevent squatters from setting in and taking possession. “Rent a space in the neighborhood. Build a structure in the forest. Take over an abandoned building or a vacant piece of land.” Inhabit repurposes thought and strategies from contexts highly unlike their own (squatters movements in europe, for example) and tries to implement supposedly liberatory strategies for “inhabiting” space that merely further entrench settler access to and control of land.

The flight from identity

In an October 2020 report-back called Chasse à la chasse[16] (translated as Hunting the Hunt in the English version published by Inhabit’s “Territories” newsletter), the writers (based in Quebec) give an account of their time spent supporting Anishnabe communities fighting for a moratorium on moose hunting in their territory. They conclude their summary of the situation with the following reflection: “It would be an illusion confining one to weakness to think that we cannot be and appear other than as illegitimate settlers, regardless of ‘how’ we intend to inhabit what is left of the world.”[17]

It is surprising to me that one of the most pressing takeaways from organizing in solidarity with an Indigenous community would be the possible escape from settler “identity” it uncovers. It seems to me that the fear of being seen as an “illegitimate settler” is what motivates some of their rejection of social position and in turn undermines their analysis. I don’t intend to say that the authors have nothing to contribute to anti-colonial struggle because they are settlers. Rather, I disagree with the importance being placed on not being perceived as settlers, instead of on evaluating what is the most effective contribution they could make to anti-colonial struggle. Their position as settlers in a settler society is necessarily going to be an important piece of this evaluation. This rejection of social position is visible in Inhabit in so far as race and colonialism are made invisible. In Rattachements, it is only visible as a thing from which the writers flee. “Ecstasy: bliss provoked by an exit, a departure from what has been produced as our ‘self’, our ‘social position,’ our ‘identity.’” In a hurry to reject identity politics, and in conflating “identity” with an attention to social position, the writers remove the lens that would allow them to analyze our context more fully and accurately. In doing so, they doom themselves to a flat and limited approach that says that if it is strategic and possible for Indigenous people to build territorial autonomy, it must be just as strategic, possible, and subversive, for settlers to do the same.

The St. Lambert rail blockade was a multi-day action called by and mostly attended by settlers last winter in the context of #ShutDownCanada. It was an opportunity for a proactive and explicit explanation of why we as settlers thought it important to respond to the call for solidarity actions in the way we did, and an encouragement of other settler radical milieus to do the same. This could have been very valuable in a context where some settler supporters were hesitant to propose or participate in settler-initiated actions[18]. Unfortunately, this proactive communication approach was not taken for a variety of reasons, including lack of political cohesion amongst the people organizing the action. In the end, communication coming out of the camp opted for vague language about who was there and who was being spoken to and missed an opportunity to speak as settlers to other settlers about what we could do to intervene[19]. Obfuscating our position made it easier for the mainstream media to use the fact that we were not Indigenous as a “gotcha” moment which helped them attempt to turn public opinion against us without using overtly racist tropes. Our lack of clear analysis also left space for Premier Francois Legault to separate us from the other blockades because we did not explain how we saw ourselves in relation to them. Of course the cops knew all along the demographics of those in attendance and acted accordingly. There were no tactical advantages to this approach, and we lost the opportunity to put forth clear, decisive analysis as to why other settlers should take the risks we (and many Indigenous communities) were taking at that time to shut down Canada. I worry that an avoidance of addressing head on issues of social position and the role of settlers in anti-colonial struggle may lead us to make similar choices in the future.

Inhabit and Rattachements share a desire to produce affect in their readers which inspire them to see themselves as full of power and possibility. Toward this end, they encourage readers to reject guilt or sacrifice and to understand themselves as central protagonists in struggle. For Rattachements, this looks like encouraging their readers to see themselves as “neither victims” of “nor guilty” for the ecological crisis. This aversion to self-sacrifice, to being ready to give something up, means denying that settler colonialism and some other drivers of the crisis continue to benefit us. This is the preemptive evasion of potential guilt for being a settler – we must not understand ourselves as the subjects for which the genocidal removal of Indigenous people from their land is ongoing. The impulse is tied to a rejection of identity politics, and while I do not suggest to instead embrace a demobilizing guilt in the face of the past and present horrors, I think it is both a strategic and ethical imperative to refuse to ignore the conditions that produce this guilt. When we acknowledge the kinds of lives that settler colonialism continues to produce for settlers and try to find the causes for the clear disparity, we equip ourselves with the knowledge of our context necessary to change it in effective ways. When we flee the feelings produced by this disparity by rejecting a label, we may come to believe we can think or magic our way out of real structures. It is the conditions that need to be fought, not the emotions they produce.

