PBI-Canada notes Canada’s responsibility for the individual and collective safety of Mi’kmaq rights defenders
Last week Front Line Defenders reported that 331 human rights defenders around the world were killed in 2020 and that 26 per cent of those killed were working specifically on issues related to the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Human rights defenders accompanied by Peace Brigades International in Latin America have emphasized that the State has a responsibility to address systemic injustice and to ensure the individual and collective safety of defenders.
This United Nations report further affirms: “The State is the primary duty bearer in relation to human rights, and certainly with respect to the rights of Indigenous peoples.” This applies to state violence and violence by non-state actors.
Now Brett Forester at APTN reports:
“Mi’kmaw lobster fishers who were blockaded, attacked and assaulted while exercising a treaty right to harvest lobster late last year say internal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) documents expose systemic racism in the bureaucracy and preferential policing by law enforcement.
APTN News obtained hundreds of internal records that reveal public servants and law enforcement agencies knew potentially violent protests against the Mi’kmaq were coming, yet did little to intervene.
[Sipekne’katik First Nation lobster harvester Jason] Marr broadcast tense video over Facebook while he was barricaded inside a West Pubnico, Nova Scotia lobster storage facility on October 17, 2020.
The building was burned to the ground after Marr was escorted out.”
The article highlights that prior to this, Coast Guard threat assessors identified the risk of protests turning violent as “likely” and that a Department of Fisheries and Oceans account emailed a dangerous occurrence report to the Department of National Defence, the RCMP, the Canadian Boarder Services Agency, and Transport Canada.
After the compound was destroyed, 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.”
Documentary film maker Michael Toledano 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.”
And Idle No More stated: “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.”
In their report Defending Tomorrow, Global Witness has noted:
“States (through their governments) have the primary duty, under international law, to guarantee that defenders’ human rights are protected and that they can carry out their activism safely.
To safeguard defender rights, governments should: Legally legitimise the role of land and environmental defenders and publicly condemn any threats against them, with specific attention to gender-based violence and attacks.
[Government should also] ensure national policies safeguard the rights of defenders and protesters to free assembly and speech, as well as potential recourse to civil disobedience.
To ensure accountability, governments should bring to justice those responsible for ordering or carrying out any threat or attack against a land or environmental defender.”
PBI-Canada remains attentive to this situation and calls on the Canadian government to read the Global Witness Defending Tomorrow report.