August 18, 2021
From It's Going Down
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cover image: @defund604

This past week marked the 45th annual Prisoners Justice Day, remembering all those who have died in prison. The day was marked with vigils and hunger strikes across so-called Canada. Meanwhile, Correctional Services Canada announced they will be moving ahead with the construction of a new remand facility in Saskatoon. This week we also highlight updates to racist attacks against Mi’kmaw fishers, calls for the firing of a cop in Calgary, trials for various anti-maskers, and infighting among the far-Right.

This week we noticed, and had to laugh at, an announcement from the RCMP that they are far behind on their hiring goals for women and visible minorities. Faced with the numbers, even the RCMP cannot deny that their workplace culture is racist and sexist, a culture that naturally also pervades RCMP interactions with the public. Of course, no amount of “inclusive” hiring can change the core nature of the RCMP, which is that of an oppressive, racist, and colonial force that represents over a century of violence against people across so-called Canada.

Mention of the RCMP of course brings to mind their original creator, John A Macdonald, a man whose glorified history, much like the RCMP, deserves to be thoroughly dismantled and degraded. Fortunately, another statue of Sir John fell this week, in Hamilton, Ontario. Following a city council decision not to remove the statue in July, community members gathered for an Indigenous Unity Rally outside City Hall on August 14th. After the rally, the crowd marched to the park where the statue stood and pulled in down.

Shoutout to the folks who made that happen, and may the statues continue to fall!

Prisoners Justice Day Vigils Held in Multiple Cities, Two Spirit Inmate’s Arm Broken by CSC

August 10th saw in-person and online events held in multiple cities across so-called Canada to mark Prisoners Justice Day. PJD is an annual, international day or remembrance for those who have died behind bars. It is traditionally marked by fasts among prisoners as well as supporters on the outside.

PJD began in 1976, one year after the death of Eddie Nalon in a segregation unit in Millhaven Maximum Security Prison in Bath, Ontario.

Prisoners in Millhaven called for the one day hunger strike on August 10th after the death of a second prisoner, Bobby Landers, a few months earlier. The statement they put out calling for the hunger strike can be read in full online but says in part:

We protest against the continuous inhumane use of solitary confinement (segregation) and the repeated whitewashing by spineless individuals in the Government who are forever having inquiries into the use of solitary and its effects on a person´s mental and physical state and then hide the real facts of its use from the people.

We call upon our Brothers and Sisters from all prisons across the country, and upon all concerned peoples of Canada, to give their support to our one day hunger strike in remembrance of our comrades and to UNITE AS ONE VOICE IN OUR STRUGGLE for better understanding…compassion and EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL.

An event was livestreamed from the west coast, and can be viewed online. You can listen to audio from the Tio’tia:ke / Montreal event on the Prison Radio.

At the same time that Prisoners Justice Day events were taking place across the country, drawing particular attention to the violence of the prison system on incarcerated Indigenous people, news was spreading about the case of Nick Dinardo, a two-spirit prisoner in Port Cartier Institution in Quebec. According to CBC, Nick had their arm broken while being restrained by a guard and was not given medical attention for the injury until a week later. Nick and their supporters outside have been drawing attention to the violence and isolation that Nick has faced as a two-spirit person in prison, and the ways in which their incarceration is part of a broader system of colonialism that includes residential schools. Nick’s case, and the stories shared by everyone on Prisoner Justice Days across so-called Canada, remind us of the importance of fighting for abolition and freedom for all prisoners.

Mi’kmaw Fishing Boats Set Adrift In Nova Scotia

Nine Mi’kmaw lobster fishing boats were cut loose and set adrift from their dock about 250 km north of Halifax during the night of August 4th. Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack indicated to APTN that the boats were tied up in places they wouldn’t usually be due to their usual spots being taken by commercial fishing boats. The unmooring of the boats forced the postponement of a community lobster giveaway that the community had planned to hold.

This round of harassment and disruption of Mi’kmaw fisheries comes after a few months of relative calm following the weeks of intense racist attacks last fall. In September 2020, Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a “moderate livelihood fishery.” As explained by APTN, “Mi’kmaw have the right to fish for a livelihood under the the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the mid 1700s. These treaties never ceded land.” In 1999, the Supreme Court reinforced this treaty right when it decided in favour of Donald Marshall Jr., who was charged for fishing and selling eels out of season, without a licence. What followed was known as the Burnt Church crisis, sparked by the destruction of Mi’kmaq fishing traps.

