July 6, 2021
From It's Going Down
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This week brought coast to coast resistance against Canada Day and Canada in general, and heartwarming victories for land defenders. Churches were burned and statues toppled.

It was also a record breaking week that brought the urgency of the climate crisis to the fore, as hundreds of people lost their lives in BC from the extreme heat.

We’ve had our eyes on all that and more this week. Next week we’ll be watching to see how a brand new occupation of Kahnawake land to stop a settler housing development in so-called Chateauguay, QC progresses. We’ll also be keeping an eye on the continued resistance to logging on Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit territory, and forest defence struggles across so-called BC.

And with that, let’s get to the news!

#CancelCanadaDay Actions from Coast to Coast to Coast

Anti-colonial actions took place in countless locations across so-called Canada on July 1st, the day usually used to celebrate the country’s existence. From statue toppling, graffiti, demos, vigils, and more, there are way too many inspiring actions to cover them all individually here, so here’s an overview of just a few!

In so-called Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Montreal, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Toronto, St Johns, Charlottetown, and more, demos and rallies called by Idle No More drew huge numbers under a banner of “No Pride in Genocide.” Orange shirts and the slogan “Every Child Matters” were a staple at these events.

In Winnipeg, at the Manitoba Legislature, the Queen Victoria statue was torn down. This statue was of course only one of many targeted. The next day, its head was missing, with some calling for it to join the head of Egerton Ryerson on a pike at Land Back Lane.

Rolling blockades were another tactic used on July 1st. In Kahnawake, a rolling blockade slowed down traffic on Highways 132 and 138.

Muskoka News reported that a rolling blockade of 75 cars also drove from Wahta to Bala in so-called Ontario. And in Enderby, BC, a slow roll blockade to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School was called as well.

In Manitoba, Women from AIM and the Urban Warrior Alliance blocked the road into Buffalo Point First Nation, preventing cottagers from entering, while burning Canadian flags.

Despite multiple municipalities officially cancelling their Canada Day celebrations, more combative anti-Canada actions have also garnered racist pushback from Canadian dedicated to celebrating their country’s atrocious foundations at any cost. As reported by CBC, on July 1st in Victoria, a statue of Captain Cook was torn down and tossed in the harbour. Hours later, a totem pole about 30km away was set on fire, with the words “one totem – one statue” graffitied at its base.

We know that this wonderful wave of anti-colonial resistance will continue and send our support to all those organizing against Canada and against the likely repression. If you’d like to support from afar, Red River Echoes, a collective of radical Manitoba Métis, have started a bail fund for those arrested in connection with July 1st actions.

Cancel Canada Day Prison Strike

Amid calls to #CancelCanadaDay in the wake of the confirmation of multiple unmarked and mass gravesites at former residential schools, prisoners incarcerated in multiple federal and provincial institutions initiated a 24 hour hunger strike on July 1st. According to Beyond Prison Walls Canada, prisoners from Edmonton Insititution, Fraser Valley Institution for Women, Saskatchewan Penitentiary, Pine Grove Correctional, Saskatoon Correctional and Regina Correctional participated in the 24 hour fast. There were reports that some ranges at the Toronto South Detention Centre were participating as well.

A Twitter account run by a prisoner at Edmonton Max Institution explained “We are hunger striking for the ones who lost their lives and also the ones who survived and are still going through this stuff still. We need to celebrate the ones who survived too.”

Many have draw attention to the fact that in many ways, prisons are an extension of the residential school system. Free Lands Free Peoples, an Indigenous led prison abolitionist group, explained that “It’s really important that we remember…that a lot of folks who are currently incarcerated or have been incarcerated are survivors or intergenerational survivors of the residential school system. This is not something that’s an abstract grief. It’s not an abstract issue. It’s not an abstract form of solidarity that’s distant. It’s part of people’s realities on the inside.”

Outside support, including solidarity fasts by people on the outside was appreciated by those striking on the inside.

Rising Totals of Both Confirmed Graves and Burned Churches

On June 30th another set of graves was confirmed at the site of St. Eugene Mission residential school near Cranbrook, B.C. Ground penetrating radar found 182 graves, adding to the discoveries already made in Kamloops, Brandon, Regina, Cowesses, and Lestock. With this new confirmation and memory of all the others, multiple churches and statues of colonial figures have been burned, painted and toppled.

Church burned down on Gitwangak First Nation. Source: Screenshot CBC News

This week fires burned down a church near Edmonton and a church near New Hazelton. Fire damage occurred to one near Halifax and two near Calgary. 10 churches in Calgary were also hit with paint. In Vancouver, a catholic church was covered with orange paint on the night of July 1. Edmonton saw at least one plaque of a colonial figure, John Oliver, hit with paint, as well as a statue of a pope. Hamilton had a statue of John Macdonald painted. On Canada Day, a number of victories were claimed against colonial statues. People in Victoria pulled down a statue of colonizer James Cook and tossed it into the harbour, and in Winnipeg a crowd pulled down statues of both queens Victoria and Elizabeth.

Far-Right Pushes Hate Crime Narrative to Condemn Church Burnings

Years ago elements of the far-Right began to promote the ludicrous idea that cops should be protected as an identifiable group under hate crimes laws. This narrative became increasingly prominent over the past week, twisting liberal reforms into a potential tool of repression. As fascists and right wing tag-alongs watch symbols of white supremacy and Christianity, the dominant colonizing religion, get splattered with paint and burned down, a narrative labelling these as hate crimes has started to appear. This narrative has been espoused directly by politicians, notably Jason Kenney, discussing the burning of the Morinville catholic church. This trend is a reminder of the risks of using a legal framework when seeking justice for marginalized communities – language like hate crimes can be wielded by those in power defend the status quo, increase policing resources, and ultimately be a vehicle for repression as much as it can be used to describe the harm done against our communities.

