Indigenous Mexicans spurn Presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers

Members of the Supreme Indigenous Council block the entry to their community to avoid the installation of polling stations for Mexico’s general election in the indigenous Purepecha town of Zirahuen. Reuters

NAHUATZEN, Mexico – Mexican voters will stream to the polls this Sunday in a pivotal presidential contest, but leaders representing tens of thousands of indigenous people have vowed to block voting in their communities to protest a system they say has failed them.

Polls say Mexico is on the verge of electing its first leftist anti-establishment president in modern history, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. But the prospect of change has failed to resonate with inhabitants of small towns nestled in the lush, wooded countryside of southwestern Michoacan state.

Residents here have destroyed campaign signs and set up blockades to prevent the government from delivering ballots. Election officials have declared 16 towns here “unviable,” and will not likely risk confrontation to force polling stations to open.

Among the no-go zones is the impoverished hamlet of Nahuatzen, where Purepecha indigenous locals grow avocados and eke out a living on tiny plots. On Thursday, several dozen men, some in cowboy hats, stood vigil near the town’s entrance. They had laid a tree trunk across the road to stop outsiders from entering.

“The politicians haven’t done anything besides enrich themselves and they’ve left us behind,” said Antonio Arriola, a member of a recently-created indigenous council that has petitioned the Mexican government for autonomy.

After word spread on Friday that local party bosses may try to deliver ballots in their personal cars, indigenous leaders said they would use bulldozers to dig a trench in the main road to strengthen their blockade, a tactic already employed in a nearby town.

Arriola and other local leaders grudgingly acknowledged some common ground with Lopez Obrador, the 64-year-old former Mexico City mayor who got his start in politics decades ago advocating for indigenous rights.

But Arriola said the Purepecha have learned the hard way not to pin their hopes on promises coming from politicians, even ones that purport to have their best interests in mind.

“Our roads, schools and health care have been in the gutter for more than 40 years,” he said.

Nahuatzen is part of a growing movement among Mexico’s indigenous communities, who are seeking self-rule and turning their backs on mainstream elections.

Dissent in Michoacan ignited seven years ago, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, when just one jurisdiction, the municipality of Cheran, opted out of voting. This year, the boycott spread to six additional municipalities affecting dozens of polling stations across the 16 towns, home to at least 50,000 voters.

Agitation has likewise spread to traditional Maya communities in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Guerrero.

Indigenous leaders in at least six towns and small cities in those states are also pledging to block balloting on Sunday. That could impact tens of thousands more voters.

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Residents block the access to their community to avoid the installation of polling stations for Mexico’s general election in the indigenous Purepecha town of Nahuatzen. Reuters

Electoral authorities may set up polling stations outside towns that have rejected them, allowing those who want to vote to do so, said Erika Barcenas, a lawyer based in Morelia, Michoacan’s capital, who advises communities that want more autonomy.

“But I think the view of the majority is a more global rejection, a rejection of political parties and of the kind of democracy we have right now,” she said.

The growing complaints of indigenous Mexicans appear to track a broader restlessness in the country, where widespread political corruption, drug violence and entrenched poverty have fueled discontent.

Support for democracy among Mexicans plummeted from slightly more than 70 percent in 2004 to just under half last year, according to data from the Latin America Public Opinion Project.

Never conquered

Resistance to far-away masters goes back centuries for the Purepecha of Michoacan. Known for their fierce independence and closely guarded metal-smelting skills before the Spanish conquest of 1521, they were one of the few kingdoms in central Mexico that Aztec armies never subdued, despite repeated attempts.

On a federal highway near the town of Zirahuen, about 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Nahuatzen, several hundred locals set up another blockade with a big yellow truck, cutting off transit in both directions.

Many in the crowd said they were determined to repel any attempt by election authorities to deliver ballots or set up polling stations.

As of Friday evening, authorities had made no such efforts.

