Category Archives: Protests and Resistance

Activism, Civil Disobedience and Direct Action

Kawartha Nishnawbe block reconstruction work on Burleigh Falls Dam

Burleigh Falls Dam is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, now a national historic site operated by Parks Canada. The dam was originally constructed in 1912. (Dean Wood)

Group says barricades are over lack of consultation by Parks Canada

Members from an Ontario First Nation continue to block access to a dam reconstruction site because they say they were not properly consulted by Parks Canada.

Nodin Webb, leader and spokesperson for Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation, said his community isn’t necessarily opposed to the work on the Burleigh Falls Dam, but Parks Canada should’ve involved them in the decision-making process.

Two barricades were erected last week that prevent access to the work site in Burleigh Falls, Ont., 130 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

“We’re out there defending the land until we can get confirmation from Parks Canada that there will be no further construction or demolition until they consult us, a procedure they are legally required to do,” he said.

The Kawartha Nishnawbe have vowed not to move until Parks Canada properly consults with them about the reconstruction. (Submitted by Amber Seager)

The Kawartha Nishnawbe created a community near Burleigh Falls in the early 1900s with five families from nearby Curve Lake First Nation who had lost their Indian status through enfranchisement.

The dam, which was originally constructed in 1912, is a part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, and is now a national historic site operated by Parks Canada.

The Parks Canada website indicates the dam is being fully rebuilt and construction is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2024.

Indigenous Services Canada said in an email Kawartha Nishnawbe is not recognized as an Indian Act band.

The community’s lawyer, Christopher Reid disagrees and has been exchanging emails with Parks Canada and the federal government.

“They took away status from these people and forced them off reserves, forced them to establish a separate community on their own where they literally cleared the land, built their homes without any assistance and built their community.”

Public safety

David Britton, director of Ontario Waterways with Parks Canada, said in a statement Parks Canada has offered to meet with the Kawartha Nishnawbe on the Burleigh Falls Dam replacement project both in 2016 and more recently to understand their concerns regarding the potential impacts of the project.

Britton confirms Parks Canada has met with Curve Lake First Nation and other Williams Treaties First Nations on the first phase of the project and is working to develop fisheries monitoring and mitigation plans.

Zhaawnong Webb, Nodin Webb and Jack Hoggarth at the blockade near the Burleigh Falls Dam construction site. (Submitted by Amanda Seager)

He also explained that in its current condition, the dam poses a risk.

“A significant void at the base of the dam undermines the dam’s structural integrity, and is cause for concern regarding both public safety, and the protection of properties and species, including an important walleye fishery.”

Webb denied there have been any offers of consultation but in email correspondence provided to CBC by Reid, Parks Canada offered to meet and share its plans with the Kawartha Nishnawbe in three separate messages.

Reid indicated the level of consultation offered by Britton and Parks Canada is different than that received by Curve Lake First Nation.

He said in a statement, “offering to meet is not nearly the same thing as engaging in the kind of consultations which are legally required and which they held with communities which have much less connection to Burleigh Falls than Kawartha Nishnawbe.”

Emily Whetung, chief of Curve Lake, wrote in a statement, “We recognize that the complicated history of the Kawartha Nishinawbe, their relationship to the land at Burleigh Falls, and their assertion with the federal government, and we respect that they have an independent perspective.

“However, the Burleigh Dam is located within the recognized pre-Confederation and Williams Treaties Territory, and we feel a responsibility to protect the environment and species in the area as the reconstruction project moves forward.”

By: Sean Vanderklis, Rhiannon Johnson · CBC News · Posted: Jan 21, 2021.


Indigenous-led protests, blockades grabbed Canada’s attention in 2020

Escalating confrontation in name of reconciliation

Emily Amos, a member of Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, sings during a protest held in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia at Portage Avenue and Dominion Street in front of RCMP ‘D’ Division Headquarters in Winnipeg on Feb. 24. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

By: Dylan Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press

Harrison Powder recalls the look of hate in a truck driver’s eyes as the tractor-trailer lurched towards a group of Indigenous protesters south of Morris.