Where do we go from here

The authors of Inhabit and Rattachements might think that rejecting, on the basis of demographics, their respective strategies of territorial autonomy or of building material autonomy in communes on the land is essentially a refusal to build power—a concession to the demobilizing effects of ally politics. On the contrary, I think this rejection is both an ethical and a strategic choice, from which we must necessarily develop a stronger and more anti-colonial revolutionary strategy. It does not weaken our movements to turn away from building territorial autonomy for primarily settler communities if what we turn towards is a greater focus on the continued rebuilding of territorial autonomy for Indigenous peoples we seek to be in struggle with. What is required is to not see settlers as the central subject of revolutionary anti-colonial struggle, and to recognize that the positions from which we struggle differ and thus the paths we take must also differ. Any serious analysis of Canadian settler colonialism will see the hundreds of years of Indigenous struggle against capitalism and the state as relevant and in many ways determinant of the chances of these communities’ potential success at building territorial autonomy. This same analysis will note the difference between this history of struggle and that of radical settler movements in so-called Canada.

If we talk about territorial autonomy in a serious sense, we will know it is far more than “a network of hubs” we’ve rented, squatted, or built in the forest, or a constellation of communal houses in the country. Territorial autonomy, if seen as a strategy for the destruction of capitalism and the state, includes the long term work of developing zones where cops cannot go, where the means to sustain and reproduce those who live there can be found, where a large group of committed and connected people of all ages has the means and the need to defend that territory, over generations. We can look to where this work has already been done for hundreds of years to see examples: Wet’suwet’en territory, Elsipogtog, Barriere Lake, Six Nations, Tyendinaga, Kahnawá:ke, and Kanehsatà:ke. This work has by and large not been done for hundreds of years by non-Indigenous communities – we are starting from zero, and thus even if prioritizing our own territorial autonomy seemed ethical, it would not be likely to be strategic because settler communities in a settler society have much less structural conflict with the colonial system. It does not make us weaker to prioritize the fight for the territorial autonomy of communities of which we are not a part. It makes us stronger, if by doing so we build relationships that contribute to revolutionary contexts in which the goals of settler revolutionary networks converge with those of anti-colonial Indigenous groups. Toward a stronger potential for joint struggle against the colonial state.

Our environmental politics must foreground material responses to the dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ land, for the sake of the planet and as part of a broader commitment to anti-colonial politics. It is dangerous to slip towards a “back to the land” politics, as Rattachements does, because these approaches and projects at best sidetrack us, and at worst set the stage for the development of twisted settler claims to Indigenous land. These kinds of claims will shatter the relationships we should seek with anti-colonial Indigenous allies, and risk strengthening settler reactionary tendencies that we should be fighting. If we see ourselves as aiming to engage in joint struggle with Indigenous communities against the colonial state, we will know that what makes our movements stronger is when our comrades are strong, and our relationships with them are strong.

If we focus on the material realities of settler colonialism and the real ways in which it continues to structure our lives, options, and resources, we can develop more effective strategies by asking what our differing social positions allow and disallow, and how we might put these differences to work for common goals. Mike Gouldhawke explains that “people think of settler as a personal identity but it’s more about a categorical relation between a social subject and settler states”[20]. As La Paperson says, the term settler (and native, and slave) describe “relations of power with respect to land. They sound like identities, but they are not identities per se.”[21] Instead of an attempt to flee these labels, we should put our time to better use and focus on changing the conditions producing those relations of power.

Social position as the sole lens of analysis for developing revolutionary strategy is of course insufficient. It matters deeply how people, no matter what their lives are like now, want the world to look like in the future. However, we need to be able to see and understand the different material realities of those around us in order to have any hope of those realities changing in the world we want to build together. Seeing these realities for what they are, and why they are, shows us that the relationships settlers build with the land are far less important than the ones we dismantle. It is clear that supporting the resurgence of Indigenous territorial autonomy needs to be a greater priority than building a territorial autonomy of our own. The question becomes how to build and sustain formations that can offer long term support and solidarity to Indigenous people struggling against the colonial state, and how best to cultivate a politics that will continue to respond to the shifting contexts, relationships, and terrain of that joint struggle toward self-determination and an end to capitalism, colonialism, and Canada.