Young indigenous men in baseball caps walked down long lines of idled vehicles, telling drivers if they wanted to pass they must remove any visible campaign advertising. In a couple of instances they peeled political party stickers from windshields.

But the cradle of Michoacan’s movement is Cheran, home to 18,000 mostly Purepecha residents. The municipality proudly displays it indigenous heritage on its police vehicles, where the town’s name is written in the indigenous language, rather than Spanish.

Anger over widespread illegal logging believed to be organized by drug gangs sparked the unrest in Cheran. Outraged residents expelled their mayor and the local police force, whom they accused of being complicit. In 2012, citizens began to set up a new governing council based on indigenous customs.

During mid-term elections in 2015, 11 polling stations in four more municipalities joined Cheran in blocking balloting.

Pedro Chavez, president of Cheran’s indigenous governing council, said he is pleased that the movement has expanded yet again during this presidential election year.

“We can be an inspiration for free self-determination and a lesson about the rights of native peoples,” said Chavez, speaking outside his nearly-completed traditional wood-plank home.

The rights of Mexico’s indigenous poor last commanded the nation’s attention just after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994 and the Zapatista National Liberation Army issued a “declaration of war” against the government.

A 12-day battle ensued, claiming at least 140 lives.

“Free determination (for indigenous communities) is something that’s now being discussed for the first time since the Zapatista revolt,” said Barcenas, the attorney.

Some election officials say a solution to rising resistance among indigenous communities lies in more local control over public finance.

“We think the crux of their struggle is the push for direct funding to address the marginalization these communities face,” said David Delgado, the national electoral institute’s delegate for Michoacan.

Marco Banos, an official with the national electoral institute, said Mexico needs to find ways to fuse indigenous customs with the country’s existing election laws in communities where resistance to voting is playing out.

Still, he said resistance to voting is not as widespread as activists assert.

But, in Arantepacua, another restive Michoacan community which is boycotting the election, Dionisio Lopez said he is finished casting ballots.

“It’s all one big mafia. We having nothing but pure corruption here in Mexico and it’s proven,” he said. “Why pretend otherwise?”

By Reuters

[SOURCE]

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Judge grants Trans Mountain injunction preventing blockades at terminals in Burnaby

(Source: Camp cloud at km surveillance post/Facebook)

A Supreme Court Justice has granted Trans Mountain an interim injunction aimed at preventing anti-pipeline activists from using blockades at two terminals in Burnaby, B.C.

The energy giant filed an injunction on Friday a day ahead of a public demonstration to protest its controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline project.

The Globe and Mail reports the company listed 15 individuals, along with John Doe, Jane Doe and “persons unnamed” in a notice of civil claim as part of its request to restrict protesters from coming within 50 metres of the facilities.

Justice Kenneth Affleck agreed with that condition and said the injunction will last until Wednesday, when a hearing on the matter will continue.

According to Metro News, the injunction is not meant to affect protest on public lands, but will apply to blockades of lands owned by Trans Mountain.

Protesters have repeatedly blocked access to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby to prevent workers from getting in and out of the site.

Protesters of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project block access to workers at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

A Kinder Morgan spokesperson said “Trans Mountain supports the right to peaceful and lawful expressions of opinions and understand not everyone agrees with the project.”

Since Trudeau’s approval, there has been opposition in British Columbia, where the pipeline is fiercely opposed by First Nations and environmentalists worried about oil spills.

Indigenous activists will be marching on Saturday alongside environmental groups, local residents and other supporters in Burnaby, against plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The expansion would increase the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil a day.

The City of Burnaby and the City of Vancouver have opposed the project.

BIV reports, the 15 protestors named in the injunction, and their aliases, are: David Mivasair, Bina Salimath, Mia Nissen, Corey Skinner (aka Cory Skinner), Uni Urchin (aka Jean Escueta), Arthur Brociner (aka Artur Brociner), Kari Perrin, Yvon Raoul, Earle Peach, Sandra Ang, Reuben Garbanzo (aka Robert Abbess) Gordon Cornwall, Thomas Chan, Laurel Dykstra and Rudi Leibik (aka Ruth Leibik).