In February, protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en pipeline opposition in B.C. were strangling Canada’s key supply routes, with demonstrators across the country blockading railways and main roads.

On Highway 75, two protesters holding flags stood in the middle of the road. An approaching semi-truck slowed down, but then swerved around the pair, gaining speed as it briefly pointed towards a group of elders and children.

“(The driver) was mad; he was swearing at us. There was this underlying tone of racism,” said Powder.

He jumped out from the group, standing squarely in front of the truck’s right tire. He jumped back in the nick of time.

“If I had slipped on ice, he would have ran right over me.”

This past winter, long-simmering grievances about broken treaty promises had boiled over. Protesters occupied Winnipeg MP Dan Vandal’s constituency office for 11 days, while railway blockades from Headingley to Halifax united under the hashtag #ShutDownCanada.

The disruption caused Quebec hospitals to start rationing propane and put the minority Liberal government on the back foot, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelling at the last minute a meticulously planned diplomatic trip to the Caribbean.

The pressure mounted right up until COVID-19 suddenly dominated the public’s attention in March.

The protests continued during the pandemic.

At the site of the Keeyask generating station megaproject, four Cree bands are nominally partners with Manitoba Hydro. They felt compelled to blockade the site’s access roads in May, as they felt the Crown corporation’s pandemic protocols did not address safety concerns.

This fall, Mi’kmaq fishers asserting their right to harvest lobster faced angry mobs and suspected arson in Nova Scotia.

“We’re not out there because we want to; we’re forced to be out there,” said Powder. “It’s the only time people pay attention.”

Indigenous rights protests aren’t new; many Canadians recall tense moments and tragedies during the Ipperwash and Oka crises.

Yet, the blockades and protests seem to be taking on an increased appeal. Indigenous people are younger than the general population, and they’re demanding Canada stop contributing to climate change, which threatens their traditions and connection with the land.

“We’re really understanding the true loss that we will have if we don’t fight,” said Victoria Redsun, a Winnipeg activist who was arrested in February at the epicentre of the Wet’suwet’en protest in northern British Columbia.

That dispute surrounds a court injunction to allow construction of a natural-gas pipeline. Bands elected under the colonial Indian Act supported the project, but it was opposed by clans with a hereditary leadership system that dates to before colonization.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files A group of protesters supporting the Wet’suwet’en perform a sit in along with other allies at Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dan Vandal’s office on Feb. 4. Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files.

It thrust questions about who speaks for Indigenous people out of stuffy legal precedents and onto the streets of Canadian cities.

“It’s going to continue escalating,” Redsun said in a call this month from Wet’suwet’en territory. Those braving the harsh winter want sustainability to trump resource extraction and profits for industry.

“What we’re asking for means their complete disruption, and the complete dismantling of the systems that be.”

Redsun, 21, grew up at in Manitoba’s far North at Northlands Denesuline First Nation. She visited the community this summer, and felt troubled to hear of lakes freezing late, and unpredictable caribou harvests.

“Even though I’m so far out from any civilization, I’m still going to be affected by capitalism and colonialism, which are creating global warming,” she said.

Redsun is buoyed by images of large protests that show Canadians of all origins rallying for societal change. Many of those came out for the 2019 climate marches appeared at Indigenous rights rallies last winter, and protests for racial justice this summer.

“I think for the first time in history we’re going to see real change.”

For that to happen, Powder says governments need to uphold the treaties that pledged equity and co-operation.

“These were words of promise, from your nation to our nation. And we want those promises kept,” he said. “If those things were done, Indigenous resistance movements wouldn’t be necessary.”

Yet, Canadian governments are on a collision course on how best to avoid disruptive protests.

Last month, the Manitoba government led by Premier Brian Pallister reissued a spring notice that it intends to pass a bill to ban blocking critical infrastructure, such as railways and dams.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau government is proceeding with another attempt to get the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrined in Canadian law, which will require Indigenous consent for major projects and pipelines.