[1] Rattachements is available in French here: https://contrepoints.media/fr/posts/rattachements-pour-une-ecologie-de-la-presence , and in English here: https://illwilleditions.com/re-attachments/

[2] Inhabit is available here: https://inhabit.global

[3] To be clear, for myself and many others, we saw ourselves as “initiating” specific actions in response to explicit calls for such activity, in response to changing contexts that we thought demanded it, and in at least the case of the rail blockades, very clearly directly inspired by already ongoing Indigenous initiatives. I use the phrase “settler-initiated” not to take credit for the events of what was very clearly an Indigenous-led movement, but rather to note that there is a real difference between those actions seen by supporters and adversaries as taken by Indigenous communities and those recognized as settler solidarity actions.

[4] It should be noted that the communes they describe are essentially nice places to live where people share meals and daily activities and talk to each other, and not necessarily communes on a scale where they would produce meaningful reorganizations of the economy or social reproduction. It is reasonable to assume that shift in scale is desired.

[5] Which they call colonial-modernity.

[6] Page 17 of A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement by James Horrox

[7] A Living Revolution 18

[8] A Living Revolution 18

[9] A Living Revolution 19

[10] Another example of this kind of communal settlement that I learned about during the writing of this text is the Finnish socialist settlement of Sointula, located on the territory of the ‘Namgis First Nation. The village was established in the early 1900s on so-called Malcolm Island in British Columbia.

[11] The English translation uses the word habitable rather than liveable.

[12] https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/100-years-of-land-struggle

[13] I do not wish here to forward a romanticized view of Indigenous peoples as never exploiting the land, as the Red Paper cautions against doing on page 60. Rather I wish to remind us that without Indigenous peoples’ ability to steward the land, the destruction of capitalism alone would still leave us without the intergenerational knowledge to care for it in effective ways. https://redpaper.yellowheadinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/red-paper-report-final.pdf

[14] Conversely, critiques of anti-blackness and slavery are often not well integrated into analysis coming out of settler radical networks here in Canada compared to in the US. This makes it even worse that Inhabit also makes no reference to this kind of critique or analysis either.

[15] By pre-existing claims, I am referring both to Indigenous claims to land as well as longstanding claims by groups such as the Republic of New Afrika.

https://newafrikan77.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/new-afrikans-and-native-nations-roots-of-the-new-afrikan-independence-movement-chokwe-lumumba/

[16] Available in French here: https://contrepoints.media/posts/chasse-a-la-chasse-recentes-mises-en-acte-de-la-souverainete-anishinabee , and in English here: https://territories.substack.com/p/hunting-the-hunt

[17] It is worth noting that the English and French versions differ somewhat significantly. Whether due to large errors of translation or intentional changes in anticipation of an Anglophone American readership, the closest sentence in the English version reads: “The question of how to inhabit concerns any living being in any given place.” This is a major difference.

[18] #ShutDownCanada was a massive, broad, and heterogeneous Indigenous-led movement. A large catalyst was the militarized RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en land defenders protecting their home from Coastal Gas Link pipeline construction last winter. In that context, a number of explicit calls for solidarity actions were put out including by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and specific camps on the land such as the Gidimt’en checkpoint. Despite these very clear and explicit calls to action, I think that some of the hesitancy of some sympathetic settlers to participate in settler-initiated solidarity actions came from a belief that all actions needed to either be Indigenous-led or explicitly endorsed or approved by an Indigenous person. I believe Indigenous critiques of the ways that settlers participate in anti-colonial organizing are important. I believe that it is crucial to consider how one’s actions might be perceived by or have consequences for Indigenous communities when planning solidarity actions. However, sacrificing basic security principles of “need to know” in order to obtain an Indigenous stamp of approval on a risky settler-initiated action seems like an especially egregious form of tokenism. That our organizing communities in Montreal are often majority or exclusively made up of settlers is something to be examined and addressed on a more foundational level rather than attempting to hide it by seeking an endorsement of our choices after the fact. I could be wrong, but my assumption from this winter was that some settlers sympathetic or supportive of #ShutDownCanada were worried about the risks of participating in solidarity actions and used the fact that some actions were settler initiated to avoid having to take risk and join the blockade. I think this is unfortunate and is something that must be changed in part by clearer anti-colonial analysis coming out of settler networks.