Extreme Temperatures in British Columbia Bring a Wave of Death and Destruction

This week so-called British Columbia experienced some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in Canada, including an all-time high of 49.6C in Lytton, BC. On June 30, the Village of Lytton and the Lytton First Nation reserve were severely damaged by a rapidly-spreading fire that killed at least two people. Residents were forced to evacuate and it is reported that 90% of the village burnt to the ground.

Across southern so-called British Columbia, communities grappled with a rising heat wave over the course of the week. On July 2, the BC Coroner’s office reported that they saw triple the number of expected sudden deaths over the course of a week, attributing the rise to heat-related deaths.

Many have drawn attention to the unequal impacts of extreme weather events. As reported in the CBC, First Nations leadership in the Lytton area relieved little to no communication about the emergency while their members were fleeing their burning homes. Chair of the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council explained that BC authorities were more concerned about the safety of ranchers’ cattle than they were about ensuring the safe evacuation of First Nations in the area.

In another example, this week The Tyee reported on the inequality in the distribution of tree cover across Vancouver, with some of its lowest-income areas also being the least shaded. Factors including urban shade cover can cause a variance of up to 20 degrees in the temperature of a city’s streetscape.

The article states, “The Downtown Eastside, Marpole and parts of Vancouver’s southeast have the hottest streets. Factors such as isolation, mental illness, homelessness, substance use and physical disability all play a role in increasing heat-related harms.”

In parts of the interior, fire crews battled wildfires sparked by the hot dry weather and thunderstorms. As of July 3, there were 175 active fires across the province. The extreme heat in BC is part of a trend forecast decades ago by climate scientists of the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, tied to climate change.

This point has been seized upon by land defenders actively involved in struggle against pipelines, old-growth logging, and ecological destruction.

Alberta Feels the Effects of Austerity

This week Alberta was feeling the effects of austerity and the systematic destruction of the public health system, paving the way for private health options. The current heat wave has brought pressure on ambulance services causing the union that represents paramedics to expose the unstable condition ambulance services are in. Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta union, said the system is currently running ‘code red’ every day, meaning there are no available ambulances to respond to incoming calls. He also mentioned hiring and staffing levels have not been maintained. June 28th saw multiple closures of small town ER’s overnight or even for the week.

This isn’t the first time ERs have had to close recently. The Alberta government has tried to blame closures solely on doctors taking vacation time, but it is well known that changes in billing and payment have caused many doctors to leave the province. Around the time of this billing change it was discovered that a app/call service run by Telus was being paid more for each visit then public funded doctors were, showing it was not a funding issue.

Toronto Marches Against Policing For Pride

On June 27, hundreds gathered in Toronto to call for the abolition of police. Notably, the march took place on the day usually reserved for Toronto’s corporate Pride march. However, with the cancellation of corporate Pride due to covid, organizers seized the opportunity to hold a gathering more in line with Pride’s radical roots.

Pride began in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, where queers, led by trans women of color, sex workers, and homeless youth, fought back fiercely against police brutality. Toronto’s Pride march has seen a series of interventions over the past few years, particularly in 2016 when Black Lives Matter – Toronto halted the parade until Toronto Pride’s director signed on to a series of demands, including removing police from the parade. In homage to this moment, this year’s march held a sit-in at the same intersection. The theme of the march, “We Must Change Everything”, speaks to the need for absolute change that banishes police altogether, along with all systems that justify their existence.

One Huge Step Closer to Victory at 1492 Land Back Lane

As a wave of anti-colonial, anti-Canada actions swept the country on its special day, there was some amazing news from 1492 Land Back Lane. Foxgate Developments announced that they have been forced to cancel the planned 200 home settler housing development slated for the 25-acre occupied site. All home buyers will have their deposits returned to them and the company will be left to seek a way out of the debt incurred through their failed project.

While the site remains under injunction, dozens of individuals face charges for their involvement, and Foxgate still holds on to their 200$ million lawsuit, this announcement is a huge step closer to victory for the Haudenosaunee land defenders.

Skyler Williams, spokesperson for Land Back Lane, was quoted in The Spec and CBC as saying:

I think this is a big statement to Indigenous communities and to all of Turtle Island … these wins are attainable. I think we have an opportunity to be able to say to the feds and the province that if our community says no to these developments, whether that’s massive housing developments or resource destruction — if we say no to that and we stand behind it, these wins are possible.

This is something that my parents fought before me and their parents before them.

We do have to take a moment to celebrate those wins, but understand that the work is only just beginning,” he said. “This is just the very foot of the mountain.

The struggle isn’t over. Work continues at the site, and donations can be sent to the build fund via etransfer to [email protected] .

Or you can donate to the legal fund here: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/legal-fund-1492-land-back-lane

Further east in Haudenosaunee territory, a new land defence occupation has begun. This time, land defenders from Kahnawake have occupied an area slated for a 290 home settler housing development in so-called Chateauguay, QC. We’ll be watching for more news and ways to support in the coming days and weeks.

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Source: Itsgoingdown.org