The injunction will not stop the protest from going ahead.

The rally and march begins Saturday at 10:45 a.m. at the Lake City Way SkyTrain station in Burnaby.

Frustrated Families Vow to ‘Blockade’ Missing and Murdered Inquiry Hearings

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, right, comforts Shirley Gunner, as John Fox looks on during a news conference regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls national inquiry in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Father of murdered woman says inquiry is at a ‘crisis’ point

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017

Some family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are vowing to blockade meetings of the national inquiry to protest what they call a disastrous start.

“We are prepared to take blockades against this inquiry, if it goes through our communities we will be there, it doesn’t matter where,” John Fox told reporters Tuesday.

Fox said many families are “tired of the commissioners,” the people who are responsible for collecting testimony from families, and they are frustrated with the lack of familial support. Fox said calls to the 1-800 number are not returned and emails go unanswered by the bureaucrats staffing the inquiry’s office. He wants to ensure he can get on the list of speakers when the inquiry finally rolls through his town.

“What are we supposed to do? What other things can I do to get my name on there?” he asked.

Fox, the father of Cheyenne Marie Fox, a 20-year-old woman who died in Toronto in 2013, said the inquiry has unfairly placed the blame on families for cancelling scheduled meetings this summer rather than admit they were simply not prepared.

The inquiry has said it would go ahead with the first meeting in Whitehorse at the end of the month, but suspend others until the fall because many witnesses told them that they would be out on the land hunting, trapping and harvesting and would not have time to meet with commissioners. Fox said Tuesday that was nonsense.

“They took that little bit of information, somebody said it in passing, but now they paint all our families with that one big brush, but that’s not fair,” he said. “The harvesting and all of that other stuff, that’s always going to happen … we would be there.”

‘They can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.’– John Fox

Fox said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was able to hold pre-inquiry meetings throughout the country in a matter of months, but, nearly a year after the launch of the national inquiry, things remain largely at a standstill.

“Why can she pull off the pre-inquiry, and get all the statements in that short period of time? And this inquiry now … they don’t have an idea of what they’re going to do? All the money and expertise in front of them and they can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.”

(As of May 23, the inquiry has already spent roughly 10 per cent of its $53-million budget.)

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also voiced his frustrations Tuesday. Bellegarde said he has invited the five MMIWG commissioners to meet with family members on three different occasions but was rejected.

“Clear communication and outreach to family members are essential to rebuild trust and ensure the national inquiry is a success,” Bellegarde said, adding the process must take a “families first” approach, based on respect for survivors and their loved ones.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many families have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

She said while Marion Buller, the chief commissioner, admitted last week some mistakes had been made, more needs to be done to regain the trust of many family members. Elders are trying to speak in their Indigenous languages but are simply not understood by record keepers, she said, and there is little respect paid to sacred instruments like the drum, fire ceremonies and tobacco.

“We cannot have our sacred stories yet again shelved like every other report has been shelved. We’ve had many family members state that it is running very much like the Indian residential school process when they were meeting with adjudicators. It is like a court process. We’ve been very consistent since the beginning that it has to be Indigenous knowledge-based.”

Iahtail said the commission has also been tight-fisted with money to help families travel to inquiry meetings, and has been reluctant to provide legal services to those in need.

Buller said Friday she understands frustration from families, but chalked up problems to poor communications.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished.”

The commission has cycled through three directors of communications in 10 months, and has been plagued by complaints from family members about compressed timelines. The first interim report from the inquiry is due by November 2017.