[19] Limited record exists of other speeches to the media, but this is one example. https://contrepoints.media/en/posts/declaration-du-blocage-de-saint-lambert-declaration-from-the-saint-lambert-blocade

[20] https://twitter.com/M_Gouldhawke/status/1345150065103388673

[21] https://manifold.umn.edu/read/a-third-university-is-possible/section/e33f977a-532b-4b87-b108-f106337d9e53

Thoughts? Email: anotherword@riseup.net

Support the Kanienkehaka Land Back Language Camp – Update and Call for Donations

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Feb 122021
 

From the Kanienkehaka Land Back Language Camp (Facebook)

January 26, 2021

As we approach our 6th month at Kanienkehaka Land Back Language Camp, we’ve hunkered down for the winter season.   

We continue to build our school house, and adjust our camp as the weather changes. The Salmon River has frozen over, allowing us to enjoy the ice and the easier access it gives us to the other side of the river.   

Our young people have been busy learning the Kaniehkehaka language, with our recent theme being about hunting, trapping and conducting ceremony.   

Soon we will be focusing on the ice and the activies, hobbies and survival skills that come with all of its teachings.

Recently we have had both the Surete Du Quebec and RCMP liasons reach out to the camp, asking for a sit down and inquiring on when we plan to leave. So far, no discussions or sit downs have been agreed upon with either agency.   

Nia:wen Kowa  to everyone who has donated to our GoFundMe, raised monies and/or continue to support our efforts at Kanienkehaka Land Back Language Camp.  

You can donate to our GoFundMe at https://gofund.me/919caf4f

Indigenous Elders and Land Defenders Sentenced to Jail for Resisting Trans Mountain Pipeline

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Feb 062021
 
The Kwekwecnewtxw (Watch House) monitors work carried out at the nearby Burnaby Terminal, part of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. Photo via Kwekwecnewtxw – Coast Salish Watch House/Facebook.

From Briarpatch Magazine

The handful of supporters in the sparsely-populated courtroom came there to bear witness and stand in solidarity with an Indigenous Elder who had just been tried for a second time and was now awaiting the verdict.

In December, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick found Jim Leyden guilty of criminal contempt of court for breaching an injunction originally brought by Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC (TMX) in March 2018. The injunction is the line that TMX has drawn in the sand, so as to stifle any meaningful resistance at the company’s worksites throughout the province – including TMX contractors and subcontractors – and all along the pipeline’s path.

It was Leyden’s second conviction, with more than 230 people found guilty of breaching the TMX injunction since 2018. Those in court to support Leyden on December 9, 2020, were unsurprised by the verdict, but they were nonetheless outraged. Leyden’s conviction represents a new strategy by TMX and the Crown that skirts established Crown policy on civil disobedience and ruthlessly targets Indigenous land defenders.

The injunction is the line that TMX has drawn in the sand, so as to stifle any meaningful resistance at the company’s worksites throughout the province.

Leyden, 68, was sentenced for his first conviction in October, along with his two Indigenous co-defendants – Stacy Gallagher, 58, and Tawahum Bige, 27 – all of whom were in ceremony at the time of their August 2018 arrests. Fitzpatrick all but ignored Leyden’s health conditions, which would normally mitigate his punishment, and sentenced him, along with Gallagher and Bige, to the Crown’s recommendation of 28 days in jail, one of the longest sentences imposed against land defenders for breaching the TMX injunction.

During COVID-19, these sentences amount to solitary confinement, much harsher than normal detention conditions. Leyden, who already suffers from pancreatitis and a heart condition, and has been in and out of hospitals since his 2018 arrest, spent much of the time between his release and his second trial in the hospital dealing with health and heart impacts from multiple spider bites he got while in jail at North Fraser Pretrial Centre.

Repressive precedents

On New Year’s Eve 2019, Leyden and Gallagher were served with notices from the Crown that they were being charged, yet again, with criminal contempt for apparent activity at TMX’s Burnaby Mountain facility (Burnaby Terminal) in November and December of that year. But no arrests had occurred at the scene, which left Leyden and Gallagher wondering why they were being charged.

