Concerns expressed about systemic racism in the response of Canadian police to Indigenous land defenders and settler violence

Published by Brent Patterson on

Contrasting images: Photo by Michael Toledano during the militarized RCMP raid against Wet’suwet’en land defenders in January 2019. Photo by Eric Woolliscroft/CBC of the RCMP in Nova Scotia last week.

Contrasts are being drawn on social media between how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) respond to Indigenous land and environmental defenders in this country compared to the violence of a non-Indigenous mob.

After a month of attacks against Mi’kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia, a spokesperson for the RCMP in Nova Scotia stated: “RCMP understand what the issue here is. We don’t see it as a police issue, but we understand both sides. We understand the passion and what they are bringing to the table. And we respect that.”

In response, Mi’kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater tweeted: “THIS deeply-ingrained racism & white supremacy w/n [the RCMP] is exactly why we’ve long called to #DefundTheRCMP They stand by & watch Mi’kmaw get attacked by racist violent white fishermen yet when Mi’kmaw peacefully assert rights in come SWAT teams. RCMP r useless.”

Michael Toledano has also tweeted: “It’s hard to watch RCMP stand down for racist mobs to terrorize Mikmaq people, while Wet’suwet’en are still harassed daily for hunting and holding ceremonies on their own land, while OPP are arresting people in Six Nations for asserting land rights. Canada is abysmal.”

Illustrating that point, Toledano posted this 9-minute video of RCMP disrespect toward Wet’suwet’en women in ceremony last week.

Sakura Saunders has also posted on Facebook that the RCMP didn’t just stand by when a mob of non-Indigenous fishers recently attacked a pound/building used by Mi’kmaw fishers (that was burned down days later), they intervened on their behalf.

Mi’kmaw fisher Jason Marr said that as the mob threw rocks through windows “not one RCMP even tried to stop them” and further noted that the RCMP told him the non-Indigenous fishers would let them leave if they handed over the lobster.

Ossie Michelin has also tweeted: “I took this pic [see below] 7 years ago. I look at Nova Scotia now & ask why police aren’t protecting the livelihoods of Mi’kmaq fishermen the way they protect the livelihood of a foreign fracking company? When it’s settlers vs Indigenous the state always chooses settlers.”

And Tiffany Gooch now writes in the Toronto Star: “When Indigenous people gather in peaceful protest, taking action to protect natural resources, they are immediately criminalized. The hypocritical contrast is glaring.”

Idle No More has commented: “The inaction of the federal and provincial government and the RCMP to protect Mi’kmaq people is a violation of Indigenous inherent rights, Treaty rights, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.”

Peace Brigades International-Canada supports the Idle No More request to amplify the calls for justice in Mi’kma’ki territory which includes a call for a national week of action starting today through to October 23.

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