[SOURCE]

Tsilhqot’in First Nation To Use Blockades If Needed To Protect Ancient Burial Site

Cecil Grinder, puts purification smoke over Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Tsilhqot'in Nation prior to the start of a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of six first nation chiefs being hung to death in Quesnel, B.C., on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Cecil Grinder, puts purification smoke over Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Tsilhqot’in Nation prior to the start of a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of six first nation chiefs being hung to death in Quesnel, B.C., on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

By The Canadian Press, July 18, 2016

VANCOUVER — Members of a British Columbia First Nation are remembering a warrior chief who was wrongfully hanged 151 years ago and say they won’t allow another injustice to be done to their ancestor.

The First Nation says a service was held Monday at the site of a high school in New Westminster, B.C., which was built atop a former cemetery where the remains of Tsilhqot’in war Chief Ahan may have been buried after he was executed on July 18, 1865.

Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in national government, said four of six chiefs attended the ceremony and that members smudged the grounds, made a tobacco offering and drummed songs to pay tribute to Ahan.

Alphonse said there are no records to indicate that the warrior’s remains were taken to the cemetery after originally being buried at a courthouse square in the city.

However, he said the First Nation will fight to preserve Ahan’s remains even if there is “a one-per cent chance” that they’re at the school site.

Construction to replace the run-down school built in 1949 is slated to begin next year elsewhere on the same property, and the Education Ministry said an archeologist will ensure that any artifacts are appropriately recorded.

Education Minister Mike Bernier has said the school was built “in the wrong place” and that constructing a new school will fix that problem.

Alphonse wants protocols in place about the proper handling of any bones that could be found and warned the First Nation would mount blockades or file a court challenge to stop construction if necessary.

“All we’ve ever asked for from the New Westminster School Board is, in the event that you run into some bones do the honourable thing. Do a DNA sample and let us know if that’s him. They refused to do that so we’re not going to run that risk. So we’ll shut it down. We’ll use every means we can.”

The board couldn’t be reached for comment, but says on its website that it plans to use non-intrusive means, such as ground penetrating radar, to find out more about the school property before soil investigations that are scheduled for next month.

“Those activities are important for proper project planning and respecting the heritage of the site,” it says.

Premier Christy Clark apologized nearly two years ago for the hanging of Ahan and five other chiefs in Quesnel in 1864 during a bloody dispute known as the Chilcotin War.

The chiefs were hanged after 19 people were killed in a dispute over the construction of a road through Tsilhqot’in territory. The government militia couldn’t capture the chiefs, but they were lured out of hiding when they received overtures to speak with the government.

They were arrested and tried for murder. The road was never built.

Clark also signed an agreement with the Tsilhqot’in to work together on social and economic initiatives.

Last June, the First Nation, whose members live in the Cariboo-Chilcoton plateau area west of Williams Lake, won a historic Supreme Court of Canada land rights case that gave them title to 1,700 square kilometres of land in the remote Nemiah Valley. The landmark ruling meant they became the first aboriginal band in Canada to win title to their territory.

The cemetery at the school site was also the final resting place for Chinese pioneers, and members of the Chinese community in New Westminster joined First Nations groups against the construction of a new school on the same spot.

[SOURCE]

First Nation Blockades Tofino-Area Salmon Farm

Cermaq owns the open-net salmon farm north of Tofino. | Cermaq Canada

Cermaq owns the open-net salmon farm north of Tofino. | Cermaq Canada.

By The Canadian Press, Posted: 09/10/2015

TOFINO, B.C. — Members of a Vancouver Island First Nation are vowing to risk arrest rather than allow an international fish farming company to anchor an open-net salmon farm north of Tofino.

Members of the Ahousaht First Nation say they set up a boat blockade Wednesday at the site of the new farm, owned by Norwegian-based Cermaq.

The Ahousaht say the company holds 17 salmon farm tenures in Clayoquot Sound and applied for two new tenures in the same area last year.

The First Nation believes the applications signal a new round of fish farm expansion on the West Coast, with the Ahousaht Fish Farm Committee predicting a four-fold increase in the industry over the next 15 years.

Protesters oppose any new fish farms in the area.