After reviewing the disclosure, it became evident that Leyden and Gallagher were being targeted by TMX and the Crown. Affidavits and video footage taken by TMX security personnel identified Leyden and Gallagher near the gates of the Burnaby Terminal on December 2, 2019. Additional footage also showed Gallagher in the same general location on November 15 and December 18, 2019.

Notably, each video clip showed Leyden and Gallagher surrounded by several other, mostly white land defenders. But no one else was charged by the Crown.

It’s well known that Leyden and Gallagher are part of a group called the Mountain Protectors which, among other things, monitors TMX work carried out at the Burnaby Terminal. (I am also a member of the group.) The terminal is also known as the “tank farm,” because of the giant oil storage tanks spread out over the side of the mountain that can be seen from several kilometers away. With permission and direction from traditional Elders of the three host nations – Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam – Leyden, Gallagher, and others have engaged in ceremony and carried out monitoring activities from an Indigenous Watch House built in March 2018, which sits adjacent to the tank farm and is explicitly excluded from the TMX injunction despite its position atop the pipeline route.

Notably, each video clip showed Leyden and Gallagher surrounded by several other, mostly white land defenders. But no one else was charged by the Crown.

According to the website of Protect the Inlet, a Watch House (“Kwekwecnewtxw” or “a place to watch from” in the henqeminem language) is “grounded in the culture and spirituality of the Coast Salish Peoples” and is a “traditional structure they have used for tens of thousands of years to watch for enemies on their territories and protect their communities from danger.”

On the same day that Leyden was accused for a second time of violating the injunction, he and others were attempting to bring light to claims that TMX was improperly transporting contaminated soil from the tank farm to an industrial park in Port Coquitlam. The Mountain Protectors issued a press release a day earlier questioning whether the company was in violation of provincial contaminated soil regulations. Leyden can be seen in his disclosure footage talking to people Fitzpatrick referred to during his trial as “media types.”

On two of the three days in 2019 for which Leyden and Gallagher were charged with criminal contempt, law enforcement was not even present. At no time were they asked by RMCP to leave the area, as defined in a “five step process” laid out in the injunction, ostensibly to avoid unnecessary arrests. In fact, a Crown Counsel Policy Manual from 2014 on Civil Disobedience and Contempt of Related Court Orders puts emphasis on the need to give protesters a “clear demand to leave” the premises, referred to in legal parlance as a “dispersal order.”

Latest trials of Indigenous land defenders engaged in ceremony

Gallagher and Leyden were scheduled to be tried together in August, but due to concerns that Leyden might have COVID-19, his trial was postponed. Gallagher’s trial, however, began as planned and lasted eight days. During the trial, Fitzpatrick’s disrespect for defence counsel was palpable and she consistently deferred to the whims of the Crown. The defence explained how Gallagher follows the Anishinaabe ways of his mother’s ancestors, his grandmothers’ teachings, and the natural laws. Gallagher testified and explained that he serves the people as a fire keeper and Opwaagan/pipe carrier, and by upholding his spiritual and ceremonial responsibilities. Gallagher told the court he was engaged in ceremony on the days in question, and pointed out that he was not asked to leave.

Fitzpatrick was dismissive of and showed contempt for the basic facts of Indigenous history. Her unexamined stereotypes and uninformed attitudes toward Indigenous Peoples, cultures, and values were on full display. These were some of the points made in a 93-page complaint against Fitzpatrick submitted to the Canadian Judicial Council on December 3, questioning her ability to be fair and impartial in these cases (a summary of the report can be found here).

Gallagher told the court he was engaged in ceremony on the days in question, and pointed out that he was not asked to leave.

Needless to say, on November 13, Fitzpatrick found Gallagher guilty of all three contempt charges. Gallagher is scheduled to be sentenced on January 25, 2021, and the Crown is recommending he serve an additional 90 days in jail.

Leyden’s second trial began on December 7 and lasted three days. He, too, testified on his own behalf. Leyden explained to the court that he comes from Six Nations territory in Ontario, was apprehended during the ’60s Scoop, and was relocated outside of his home territory for adoption. After moving to Coast Salish territory, Leyden became an Elder, senior Sundancer, and the head firekeeper for Sundance chief Robert Nahanee. Most recently, he was asked to carry out the role of watchman as a Watch House Elder, keeping an eye on the work being done at TMX and reporting misconduct to government agencies and the public.

