October 5, 2021
From It's Going Down
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This week saw Canada’s first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation take place on September 30th. The official federal holiday has been criticized by many Indigenous people who see the hypocrisy in a state-sanctioned day for reconciliation while Canada’s settler colonial violence continues.

This hypocrisy has been even more blatant this week as arrests began of land defenders at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint in Wet’suwet’en territory in so-called BC. Meanwhile, on the new national holiday, Justin Trudeau was spotted on vacation with his family in Tofino.

But this week came with some satisfying conclusions as well, as the Trudeau government failed in their legal challenges to major court decisions mandating compensation for Indigenous kids.

Gidimt’en Checkpoint Blockades Holding Strong, Solidarity Actions Begin

On September 25th, Wet’suwet’en and allies at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint set up new blockades in order to stop imminent drilling under the Wedzin Kwa, or “Morice River.” All five clans of the Wet’suwet’en nation have been fighting pipeline development by Coastal GasLink on their land, or Yintah, for many years. In 2019, an RCMP raid and subsequent attempts to defend the territory from additional incursions by cops and CGL prompted an incredible wave of solidarity actions across the country, and even into the US and off the continent.

As the struggle in Wet’suwet’en territory heats up again, some solidarity actions have begun to pop up as well. In Toronto on October 1st, a march and rally took place, with speakers calling for an end to the arrests and for people to act in solidarity where they are.

In Montreal, graffiti has been popping up around the city in solidarity with Gidimt’en.

Multiple banner drops have also taken place in Montreal. The banners have read “Shut Down Canada ’21 #CGLOffTheYintah,” “All Out For Wet’suwet’en #ShutDownCanada,” and “Abolish Canada.”

Also in Montreal, an RBC branch had its windows smashed for its role as investor in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. A message was left on the building that read “RBC funds colonialism. CGL off the Yintah”

The communique reads in part: “Reconciling with Canada’s genocidal history means confronting the institutions and infrastructures that reproduce colonial violence in the present. CGL, its investors, and the RCMP are playing with fire by prolonging their occupation of Wet’suwet’en territory.”

While the Gidimt’en Checkpoint is calling for people to act in solidarity where they are, they are also inviting those who can to come to camp. On September 27th, there was a violent arrest of someone locked down to a bus. They need more boots on the ground to hold the blockades.

We hope to see more solidarity actions in the coming days and weeks!

COVID Outbreak in Toronto East Detention Centre

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared this week at the Toronto East Detention Centre, a 473-person provincial jail. The outbreak has been growing since the first four cases were recorded on the week of September 12th, reaching 34 cases by September 27th. As we have seen in many prisons over the course of the pandemic, outbreaks typically have repercussions beyond the immediate health threat of COVID-19. Prison administrators continue to be ill-prepared to deal with outbreaks, resorting to days- or weeks-long lockdowns over large portions of an institution. Access to basic things like phone calls, cleaning, and time out of cells is quickly lost as administrators scramble to contain the virus, and guards stop showing up to work to protect themselves, leaving facilities short-staffed. It’s difficult to know exactly how the outbreak is unfolding in Toronto East, as it is also notoriously difficult to get transparent information about what is happening behind prison walls.

According to the Toronto Prisoner Rights Project, as of September 23rd, 77 people were being held in medical isolation across Toronto Region facilities. Meanwhile, one new case was recorded this week at both the Toronto South Detention Centre, and the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.

Recognizing that prisons create a perfect environment for the virus to spread, activists, prisoners’ loved ones and the Ontario Human Rights Commission alike have called for people to be freed from prison as a logical measure to prevent and address outbreaks.

BC Supreme Court Refuses to Renew Fairy Creek Injunction

Dedicated forest defenders on Pacheedaht and Ditidaht territory (Fairy Creek) got some good news this week as the B.C. Supreme Court refused to extend an injunction against the blockading of logging roads. Teal Cedar Products Ltd, the company with “logging rights” in the Fairy Creek area, had asked for an extension of the injunction to September 2022. While enforcing the previous injunction, BC RCMP made over 1,000 arrests, making Fairy Creek forest defence the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. In their ruling, the court stated that the RCMP’s enforcement of the injunction “led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties.”

The Justice responsible for issuing the decision spoke specifically about exclusion zones, checkpoints, and restrictions on journalists, calling the use of these tactics unlawful. Attention was also called to officers removing their names from their uniforms and wearing thin blue line patches. The National Police Federation president quickly responded in a statement defending the RCMP, and saying their work at Fairy Creek “embodied the thin blue line between order and chaos.”

The day of the ruling, forest defenders gathered to watch the final RCMP vehicles drive away, and mass celebrations ensued.

Despite the reprieve from the constant siege of enforcement, it is likely that RCMP will continue to enforce specific “infractions,” if not the wide-sweeping injunction itself. In addition, there are still ongoing logging activities to contend with. Just the day after the injunction was dropped, forest defenders directly intervened in logging activities, which quickly escalated when workers responded with violence. The same day, Teal Jones appealed the Supreme Court’s decision. With all the continued threats to the forest, protesters say they are committed to maintaining camp.

Finally, despite the measured victory at Fairy Creek, many have pointed out that the RCMP, and specifically their “Community Industry Response Group,” will likely now have greater resources available to direct toward other frontline struggles in BC, including Secwepemc warriors’ fight against the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the fight against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

Young Workers Rally Against Wage Theft in Brampton

On October 2nd, over 250 people, nearly all young Punjabi workers, took the fight against wage theft to the homes of their employers in Brampton. The action was led by the Naujawan Support Network (NSN), a solidarity network of international students and workers fighting exploitation from employers, landlords, immigration consultants and the government. Leading up to the rally, the NSN issued a series of letters to each of the employers demanding they pay their workers and giving a timeline for repayment before actions were escalated. The employers in question include Flowboy Haulage, Al-Madina Halal Meat, Cargo Country Group, Cargo Transport, and Canadawide Logistics. The rally visited the homes of four of the owners, and included speeches from a number of impacted workers. The NSN has promised to continue their campaign until all the workers are paid.

In their first few months of organizing, the NSN has demonstrated how much can be gained through the power of worker solidarity. In an Instagram post they stated:

In just 2 months, NSN members have recovered over $15,500 of our own wages. This happened because we have the courage to take action for our rights and because others in the community stood in solidarity with us.

Employers are not afraid of labour court but they are afraid of our unity & power. Join us as we continue to build that power by rallying to demand what we are owed: mehnat da mul – the value of labour.

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Source: Itsgoingdown.org