They fear possible diseases bred in fish within the open nets could be passed to clam beds or wild salmon travelling to and from nearby spawning rivers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/09/10/first-nations-blockade-halts-anchoring-of-tofino-area-salmon-farm_n_8118398.html

Grassroots callout to #SHUTDOWNCANADA for Missing, Murdered Women Inquiry

Photo: Facebook By Mike Roy ‎#ShutDownCanada

Photo: Facebook By Mike Roy ‎#ShutDownCanada

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

Two weeks before Canada’s premiers are expected to hold a national roundtable on murdered and missing aboriginal women in Ottawa, grassroots collectives are planning a nationwide day of action to Shutdown Canada in protest for an inquiry.

On Facebook the #ShutDownCanada event has been circulating and it’s gaining momentum. It is hosted by In Solidarity with all Land Defenders.

The Two Row Times recently caught up with Shannon Hecker one of the organizers of the February 13th nation wide day of action to #ShutDownCanada.

Shannon Hecker, of Mikmaq, Irish, German and French descent explains her reasons for being involved in ‘shutting down Canada’ on this day. “We have made the callout for grassroots across Canada to organize direct actions in unison so that we can show this government what we can do when we work together. There are over 2000 missing and murdered indigenous women which PM Harper has said “is not on their radar” due to economic reasons. Our message touches on a variety of issues but they truly all are related. People need to realize that our consumer economy is directly connected to the displacement of indigenous peoples which has extremely detrimental effects on their ability to survive as distinct peoples.”

From The Event Description:

Make no mistake that systemic racism and structural violence are connected to the needs of this illegal colonial state to maintain control of the land for exploitation. That is why we must call attention to these issues at the same time – the tars sands, the pipelines, fracking, mining, mega-dam projects and justice for #MMIW — it’s all connected.

CALLOUT for communities across Canada to blockade their local railway, port or highway on February 13th. Don’t buy, don’t fly, no work and keep the kids home from school. A diversity of tactics is highly recommended! Get everyone involved.

The goal is to significantly impact the Canadian economy for a day and demand there be an independent inquiry into the 2000+ cases of missing or murdered indigenous women. It’s Time to #ShutDownCanada.

Get together with your friends and family to start planning now.

Here are links for local events created so far.

Calgary
https://www.facebook.com/events/548709308599553/
Espanola:
https://www.facebook.com/events/838893082823510/
Edmonton:
https://www.facebook.com/events/547648822004640/
Fredericton
https://www.facebook.com/events/588076097991497/
Halifax:
https://www.facebook.com/events/354140614777162/
Hamilton:
https://www.facebook.com/events/650557521737315/
Kamloops:
https://www.facebook.com/events/755986344490782/
London:
https://www.facebook.com/events/394466750722241/
Moncton:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1543879242532790/
Montreal:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1536597193286480/
Oshawa:
https://www.facebook.com/events/557338124403380/
Ottawa:
https://www.facebook.com/events/417780078391409/
Regina:
https://www.facebook.com/events/318180288377480/
Saskatoon:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1528087757446461/
Toronto:
https://www.facebook.com/events/817191038344641
Vancouver:
https://www.facebook.com/events/830805010310866/
Winnipeg:
https://www.facebook.com/events/932226390123439/

#ShutDownCanada:

WHEN: February 13th, 2015 at 6am – 6pm

WHERE ACROSS CANADA:

Your local highway railway or port #‎blockadeseverywhere‬

CONTACT: Shannon Hecker:  shannon61184@gmail.com

Link to main event page #ShutDownCanada:

https://www.facebook.com/events/452509068236441/

Impasse Between First Nations And The Rest Of Canadians Could Lead To Insurgency

A Canadian solider and First Nations protester face off at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Que., in September 1990.

A Canadian solider and First Nations protester face off at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Que., in September 1990.

It may only have pocket-book dimensions and is relatively brief, but this fearsomel titled little book may be helpful in avoiding a catastrophic social upheaval.

