PBI-Canada expresses concern over Haldimand Police Services Board description of Six Nations land defenders as terrorists
Matthew Green, MP: “Labelling Indigenous land defenders as terrorists is immoral, risks escalation of violence against Indigenous people and must be called out for what it is.”
The experience of criminalization is a significant and often deadly reality in human rights and Indigenous land defence struggles around the world.
The United Nations has explained: “Despite their role as protectors of biodiversity and nature, indigenous human rights defenders are often presented as obstacles to progress, anti-development or even as enemies of the State or terrorists.”
The UN also recently noted that two human rights defenders were killed in the Philippines last month after they had been labelled terrorists.
This report by Land Rights Now further notes: “The stigmatisation of communities as obstacles to development is often rooted in racist prejudice against Indigenous Peoples, labeling communities with close connections to their territories and nature as ‘backward’, ‘uncivilised’, ‘terrorists’ or ‘enemies of the state’.”
It adds: “Stigmatisation and criminalisation perpetuate stereotypes and have very negative consequences for individuals, communities and civic space more broadly.”
Now, on September 25th, the CBC reports: “A southern Ontario police services board is calling on the Ontario Provincial Police to arrest an NDP MP and take action against what it calls ‘acts of terrorism’ committed by members of Six Nations who halted a housing development in Caledonia, Ont.”
These Six Nations land defenders began a peaceful re-occupation of their territory on July 19 to uphold their right to free, prior and informed consent and in opposition to the construction of the McKenzie Meadows housing development on unceded lands near the city of Caledonia in the province of Ontario in central Canada.
This statement from the Haldimand County Police Services Board asserts: “They have committed acts of aggression and intimidation which by Canadian Criminal Code definition are acts of Terrorism. These aboriginals are not protestors, they are now by legal definition Terrorists.”
The land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane have replied: “The board is violently racist, viewing Indigenous lives as barriers to corporate profit. Their statements amount to calls for police to target our community and Skyler Williams in particular which is a threat that is intolerable to our community.”
Bernie Corbett, the Chair of the Board, also commented on a recent visit with the land defenders by Matthew Green, a federal Member of Parliament.
Corbett says: “In my estimation he trespassed, he should have been arrested because a judge’s order was issued. Those people should not be there, it’s private property. [Green] is not immune to that type of situation and it concerns me he went out there… He bad-mouthed the community, the OPP and the federal government. That exacerbated the problem.”
In response, Green has commented: “Not only are the comments racism, they are targeted and they are meant to incite violence against Indigenous people… If there was a line to be crossed, it would be the line of human rights and the code of conduct related to both elected officials of the municipality and the police services board.”
This past July, the UK-based human rights organization Global Witness reported on the killings of land and environmental defenders around the world.
They highlighted: “Indigenous peoples are at a disproportionate risk of reprisals. Last year, 40% of murdered defenders belonged to indigenous communities. Between 2015 and 2019 over a third of all fatal attacks have targeted indigenous people – even though indigenous communities make up only 5% of the world’s population.”
Given the reality of this global context, Peace Brigades International-Canada expresses serious concerns about the use of language by the Haldimand Police Services Board and the further risks it poses to Six Nations land defenders.
The land defenders have set up this GoFundMe account to help with their legal costs associated with the criminalization they are experiencing.