Leyden also pointed out that no one asked him to leave. In fact, when police showed up on the scene, they took part in the ceremony led by Leyden, during which police were videotaped holding hands with those gathered near the entrance to the Burnaby Terminal and passing the pipe during that part of the ceremony. Leyden and others left the scene soon after, and none the wiser.

Before finding Leyden guilty of criminal contempt, Fitzpatrick told him the injunction provides for an “absolute prohibition” and does not require police to ask him to leave. Fitzpatrick claimed that the RCMP’s five step process in the injunction is merely discretionary, and that Leyden’s opposing arguments “fly in the face” of the terms of the injunction.

In fact, when police showed up on the scene, they took part in the ceremony led by Leyden, during which police were videotaped holding hands with those gathered near the entrance to the Burnaby Terminal and passing the pipe during that part of the ceremony.

Never mind that RCMP officers were careful to adhere to each step of the five step process when they arrested more than 230 mostly white people for symbolic civil disobedience at the gates of TMX in the spring and summer of 2018. In some cases, police pleaded with land defenders to leave so they didn’t have to arrest them. One exception occurred on March 19, 2018, when RCMP officers violently attacked several Indigenous land defenders before arresting them.

Leyden is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2021, and the Crown is recommending he serve an additional 60 days in jail. “The Crown has made it clear that the increased severity of these sentences is meant to stifle resistance to the pipeline,” says Leyden. “They’re using us as an example to scare others from confronting Trans Mountain.”

Using injunction law to curb resistance and free expression

Injunctions have long been used in B.C. to stifle opposition to corporate and government agendas – limiting the effectiveness of striking workers, displacing homeless encampments, and suppressing resistance to harmful environmental projects like TMX and the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Under the guise that breaching a court order “depreciates the authority of the court” and brings us to the brink of a lawless society, the B.C. Supreme Court uses injunctions – one of its favorite legal tools – to legitimize the repression of political resistance. In B.C., when one violates the terms of an injunction, the offence falls under the arcane English common law, which is based largely on the discretion of judges, cannot be found in Canada’s Criminal Code, and relies only on past decisions.

Under the guise that breaching a court order “depreciates the authority of the court” and brings us to the brink of a lawless society, the B.C. Supreme Court uses injunctions – one of its favorite legal tools – to legitimize the repression of political resistance.

A breach of the TMX injunction can occur in three ways: (1) obstruction of an entrance to a TMX facility, including facilities of TMX contractors and subcontractors, (2) destroying signage or fencing around TMX sites, or (3) coming within five metres of TMX property. A glaring hypocrisy of the TMX injunction is that a frequently used public trail on the south side of the Burnaby Terminal winds its way directly through the 5-metre zone, but only when land defenders or protesters dare to get too close to TMX property does the company, the RCMP, and the Crown take notice. Former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck, who granted the 2018 TMX injunction, consistently denied that the order violated anyone’s Charter rights to free expression and repeatedly made reference to the injunction’s abstract claim that people “remain at liberty to engage in peaceful, lawful and safe protest” as he found defendant after defendant guilty of contempt.

The most recent verdicts from Fitzpatrick set a chilling precedent on how the Crown can handle these contempt cases, without even the presence of police or an order to disperse. Apparently, all it takes to be charged, brought into the B.C. Supreme Court, and forced to endure a near-certain conviction (only one acquittal has occurred from more than 230 prosecutions) is for TMX to videotape people near or on company property and then request to bring criminal contempt charges.

The most recent verdicts from Fitzpatrick set a chilling precedent on how the Crown can handle these contempt cases, without even the presence of police or an order to disperse.

In case it needs to be spelled out, the B.C. government – in the robes of Crown Counsel – is working at the behest of TMX. There is no veil hiding the relationship between the Court, the Crown, and corporations like Trans Mountain, whether they’re owned by Texas-based Kinder Morgan or the Canadian government.

