July 13, 2021
From It's Going Down
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cover image: @WWHealthJustice on twitter

This week saw the emergence of a new land reclamation project in Kahnawake, as well as the continuing of forest defense struggles out west, including a new blockade north of Revelstoke, BC. At least two more Roman Catholic churches burned this week, including one in Redberry Lake, SK, and one on the territory of the Kehewin Cree Nation, AB. A youth was charged and arrested for the burning of the Kehewin Nation church, making this the first publicized case of charges being laid in the recent string of church arsons across the country.

This week communities grieved the death of a man killed by RCMP on the George Gordon First Nation on Tuesday, as well as the death of Brandon Marchant, who was found unresponsive in his cell in the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London.

This week also saw prisoner-led struggles and solidarity actions across the country, a new anti-repression campaign in Hamilton, and more – read on!

New Land Reclamation Occupation Seeks to Block Settler Housing Development on Kahnawake Land

As news of 1492 Land Back Lane’s victory in blocking a housing development on Six Nations land spread, rumblings of resistance to a similar project further east in Haudenosaunee territory did as well. As reported in Kahnawake News, “On July 1, while many Kahnawa’kehró:non were participating in a rolling blockage for Every Child Matters/Cancel Canada Day, another group of Kahnawa’kehró:non went to the end of the Old Chateaguay Road and started an occupation of land slated for residential development in Chateauguay.”

The occupation came days after the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawake issued a statement expressing its opposition to the development of 290 homes on land that historically belongs to Kahnawake. The land slated for development is claimed by Chateauguay, a suburb just outside the official boundaries of Kahnawake. The land, currently a wooded area, has been rezoned by Chateauguay for development. It lies just south of Parcel E, a block of land officially returned to the community in 2018.

“Parcel E was formally returned to Kahnawake through the Addition to Reserve process in July 2018. This parcel of land, along with the lands between Highway 30 and the Kahnawake boundary, were part of a deal with Quebec to return 700 acres of land to Kahnawake following the extension of Highway 30.”

Initially, the occupation began on Parcel E, but it has since relocated to the land slated for development. In addition to a camp being set up, signs have been posted reading “Posted: Kanien’kehá:ka Territory. No Trespassing. Patrolled by the Rotisken’rakéhte.”

“The land in question is also a part of the ongoing Seigneury of Sault St. Louis Land Grievance, that the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has officially been negotiating with the federal government since 2004.”

Solidarity with the Kanien’kehá:ka land defenders! We wish them all the best and encourage those nearby to keep an eye out for calls for support as they may arise.

Solidarity Rally Takes Places Outside Federal Prison in Truro

On July 2, people gathered outside Nova Institution, a federal prison for women in Truro, Nova Scotia. The prison is only minutes from the former Shubenacadie Residential School. Indigenous women are massively overrepresented in prisons in Canada – being 42% of the women incarcerated in Canada, and many have articulated the ways that prisons are a continuation of the residential school system.

A banner held at the rally read “Prisons are the new Residential Schools. Free the People Now!”

The rally, which was held the day after the #CancelCanadaDay prison hunger strike, included colourful smoke, speeches, and songs.

Second Hunger Strike in Two Weeks at Prairie Prisons

Following the #CancelCanadaDay hunger strikes of July 1st, prisoners at two prairie prisons (Saskatoon Correctional and Regina Correctional) went on hunger strike on July 9th. The strike was prompted by the inadequate medical care received by Jordan Ironstand, a prisoner at Saskatoon Correctional, who was stabbed on June 30th while incarcerated and then released from hospital without adequate followup. The hunger strikers are calling for fair treatment on the inside of both facilities.

Outside supporters have also started a fundraiser in support of them.

Hamilton Activists Launch Anti-Repression Campaign for COVID Regulation Violations

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have grappled with the challenge of continuing to fight for change in their communities, while avoiding the spread of COVID-19 and working in a context of heightened regulations and police powers. In Hamilton, racialized organizers have faced the brunt of increased repression under COVID regulations, and this week, a campaign was launched to drop charges against 15 people. The charges stem from two demonstrations: a two week-long occupation outside of City Hall calling for a reallocation of police funding towards housing in winter 2020, and a pro-Palestine rally in May. In both cases, COVID regulations were used to fine both organizers and participants, clearly targeting Black and Palestinian community members. Of the fifteen tickets issued, three carry a maximum penalty of $100,000 and one year jail time.

Organizers are calling for a pressure campaign towards provincial and municipal prosecutors, as well as holding a fundraiser to help fight the tickets and alleviate the pressure on those fined. The next round of court dates are July 21. More information can be found at https://dropthechargeshamont.ca/.

This is one of the more politicized uses of COVID regulations we have seen, though COVID fines in general have been criticized for targeting homeless, low-income, and racialized communities. The Canadian Civil Liberties is currently collecting data on COVID regulation enforcement.

Frustrations Mount Over Wildfire Response

Following the destruction of the Village of Lytton and surrounding First Nations communities last week, frustrations are mounting over regarding government and rail industry response. On Monday, the chair of the  Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council, which represents several First Nations in the region stated that if rail traffic is permitted to resume before community members can return, the tracks will likely be blocked. The next day, CP rail resumed activity in the region. The Council also expressed frustration about their exclusion from government discussions about fire recovery, despite their knowledge and stewardship of the land.

There has already been widespread speculation that sparks from a passing train may have started the fire, which is still burning out of control. So when crews were spotted in the area working on rail infrastructure, many felt that economic activity was again being prioritized over community member’s lives. Meanwhile, hundreds of residents of the area remain on evacuation orders and waiting to hear about next steps on recovery plans.

New Report Highlights Government Spending on Pipelines

On July 5, the International Institute for Sustainable Development released a new report on government support for oil and gas pipelines in Canada. As reported in the Narwhal, the report found that unsurprisingly, government support of pipeline projects heavily contradicts climate goals. The report focused on three projects: the Trans Mountain Expansion, Coastal GasLink, and Keystone XL, which was cancelled by TC Energy in June of this year.

The report explained that the official amount of financial support provided by the Canadian government was difficult to determine due to heavy censoring of government documents. However, at least $23 billion has been provided since 2018 by federal and provincial (primarily Albertan) governments.

While the federal government has invested “nearly CAD 54 billion in recent climate investments”, and committed to reducing emissions by 40%-45% by 2030, investment in pipelines continues to steer industry in the direction of extraction.

The report also highlights how the Canadian government, at this point, is a more staunch supporter of pipeline projects than many private corporations. A prime example is the Candian government’s $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline from US-based Kinder Morgan in 2018 to save the project. The report explained that, “as accounting for climate risk becomes increasingly mainstreamed among investors, carbon-intensive investments are becoming less attractive.” However, the federal and Albertan governments have remained optimistic enough to step in, provide loans, and assume the risk for pipeline projects where private corporations will not.

Recent campaigns against pipelines have focussed on pressuring pipeline insurers, with some success – as of June 2021, four insurance companies have dropped the Trans Mountain project.

It is clear from the report that despite any talk of “climate-friendly” policies or commitments, the Canadian government will not be easily disuaded from its pro-pipeline stance. Protesters across the country have demonstrated their capacity to inflict economic damage as a anti-pipeline tactic, though more is yet needed for governments to get the message.

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Source: Itsgoingdown.org