According to its author, a former lieutenant-colonel with a 30-year military career in Canada’s Armed Forces and past chair of the defence studies program at Queens University, the book was intended to be “a fact-based essay… meant to serve as a barometer warning of stormy days.”

Minor editing oversights and unnecessary hyperbole detract from an otherwise lucid and scholarly examination of the racial impasse between Canada’s indigenous population — especially First Nations people — and mainstream society.

Using data obtained from Oxford-based economist Paul Collier’s analyses of civil wars and from Rand Corporation’s studies of dysfunctional societies, Bland effectively defends the book’s theme: “Let there be no doubt, avoiding a First Nations’ insurgency is an urgent national security necessity.”

Bland is also the author of Uprising (2010), an acclaimed fictional account of an aboriginal insurrection which some critics viewed as a how-to manual, calling it the most dangerous book in Canada.

Bland explains why the competing concepts of sovereignty and self-government must be integrated if Canada and the First Nations are to co-exist peacefully. He likens the relationship between these two participants to a failed marriage, calling them “an old, long divorced couple… resentful of each other,” and forced by unchangeable circumstances “to live together in the same house forever.”

Reconciliation is hampered by the 138-year-old Indian Act founded on “the idea of European racial superiority” and which still dictates governance on reserves.

Government policies, he states, are aimed at assimilating First Nations into Canadian culture, and are far removed from the 1763 Royal Proclamation’s three key concepts meant to have guided relations: recognition, respect and consent.

Instead, violence (and, in some cases, fatalities) has marked the dysfunctional union: Oka, Que., in 1990, Ipperwash and Caledonia in Ontario in 1995 and 2006 respectively, and the more recent clash over fracking in New Brunswick in 2013.

Bland wonders when radicals within the still-peaceful Idle No More movement will exploit Canada’s vulnerability to armed blockades of its national east-west roadway and the twin railways that bind the nation together, and shows how Canada’s transportation systems are easily assailable by a focused First Nations campaign.

While emphasizing that a full-blown insurrection is likely years away, he quotes Justice Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who also foresees an urgency in addressing past wrongdoings: “Canadian society must heal the damage caused by the Indian residential school system or deal with the violence that will undoubtedly be unleashed against it.”

Bland reminds readers that First Nations’ culture rests on a deep spiritual connection with nature — where land, and all its forests, lakes and rivers has no economic value and cannot be owned or traded by an individual.

Until mainstream society grasps this concept, the Third World conditions on reserves, disproportionate numbers of aboriginals in penal facilities, and dismal graduation rates will go on, as will calls for a national enquiry over missing and murdered indigenous women, which gained some traction following the horrendous fate of Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg last year.

Disunity within the Assembly of First Nations that led to the eventual resignation of its national chief, Shawn Atleo, is giving the rest of Canada much-needed time to address long-held grievances and prevent an imminent insurrection.

What Bland considers most worrisome is Canadians’ willingness to accept the current impasse so long as most of the approximately 850,000 First Nations people remain out of sight on isolated reserves.

As he points out, “treaties concluded in the 1800s have yet to be honoured completely,” and there are growing numbers of young, digitally connected indigenous people who are tired of waiting.

Joseph Hnatiuk is a retired teacher in Winnipeg whose rural upbringing was in close proximity to the Peguis First Nation, a community forcibly removed from fertile soils near Selkirk to scrubland north of Fisher Branch.

By: Joseph Hnatiuk, republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2015

[SOURCE]

Conditions Present for First Nations Uprising

Masked warrior on guard at burning car barricade, Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Source: warriorpublications

Masked warrior on guard at burning car barricade, Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

Non-Indigenous Canadians have dismissed recent warning signs

Canada is headed toward a confrontation with its First Nations people that could lead to “coherent civil action” that threatens the country’s economic lifeblood, a new book warns. Time Bomb, written by Doug Bland, former chair of Defence Management Studies at Queen’s University, argues the conditions are present for an uprising by First Nations people frustrated by decades of seeing their aspirations ignored by Canadian governments.

