The week leading up to Canada Day saw another devastating discovery of unmarked graves, this time at the Marieval Indian Residential School. On June 23rd, the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of the remains of approximately 751 children, in a graveyard outside the school.
Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in downtown #HamOnt Gore Park vandalized with red handprints. There have been calls to remove it. Macdonald was Canada’s first prime minister and was also key in the creation of the residential school system. @CHCHNews @morninglive pic.twitter.com/7SR0AgPvcK
— Sylvie Lendvay (@sylvie_lendvay) June 30, 2021
While politicians feign shock, the truth remains that Indigenous communities have been speaking out and living with the impacts of the theft and murder of their family members for over a century. The school operated from 1899 until 1997 – a stark reminder that the existence of residential schools has been a crucial and ongoing element of the Canadian state, and is in no way in the past. There can be no reconciling for this horror, and no apology that will correct the damage done. There is no redeeming the Canadian state.
Two more Catholic churches burn down on Indigenous land in southern B.C. https://t.co/lNaozWSk0j
— Edmonton Journal (@edmontonjournal) June 26, 2021
Along with some fiery responses we’ll get into below, one outcome of this moment is a call across the country to “Cancel Canada Day.” This has taken the form of municipal governments cancelling festivities, as well as activists calling alternate events themselves. This week Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole described calls to “Cancel Canada Day” as “tearing down the country.” May his words be an invitation to us all.
— dawn marie paley (@dawn_) June 25, 2021
Churches and Statues the Target of Actions
On June 21, Indigenous Peoples Day, two catholic churches burned to the ground on Penticton Indian Band land and Osoyoos Indian Band land, both in southern so-called British Columbia. No one has publicly claimed either of the actions, but the fires have been declared “suspicious,” and it seems evident that these actions would be connected to the recent discoveries of mass graves outside residential schools, which were run primarily by the Catholic church. On June 26th, two more Catholic churches burned to the ground, both in the Similkameen region of B.C.
On June 24th, a Roman Catholic cathedral in Saskatoon was covered with red paint, including smeared handprints and the words “We were children”.
Saskatoon Catholic cathedral covered with paint after discovery of 751 unmarked graves https://t.co/B1coep8dg4
— Connie Walker (@connie_walker) June 26, 2021
In Hamilton, Indigenous communities members covered a downtown statue of John A MacDonald in a tarp while gathering in the park to share stories about residential schools and be with community. A few days later, a small group of white nationalists calling themselves “Canada First” gathered in the park to remove the tarp, though in the process, one member fell off the statue and broke his arm.
Mass Eviction Of Toronto Park Encampment
— Carrianne Leung (@kayee13) June 22, 2021
On June 22nd, a large scale operation was undertaken by the City of Toronto to evict houseless residents from a city park. The eviction has been foreshadowed by the drop-off of eviction notices to tents in the park over the past few weeks, but the level of force brought in to enforce the eviction was unprecedented. Over 100 police officers, including mounted and riot police, along with contracted private security, streamed into the park over the course of the day. Police closed down surrounding streets and erected metal fences around two large sections of the park, blocking access as supporters also flooded in. Reports estimate that there were around 20-25 people living in the park.
Following a call from Toronto’s Encampment Support Network, hundreds of community members headed to the park to support their neighbours. Per the request of park residents, the community mostly served as a peaceful witness to the violent eviction unfolding. Some supporters also linked arms around people’s living areas. At one point, pepper spray was used against the crowd, and multiple arrests were made, of both observers and encampment residents.
Mayor @JohnTory sends in cops on horses, and breaks out the pepper spray as hundreds more #encampment supporters break through the barricades to join the defenders inside. The chant to the police: #WhoDoYouServe #WhoDoYouProtect. @joe_cressy @ESN_TO #topoli #onpoli #canlab pic.twitter.com/JAZ5E5PeaK
— Myles Magner (@MylesMagner) June 22, 2021
Ultimately, all residents were evicted from the park. The City officially stated that all residents had been offered indoor space and housing support, but the details are unclear. Critics have pointed out the hypocrisy in the massive amount of money and planning that would have been required to carry out this operation, while the City’s safe and affordable housing options are few and far between. For many, the park offered the best alternative to Toronto’s crowded and often unsafe shelter system. While, over the past year, the City has offered temporary housing solutions such as hotels, the impermanence and lack of autonomy makes this option no substitute for permanent housing. Meanwhile, the expected wait time for public housing is over ten years long. As long as safe, affordable, and permanent housing remains in short supply in Toronto, this kind of event is likely to keep repeating, and solidarity between housed and unhoused community members will remain crucial as ever.
People in Halifax Defend Temporary Shelters
#everyoneneedsshelter A big and vocal turnout at the rally in #halifax to prevent the city from destroying emergency crisis shelters. The outrage at the unwillingness of government to take more action was strong. pic.twitter.com/m4bS7cR9Xa
— John van Gurp (@jvangurp) June 20, 2021
Halifax Mutual Aid has been building basic, temporary, emergency, shelters for residents of the city since march. Around June 16th rumors of the city wanting to remove the shelters were confirmed and this last week Halifax Mutual Aid called for a rally, June 20th, to show support for keeping the shelters. A couple hundred people gathered at Halifax’s old downtown library to call on the city to not remove shelters until the housing crisis is solved.