Vandal, the federal minister of northern affairs, had his St. Boniface constituency office occupied in February, which he says feels like a lifetime ago.

He feels the Liberals have made real progress by including Indigenous leaders in legislation meant to restore their autonomy, and putting up millions to start bridging decades-old gaps.

“There’s so much work to do because past governments, including some Liberal governments, have not invested what they should have, in partnership with Indigenous nations. So the gap is so large that it’s going to take decades to catch up,” Vandal said.

“Reconciliation is a process; there’s going to be no end point.”

That progress isn’t moving fast enough for Powder, but he says it’s a better approach than ignoring Indigenous people’s concerns and then arresting them for blocking a road.

“We’re not here to invade your territories or take anything from you; we’re on the receiving end of that,” he said.

“We’re pretty forgiving. We all want reconciliation in some form. But the only way to get there is to understand that we have rights, as the first peoples of this land.”

Winnipeg Free Press, Posted: 12/31/2020.


No reconciliation without land: Six Nations fight for truth for 200 years

Six Nations members set up barricades in the town of Caledonia, Ont. in a dispute over land that has been going on for 200 years. (Naheed Mustafa/CBC)

‘The truth is we have a long way to go,’ says Anishnaabe writer who advocates for a re-education project

Six Nations of the Grand River in southwest Ontario is the largest most populous reserve in Canada. They have been stuck in a land dispute for 200 years — one that continues to this day.

At the heart of the current dispute is a housing development in the town of Caledonia called Mackenzie Meadows. The developer says it bought the land legally from Haldimand County. But members of Six Nations say it was never the county’s to sell in the first place.

In July of 2020, members of Six Nations took over the development’s construction site and renamed it 1492 Land Back Lane. Since then, people from Six Nations, along with supporters, have erected a series of tiny homes and tents on the housing site and are living there. For at least one man, it’s the first time he’s ever had a place of his own.

Eight new tiny homes have been built on Six Nations of the Grand River to provide affordable housing to its members. (Six Nations of the Grand River)

Courtney Skye is a research fellow at the Yellowhead Institute at Ryerson University and a member of Six Nations. She’s also part of the effort at 1492 Land Back Lane. Skye says the Mackenzie Meadows issue dates back to the late 1800s when a squatter settled on Haudenosaunee land. He stayed about five years, cleared some trees, and did some farming.

The man then sold the land, illegally, to a family for 500 £. That family farmed the land for the next several generations and, ultimately, sold it to a developer in 2003 for $4 million. The developer, Foxgate Development, now wants to put up more than 200 homes as part of a larger housing project.

The people of Six Nations reject that proposal.

The land is ‘part of who we are’

Skyler Williams is the spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane. He says the part that gets lost in all the technical details of the dispute and the legal back-and-forth is that for the Haudenosounee, this land is not just any land.

“That connection to the land for us is one that is part of who we are. Like this is part of our creation story. You know, that the Creator used this clay to build us,” Williams says.

Some Six Nations residents set up a blockade on Argyle Street in Caledonia after OPP officers enforced an injunction on demonstrators, Aug 5, 2020. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

“That connection to us is one that’s real, is something that you can feel. And certainly when you come onto these lands this is that feeling of liberation, that connectedness to the land, knowing what our people are willing to sacrifice in order to maintain that connection is something that’s magnetic and it’s part of who we are.”

When it comes to land claim disputes, the focus of media coverage and legal wrangling is often on a specific piece of land at a particular time. But Skyler Williams says it’s about a much bigger question than just one housing development or one farmer.

He says land dispossession is about the larger systemic destruction — genocide — of Indigenous people. And that while there’s constant talk about reconciliation, there’s very little talk about land.

“Governments and police, the RCMP before the OPP, and the British before that, have committed these acts of genocide against our people for the last, 300 years, 400 years around here and continue to push that agenda to see us hemmed in at least, if not gone away. They completely like to see us left to overpopulate our area in a way that leaves us no choice but to cover those lands in concrete and pour asphalt in every spot of green that there is,” says Williams.

