Al Jazeera: Canada’s brewing ‘insurgency’

But with Canadian soldiers, snipers, commandos and police tactical units representing the sharp end of a security budget that is poised to top $1bn, the most significant threat to business as usual for the summit may turn out to be far-flung rural blockades enacted by Canada’s long suffering native communities.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” said Douglas Bland, a retired Canadian forces lieutenant-colonel who is now the chair of defence management studies at Queen’s University. In recent years in particular, Canada’s indigenous communities have shown the will and potential to grind the country’s economic lifelines to a halt through strategically placed blockades on the major highways and rail lines that run through native reserves well outside of Canada’s urban landscape.

In 2007, the Mohawk community at Tyendinaga, 200 kilometres east of Toronto, blocked the trans-continental rail line and Canada’s largest highway in protest at the government’s failure to address land rights and basic issues of survival within First Nations – including safe drinking water, which the community lacked.

That episode was a hint of the leverage indigenous peoples in Canada possess, as hundreds of millions of dollars in cargo was stalled by simple barricades placed across a rural stretch of the Canadian National railway’s mainline between Toronto and Montreal.

“The message resounded,” said Shawn Brant, a high profile Mohawk activist involved in the 2007 blockades.

“We are not going to live in abject poverty, to have our children die, to have our women abducted, raped and murdered without any investigations. We are not going to live with the basic indignities that occur to us daily. We would bring them to an end.”

In 2007, Brant characterised the blocking of the 401 highway and CN main rail line as a “good test run”.

“We showed that we would meet the severity of what was happening to us with a reaction and a plan, a strategy that would be equally as severe,” Brant said.

Last week, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network broadcast footage of Canadian intelligence agents threatening a native activist ahead of the G8 summit.

“I will tell you straight up,” said an agent of the Canadian security and intelligence service to an indigenous activist, “there [are] other forces that are from other countries that will not put up with a blockade in front of their president”.

The twin summits, held in Toronto and Huntsville, a rural community that lies 225 kilometres north of Toronto, are separated by a major highway that runs through large swathes of indigenous territory adjacent to the major travel arteries.

A determined blockade could wreak havoc on the summit and cast light on Canada’s darkest shame.

Blockades, said Harrison Friesen, a spokesperson for native rights movement Red Power United, would be intended to show the world that “everything is not okay in Canada for native people”.

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