As if that wasn’t sufficient to stifle TMX resistance, the Crown recommended – and Fitzpatrick gladly ordered – that Leyden and Gallagher be prohibited from coming within 500 metres of TMX facilities as a bail condition for their most recent charges. Setting aside unaddressed land rights issues and the federal government’s arrogant disregard of Indigenous opposition to the pipeline, how is a one-half kilometer “stay-away zone” not a violation of one’s Charter rights to free expression, whether one is Indigenous or a settler?

“The 500-metre stay away order has greatly impacted our ability to monitor Trans Mountain work sites so that we can hold them accountable,” says Leyden. “And I believe that was their intent.”

Reasons mount to abandon troubled TMX project

While Leyden, Gallagher, and Bige were serving their jail sentences in October, several people – including a Secwepemc Hereditary Chief and his daughter – were arrested for allegedly breaching the TMX injunction near Kamloops in Secwepemc territory. The company had begun drilling under the North Thompson River during the salmon run and people were rightly outraged.

Rather than genuinely address opposition to the pipeline expansion project, the ongoing arrests are attempts by the federal and provincial governments to prosecute and jail their way out of the problem. Eight of these land defenders will have their first appearance on contempt charges in the B.C. Supreme Court on January 20.

Ever since the Canadian government bought TMX from Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018, costs associated with building the pipeline have risen steadily to more than $12 billion while oil prices have fallen precipitously. The federal government has not only fought legal challenges from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and the Coldwater Indian Band in order to avoid meaningful consultation and having to seek widespread Indigenous approval; Canada is also driving at top speed in the opposite direction of meeting its commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The 500-metre stay away order has greatly impacted our ability to monitor Trans Mountain work sites so that we can hold them accountable,” says Leyden. “And I believe that was their intent.”

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is already an environmental and public health hazard with a long history of disastrous spills. As recently as June, 50 thousand gallons of crude oil spilled from a pump station located above an aquifer that supplies the Sumas First Nation with drinking water. The TMX project would impact numerous drinking water sources along the route and lead to a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet, threatening the endangered southern resident orcas. Because of the known seismic, fire, and chemical hazards associated with the tank farm, hundreds of thousands of residents in the “evacuation zone” will be put at grave risk, not to mention the tens of thousands of students and staff at Simon Fraser University and Burnaby Mountain Secondary School.

Even internal health and safety issues are plaguing the company. On December 15, a worker at the TMX Westridge Terminal in Burnaby was hospitalized after being seriously injured, causing TMX to suspend all construction operations in the Lower Mainland. The accident follows revelations that the Canada Energy Regulator recently found “systemic non-compliances” of COVID-19 mask rules at worksites across the Lower Mainland.

Irreparable harm?

Leyden and Gallagher are committed to appealing their convictions, but it’s unclear how far the RCMP, the Crown, and the courts are prepared to go in serving the interests of TMX.

“The treatment and experience of my client in the B.C. Supreme Court is a reflection of how much work there is still to do,” says Michelle Silongan of ST Law and the Law Union of B.C., who is representing Leyden in one of his appeals. “Reconciliation requires that the Canadian legal system affirm the laws, protocols, and traditions that Indigenous people have practiced here since time immemorial. Without recognizing and paying heed to the foremost obligations and responsibilities held by Indigenous defendants, both reconciliation and justice will remain elusive.”

“They’re using us as an example to scare others from confronting Trans Mountain.”

Antiquated colonial laws are being wielded like a stick over the heads of climate activists and Indigenous land defenders, with no clear end game. Will the Crown be able to continue targeting Indigenous land defenders with impunity? How far will the courts go to repress and punish those opposed to a pipeline expansion project that seems doomed to fail?

TMX relied on questionable evidence of “irreparable harm” in order to impose an injunction and attempt to shield itself from opposition, but the impact to Indigenous Peoples and settlers alike, and the certain environmental devastation for generations to come, is the harm we should be addressing.

“How Canada is targeting Indigenous resistance to TMX” by Kris Hermes, 19 January 2021

Day 200 – 1492 Land Back Lane Update from Skyler

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Feb 052021
 

From 1492 Land Back Lane (Twitter)

When Haudenosaunee Land Defenders are required to defy injunctions to protect our territories, we are arrested, charged, threatened and incarcerated.

It is a crime to fight for our lands, but we are still fighting. Land defense criminalization is meant to divide families, nations, and allies, in order to scare us into submission.