Skyler Williams is a member of Six Nations of the Grand River and a spokesperson for the 1492 Land Back Lane camp. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

“And so for us to be able to say, like, all we want is the time and space for our community, because that’s the thing is all of those governments and police agencies have done over the last, say, 150 years is trying to divide our community. We look for every crack possible to drive wedges and make sure that we were unable to come together.”

Williams says Haldimand (County) and colonies surrounding the Grand River have taken advantage of and created divisions that continue to harm people. He points to elected council, over-incarceration of Indigenous people, and the murdered, missing, Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) as examples of the way harm continues.

“And so when it comes to the dispossession of lands like this for us it’s something that is part of who we are. You know, it’s easy to look the other way when racism is something that is systemic, you know, something that’s built into the system. But when racism comes in the form of, you know, 100 OPP [officers] coming to arrest 12 people in a field singing Kumbaya by the fire, like this is what racism looks like in this country.”

Reconciliation is impossible without land

The question of the connection between truth and reconciliation and genocide is an ongoing one in Canada.

Indigenous people will point out that while there may have been some attempts to move forward by delving into the sordid history of residential schools or holding an inquiry into MMIWG, the key question around land and Indigenous nationhood remains very much on the table — and that while reconciliation may seem like an active project in Canada, Indigenous peoples often say it’s devoid of justice.

Justice is tightly wrapped up in the question of land — and without land, reconciliation is impossible.

Ryan McMahon is an Anishnaabe comedian and writer. He says maybe the problem is that Indigenous people and Canada have different ways of understanding the truth.

Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe comedian, writer and activist. He also hosts a podcast about the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous youth in the northwest Ontario city. (Jane Adams/Canadian Press)

“When you look at the word truth, in my language you say debwewin and when you pull that word apart, the word debwewin actually means to speak only to the extent of the life you have lived or the experiences you have through good spirit. And so that’s the truth,” McMahon says.

“What is Canada even talking about in terms of the truth? We continue to discover new truths through this moment we’re in that we’re calling reconciliation. You know, a couple of years ago, we discovered an electric chair at a residential school. In the same year, we discover food experiments at other schools in the prairies.”

McMahon points to truths that continue to be discovered. From The Sixties Scoop; to MMIWG; to Indigenous people “experiencing catastrophic levels of systemic racism inside of the healthcare system. These are all truths.”

The writer says he’s hesitant to use the word debwewin because he says it makes a promise that “we’ve had the truth and now reconciliation,  that we’re going somewhere good. That’s not true. I can’t say that in good faith.”

“And the fact that we throw a party when the federal government, the prime minister mentions decolonizing the government, we give out eagle feathers and buckskin beaded jackets to politicians that lie to our faces or continue to to give us the bare minimum under their legal and fiduciary responsibilities, that’s the truth.

“The truth is we have a long way to go.”

Meaningful re-education for the future

Ryan McMahon believes there is a very basic level of work that needs to be done.

Canadians are not educated in any meaningful way about the impact of colonialism on Indigenous people and how it’s still reflected in their daily lives. The only way Canadians can truly understand is to listen to what Indigenous people are saying.

“This re-education project in Canada is an emergency. And to me, we go further, faster by centering the voices that were most negatively impacted by the colonial project here in Canada, and that’s Indigenous voices,” he says.

“I’ve always contended this place is worth fighting for. It’s a beautiful place to live. The sunsets are incredible, the walleye is delicious, you can drink the water right out of the lake. And the people that live there are mostly good people. They’re just not informed.”

By: CBC Radio · Posted: Dec 29, 2020.


‘Strong Hearts to the Front!’: Indigenous Water Protectors Take Direct Action Against Minnesota Tar Sands Pipeline

Hundreds of Indigenous and allied people gathered on the shore of Gichi-gami (Lake Superior) on September 27, 2019 to protest the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/cc)

Published on Friday, December 04, 2020 by Common Dreams

Construction on the Enbridge Line 3 extension—which will transport up to 760,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil daily—began earlier this week, despite strong Native opposition.

by Brett Wilkins, staff writer

Indigenous water protectors on Friday blocked construction of Enbridge’s highly controversial Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota, on the same day that state regulators denied a request from two tribes to stop the Canadian company from proceeding with the project.