Cross-Country Actions for #StatusForAll
On June 20, World Refugee Day, multiple groups gathered to demand full immigration status for migrants, refugees, students, and undocumented people.
In their call to action, the Migrant Rights Network stated:
It has been a year since we launched our call for full and permanent immigration status for all, and we have pushed the federal government to create immigration pathways that have resulted in status for some. But the vast majority of working class, racialized and particularly undocumented people are shut out of permanent resident status. As a result, we are without income support, workplace rights and even access to healthcare in a pandemic. We live under threat of deportation.
Earlier in May, the federal government created a path for 90,000 people to apply for permanent resident status. Prime Minister Trudeau’s government now says that they have done enough. Migrants and allies must take swift action across the country to call for Status for All. The door has been opened a crack, we must push to make space for all of us.
In Toronto, a large crowd marched through the streets of downtown and rallied in front of the offices of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Fabulous to see so many #migrant workers today at the #StatusForAll action in #Toronto! @JustinTrudeau keep your promises to refugees and migrants who give their hard labour, lives and health to this country. @MWACCanada #onpoli #canlab pic.twitter.com/MCoqLq9WQ8
— Deena Ladd (@DeenaLadd) June 20, 2021
In Sudbury, a small crowd gathered and postered the office of the local MP, Marc Serré.
— Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (@SWEAC_CEATS) June 20, 2021
In Winnipeg, a drive-by rally was held at the provincial legislature.
This day of action follows an announcement in April 2021 by Canada’s Immigration Minister that a new pathway had been opened to grant permanent residency to “low-skilled” workers. While the Migrant Rights Network has described this as an important step forward, upon further examination, it has become clear that many residents of Canada will be excluded from this program. A recent report published by the Network estimated that 1.18 million undocumented residents, refugees, students, and migrants living in Quebec would still not qualify for status under this program, prompting renewed calls for greatly expanded opportunities for permanent status.
Arrest Count Rises as Forest Defenders Stand Strong in Fairy Creek
The situation continued to evolve rapidly over the past week at the old-growth forest defense Fairy Creek. Forest defenders have had to maneuver quickly to recover from multiple raids of their camps, as well as ongoing police surveillance. They have continued to employ a range of creative lockdown tactics to stall the progress of road construction and logging through the area. This week, the number of arrests over the past 41 days of police enforcement passed the 300 mark.
On June 26, forest defenders also established a new blockade, at the equipment yard of logging company Teal-Jones. Multiple arrests were made.
The frontlines have been quiet today. It appears after all that, aside from patrols through waterfall camp the last two days waking up our forest defenders at all hours of the night, the RCMP have decided to pause for heat-related concerns. Whether these concerns are for us or themselves, or both is unclear as they have been opaque in their communications.
▪️One thing that has been clear however is the fact that this record-breaking heatwave is a real physical manifestation of why we are here.
▪️Beyond the fact that they are the best forest carbon sinks in the world, they are actually fire-retardant due to their water regulating ways and sheer size of trees. The largest trees often don’t burn in forest fires simply because they have too much water in their trunks. Young, monoculture tree farms just don’t stand up as well, nor sequester nearly as much carbon.
▪️The extreme heat has also been responsible for rapid snowmelt and a dramatic rise in river levels throughout BC, including the Upper Fraser River and Lillooet River. This lack of snowpack sets us up for future droughts. Even though logging has stopped temporarily, we’re still going strong at the camp and need you here. We do not know how long the pause on enforcement is. Plus, we have freezies and ice cream!
We need you out here, we need you to donate, we need you to help at camp, we need people willing to get arrested, we need direct action for this frontline movement to save the ancient forests to succeed. This direct action at the blockades is buying time for other solutions to be found, for policies to be changed.
IWLU Members Face Repercussion For Not Crossing #BlocktheBoat Picket
The #blocktheboat picket in Prince Rupert ended against the Zims Volan ship late last night. I was proud to stand in solidarity as a Ts’msyen woman in my own territory against a ship that supports apartheid and genocide in Palestine. #bds pic.twitter.com/jQXnuzD078
— Christina Gray (@stina_gray) June 16, 2021
In our second report we mentioned the #blocktheboat event that happened in Vancouver but missed a similar action occurring in Prince Rupert on June 15th. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to cross a picket line made up of various local community members.
ILWU Local 505 members are standing by and are so far refusing to cross the community picket in #PrinceRupert Canada!
— AROC #BlocktheBoat (@AROCBayArea) June 15, 2021
It has now been reported that 94 of them have been suspended without pay for refusing to cross. The suspension lasts from June 22nd, at 4:30 p.m. to June 25 inclusive. A letter from DP World Prince Rupert to the ILWU threatens “We are currently estimating the scope of these damages, but hereby put the union on notice that we intend to recover damages from those involved.”
photo: Stephen Radford via Unsplash