Environment featured

Elizabeth Goodridge: Lethal force revelations nothing new for Indigenous activists in Mi’kma’ki and Labrador

RCMP snipers at the camp along Highway 134 in Kent County, New Brunswick

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Through access to notes, video, and audio the Guardian has uncovered directives regarding militarized RCMP enforcement of a court injunction filed by the proponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, in British Columbia. 

Commanders granted permission to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” as officers went onto ancestral Wet’suwet’en lands to dismantle the barricades. 

These same RCMP commanders told officers to arrest even the grandparents and children and argued that snipers use lethal force. There was an idea to have social services present to apprehend the children. 

While this information is shocking, it is hardly surprising. Violence and incarceration of Indigenous land and water protectors in defense of corporate interest is the de facto response to land defenders asserting indigenous sovereignty. 

Mere years ago we witnessed RCMP violence against Mi’kmaq land defenders in Kent County on behalf of a Texas fracking company. Before that federal fisheries  officers waged war on the Mi’kmaq fishermen of Burnt Church, and in 1981 Quebec Provincial Police raided the Mi’kmaq community of Restigouche to stop it from exercising its treaty rights to fish. 

Federal fishery officers ram a boat with Mi’kmaq fishers at Burnt Church

Earlier this year RCMP blocked journalists as they arrested Alton Gas water protectors. Meanwhile, in Labrador Inuk elders and other land protectors who were arrested, continue to raise awareness of the risk of methylmercury poisoning of the water and food chain around Muskrat Falls and deadly flooding if the dam built on quick clay gives way.

As the December 20th article in the Guardian states, “the Canadian state has thrown its national security apparatus behind oil and gas development – often directly at Indigenous people’s expense.”

Armed police and military intervention will likely increase as access to resources become scarce. If we fail to act now, more and more, the voices of Indigenous people will be erased.

After an examination of the documents and recordings discovered by the Guardian, we must hold people to account.

Canada fails to ratify UNDRIP and adopt the notion of free, prior, and informed consent.  And the courts enthusiastically rush to hand out injunctions against indigenous protectors who are exercising their rights to defend their land and livelihood. 

Recently a report by The Yellowhead Institute found that corporations succeeded in 76 percent of injunctions filed against First Nations, while First Nations were denied in 81 percent of injunctions against corporations. Similarly, First Nations were denied in 82 percent of injunctions filed against the government.

The Feds have stalled on actions to address the 231 recommendations of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This report called out Canada as a colonial system that continues an ongoing genocide against Indigenous peoples.

According to another report from the Yellowhead Institute, the federal government has completed only 9 out of the 94 recommendations for Truth and Reconciliation since 2015. 

The federal government, now into its second mandate, seems unwilling, or even outright opposed to find a way to peacefully negotiate land use matters as relates to Indigenous sovereignty and industrial projects. 

“The 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-51, sanctions the criminalization of Indigenous environmentalists by enhancing surveillance and legal powers against any potential interference with Canada’s “critical infrastructure” or “territorial integrity,” the Guardian article states.  

We fill the streets, imploring action on climate change. Yet we refuse to recognize environmental injustice when it comes to Indigenous nations and communities.

See also: Methylmercury and clean energy don’t mix. About the Ecology Action Centre and Muskrat Falls

We fail to call the bulldozing of unceded land, acts of environmental racism. We fail to name the man camps that we build around these developments, acts of genocide.

Do we continue to hand everything over to corporations to our detriment, that of Indigenous nations, and at the expense of our children?

See also: Op-ed: Environmental racism is violence

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  1. Its time that the government of this country are held accountable for the crimes they commet against first nations peoples and against our planet and allowing giant corporations to get away with what ever they want. The whole government needs to be fired and replaced with real people

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