Water protectors blocked pipeline traffic and climbed and occupied trees as part of Friday’s action. Urging other Indigenous peoples and allies to “take a stand,” the Anishinaabe warriors at the action told other Native Americans that “your ancestors are here too.”

“Take a moment to speak to her, our Mother Earth is crying out for the warriors to rise again,” they said. “Strong hearts to the front!”

“Clean water and unpolluted land capable of providing sustenance is essential to our survival… [and] Line 3 poses an existential threat to our well-being.”
—Minnesota Chippewa Tribe

In a statement, Line 3 Media Collective said that the pipeline “violates the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples by endangering critical natural resources in the 1854, 1855, and 1867 treaty areas, where the Ojibwe have the right to hunt, fish, gather medicinal plants, harvest wild rice, and preserve sacred sites.”

“The state of Minnesota does not have the consent of many tribes that will be impacted by construction and spills,” the group added. “Last week, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the White Earth Band petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to pause its approval of Line 3 construction while challenges to the permits are considered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.”

On Friday, the MPUC voted 4-1 to reject the tribes’ request. According to the Washington Post, the commissioners said that further delays would hurt workers who had traveled to northern Minnesota. They also cited Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s designation of the project as “critical” during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) appealed directly to Walz:

Indian people have lived along the lakes, rivers, and streams of northern Minnesota since time immemorial. The people of the MCT have flourished in the area for centuries due to the careful conservation of our resources. Clean water and unpolluted land capable of providing sustenance is essential to our survival… [and] Line 3 poses an existential threat to our well-being.

The vote and the water protectors’ latest act of resistance come just two days after construction began on the $2.9 billion, 1,100-mile extension.

According to Indigenous-led environmental group Honor the Earth, the pipeline will have the daily capacity to transport 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil—known as the world’s dirtiest fuel—from Alberta, Canada to a port in Superior, Wisconsin. Stop Line 3 says the pipeline will run “through untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples.”

“We have the right to practice our treaty rights,” stressed Gitchigumi Scout member Taysha Martineau, one of the Indigenous leaders at the Friday action. “We ask you to bear witness and protect our right to do so.”

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Judge dismisses defamation claim by Dakota Access protester

Photo by Rob Wilson.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed part of a lawsuit by a New York City woman who was severely injured in an explosion while protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota four years ago.

In a 54-page ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor dismissed claims of defamation against law enforcement officials who made public statements blaming the woman for her own injury.

Sophia Wilansky, who was 21 at the time, suffered an arm injury in a violent November 2016 clash between protesters and police during the unsuccessful months-long protest in southern North Dakota against the pipeline.

Protesters allege the blast was caused by a concussion grenade thrown by officers, but law enforcement said it was caused by a propane canister that protesters rigged to explode.

Wilansky’s lawsuit filed two years ago also seeks millions of dollars for alleged excessive force, assault, negligence and emotional distress. Those parts of the lawsuit are still pending.

Traynor, who is based in Bismarck, sided with government attorneys who argued statements about news events released to the public by law officers as part of their official duties are entitled to immunity.

Government lawyers also argued that Wilansky’s father, Wayne, had given interviews to the news media giving her side of the story.

Attorneys for Sophia Wilansky did not immediately return telephone calls Monday.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners built the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline to move oil from the Dakotas through Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois, which it began doing in June 2017.

Thousands of opponents gathered in southern North Dakota in 2016 and early 2017, camping on federal land and often clashing with police. Hundreds were arrested over six months.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposed the pipeline over fears it would harm cultural sites and the tribe’s Missouri River water supply — claims rejected by the company and the state.

By James MacPherson, Associated Press.