August 5th and October 22nd are days that loom heavy in everyone’s minds. Days where we were shot at, tasered and dragged from our lands. The resilience of so many is amazing. Theses are days in the last 200 that will not be forgotten.

The OPP have tried consistently to divide our community. To try to hinder the support in whatever way they can. You have all made it resoundingly clear that we will not play into their game any longer. This is Haudenosaunee Territory!!!

Looking back and seeing all that we’ve endured together. All the families and friends that have lifted us up in those moments. Remembering all the laughter and joy. The building of a community. The unity of nations. What a gift we’ve been given.

Roads, highways and railways that criss cross our lands will not be used to inflict more violence on our people. All of this colonial infrastructure that has been used to oppress us and exploit our lands.

We have an opportunity to move forward. But we have to do it together. All of the hurt that we’ve endured as nations. The trauma that has been inflicted on us. To give our children and grandchildren more then we had, we must stand united.

To my brothers and sisters. Folks that have given all of themselves for all of us. Risked life and limb, freedoms and careers. Given so much time and energy. People that have had to bare the weight of heavy bail and release conditions. We have so much love and gratitude for you.

There is nothing these courts and cops or racist politicians can do with their guns and jails to turn our backs on future generations. These lands are only borrowed from those generations to come. It is our obligation to hold these lands for them.

Gidimt’en Territory: Solidarity Is Inclusive – We Are One

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Jan 182021
 

From Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory (Facebook)

It has been almost one year since the call went out for peoples across so called canada for solidarity; to respect Wet’suwet’en laws and jurisdiction to our lands and to fight together against colonization, industrial genocide, and to stop CGL and RCMP from invading our yintah.

As we asserted full control over access to our yintah and brought industry to a halt, many others rose up with us. From large demonstrations to rail blockades to clandestine sabotages against the infrastructures of colonization, many nations, groups and people fought alongside us. These actions gave us strength in the face of the looming buildup of militarized police.

After the police raided four checkpoints on the yintah and stole dozens of people from our territories, Peoples across this land Shut Down Canada. From our allies in Mohawk and Haudenosaunee territory who occupied lands near rail tracks and highways in Tyendinaga, Six Nations, Kahnawake and Kanesatake and our Gitxsan neighbours and relatives, to Indigenous youth who occupied the ‘BC’ legislature to everyone in between and beyond who put their hearts and bodies on the line.

The movement grew for Indigenous Sovereignty from coast to coast. Still a fight for our lands, life-ways and the assertion of our law but also a dialogue between Indigenous nations acting in solidarity with each other. It acted as a turning point for many settlers to practice true reconciliation with the rightful owners of the lands they live on. A reconciliation that means: “Land Back” instead of empty dialogue with morally bankrupt governments.

Many of those who acted with us are still facing criminal and civil charges. Our Haudenosaunee and Mohawk allies are still being criminalized. Others in Hamilton still face charges as a result of solidarity actions there. Our Gitxsan relatives that took action are still facing charges. Recently two people in so-called Washington state were arrested on absurd, trumped-up charges of terrorism for allegedly acting in solidarity with us. We know there are likely many others who are being criminalized for supporting and respecting Indigenous sovereignty.

We see the charges for what they are: A desperate attempt by the colonial system to break the bonds of solidarity that were forged and renewed last winter. Scared of the backlash they would face from pursuing charges against our people and guests arrested on our own lands they doubled down on criminalizing and attacking our allies. They hoped to scare people into passivity and leave us, and all indigenous peoples, isolated from each other and from allies who would fight with us. They want to paint sovereignty and justified resistance as a crime. But they failed. We know the righteousness of Indigenous sovereignty and they will never break our solidarity.

We stand with our allies facing the weight of the colonial legal system and we demand that the colonial courts drop all charges!

Please support all land defenders!

Tyendinaga GoFundMe:
https://gofund.me/9d41a6b7

Six Nations GoFundMe and etransfer:
https://gofund.me/7ad24c0a
landback6nations@gmail.com

Hamilton GoFundMe:
https://ca.gofundme.com/f/hamiltonsolidarityfundraiser

For updates about criminal charges from the movement in solidarity with struggles on Wet’suwet’en territory, follow #BlockadeDefense on Twitter or check the Blockade Defense tag on North Shore