He urges people not to minimize the risk this frustration could turn into a rebellion and that Canada’s critical transportation links – railways and roads – are vulnerable to protests that could shut them down and cost the economy millions.

His sober warning comes amid deeply strained relations between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and some aboriginal leaders.

Next week, hundreds of chiefs from the country’s largest aboriginal group, the Assembly of First Nations, will meet in Winnipeg to elect a new national chief and discuss key issues, from First Nations education, to missing and murdered indigenous women, to treaty rights.

“If Canada’s present policies and the historic indifference of Canadians toward the people of the First Nations and their aspirations continue without amendment, and if First Nations leaders continue to assert their right to unconditional sovereignty in Canada, then a confrontation between our two cultures is unavoidable,” Bland writes.

“The critical questions for both societies in such a circumstance are: What form would such a confrontation take, and how widespread would it become?” Bland cites one academic theory that says if a rebellion is “feasible,” it will occur.

In an interview with Postmedia News, Bland stressed he is “not predicting a revolution or an armed uprising.” But he said he is issuing a warning a “confrontation” could occur unless the government and First Nations leaders find innovative ways to prevent one.

He said part of the problem is many non-indigenous Canadians have dismissed recent warning signs: Grassroots movements such as Idle No More and threats from some aboriginal leaders to mount protests to shut down the economy.

“People just aren’t listening to them,” he said. “And they don’t understand how vulnerable the country is.”

Bland writes there is growing support among aboriginals favouring “a unified First Nations strategy for coherent civil action” and people should not ignore roadblocks and political standoffs.

“There is a pattern in these events, a pattern that is in 2014 heading in one way: Toward more demonstrations and confrontations and a gathering confidence in the First Nations communities that their causes can be advanced through the power of ‘activist politics.'”

Bland notes 48.8 per cent of the First Nations population is under the age of 24 and that some of those young people can be transformed into “warriors.”

“These young people, like most of the First Nations population, are concentrated in areas critically important to Canada’s resource industries and transportation infrastructure.”

Bland writes the railways and roads transporting everything from oil and grain to manufactured goods are “impossible to defend”. A small cohort of minimally trained ‘warriors’ could close these systems in a matter of hours.

“All the danger is sitting out there. And getting it wrong is for the government to try to bully its way through this thing. Or for some of the aggressive chiefs to try to bully their way the other way, pushing each other back and forth. It’s going to end up in a confrontation sometime.”

Originally published by the Star-Phoenix

[SOURCE]

Manitoba First Nations threaten blockades in salary disclosure dispute

Grand Chief David Harper says bands are ready to close installations such as pipelines in their fight against the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
Grand Chief David Harper says bands are ready to close installations such as pipelines in their fight against the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

Winnipeg Free Press Aug 08 2014

A top Manitoba aboriginal official says First Nations in the province will use blockades and other measures if the federal government follows through with a promise to cut funding from bands that refuse to make their finances public.

Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which advocates for dozens of First Nations, says bands are ready to close installations, such as pipelines, in their fight against the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

The law — passed in 2013 — requires all bands to post online their audited financial statements, including an audited report on the salaries and travel expenses of chiefs and band councillors.

The deadline to file the documents was July 29, but only eight of Manitoba’s 63 First Nations have complied.

Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said this week the holdouts will have until the end of November to comply, or he will impose penalties, including withholding federal funding.

Chiefs from Canada’s First Nations have previously endorsed publicizing their salaries to stop criticism that they were being overpaid at the expense of their band members, but many were livid when Ottawa stepped in to enforce the law.

In B.C. this week, members of a tiny Metro Vancouver-area First Nation went public with messages of support for their chief after he was lambasted for quietly accepting an $800,000 bonus connected with successful development contracts.

The massive bonus was paid to Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht in his role as the band’s economic development officer, and was revealed last week when financial statements were published online.