In continuation of this history, Mi’kmaq asserting this treaty right have been continually targeted by racist commercial fishermen and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). In the fall of 2020, the reaction to the Sipekne’katik moderate livelihood fishery was violent and widespread. Non-Indigenous fishers cut traps, fired flares at and blockaded Mi’kmaw boats, torched a van owned by a Mi’kmaw harvester and destroyed several tonnes of lobster. Under the guise of ostensible conservationist concerns, both the DFO and white commercial fishers continued to oppose the Mi’kmaq right to fish out of season. However the racist rhetoric and intensity of their tactics revealed what many knew to be true: that this conflict was far less about white concern for lobster population health and far more related to racist opposition to Mi’kmaq fishers because they were Mi’kmaq.

Chief Sack has been clear in statements following this latest round of attacks however that the blame does not lie solely with individual racists in Nova Scotia, and in fact should be shared by the federal government which has stoked anti-Indigenous racism against the fishermen as well as participated in repression of their fisheries.

“DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) (is) coordinating with commercial fishery associations and representatives to limit access for Indigenous fishers,” the statement said. “These brazen actions have sadly become routine and in our experience will not result in any repercussions for the perpetrators from DFO or the RCMP. This is a cause and effect pattern.”

Saskatchewan Moves Forward with Construction of New Remand Centre

A new remand centre is set to be built in Saskatoon, expanding the existing Saskatoon Correctional Centre, with Correctional Services Canada announcing that the project will create 130 permanent jobs at the prison. The project will cost around $52 million and is set to be complete by 2024.

On August 5th, it was announced that Saskatoon-based PCL Construction had been hired as the Construction Manager for the project. The announcement comes despite the beginnings of resistance to the project by non-profits and activists. In 2020, a petition was launched to stop the construction, with petitioners pointing out the need for funding to reduce housing instability instead.

Other recent prison construction projects in Canada have faced fierce resistance. A struggle to stop the construction of a new migrant prison outside of Montreal, for example, saw repeated attacks on the offices and equipment of the architecture firms and contractors involved in the project, as well as large demonstrations and picnics at the construction site. There is also resistance brewing to a proposed “correctional complex” in Kemptville, Ontario, which is supposed to “alleviate crowding” in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and will add 235 beds to Ontario’s prison system. Whatever form the resistance to these new prisons takes, we wish the best of luck to prison abolitionists and those organizing against the expansion of the prison system in Canada!

Updates on the Fash Situation

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has uncovered another military member of the now-defunct Iron March web forum. William Condie is an armoured corporal currently in the reservers. He posted on Iron March and other fascist websites under the screen names KanadianKommando and Kommandosinarm. Despite very overt statements identifying as a fascist and wanting to gas Jewish people, he claims he left the “Alt-Right” two years ago.

The anti-vaccine/lockdown/mask/reality movement seems to be waning as some of the more prominent members of the movement are now facing court cases for various charges. Most of them have been compiled into one website. One white supremacist from Alberta, Pat King, who has been active in Canadian far-Right circles since the yellow vests, had a trial in July for a ticket they received from an anti-lockdown protest. Despite losing the case, Pat aggrandized himself for being solely responsible for ending COVID related restrictions in Alberta. Using a court summary of the trial Pat claimed the Alberta government had no evidence of COVID-19, instead of them just not having evidence of the existence of COVID-19 relating to his ticket.

For whatever reason, one of Canada’s biggest far-Right propaganda sites The Rebel fact checked King on this, causing a bit of a rift. Back in July The Rebel ever so softly challenged a very prominent anti-masker on his Holocaust denial, causing a brief period of infighting as well. The Rebel has a long history of pushing Islamophobic myths and content, as well as platforming and sharing videos of known white nationalists. Whatever the reason for these recent disagreements, we can be sure it is not a care for facts, truth or human decency.

Cop Fights Protestor in Calgary

In Calgary, protests have been ongoing, calling for the firing of Alex Dunn, the cop that slammed a handcuffed woman onto a concrete or tiled floor in 2017, getting a one month sentence. The sentence was served half under house arrest and half under curfew. At a protest on August 12th, when one of the protestors was filming an interaction between a cop returning from their lunch break and two on-duty colleagues, the off-duty cop grabbed at the persons phone. Later video shows the off-duty officer in a fight with someone.

A final video shows the person in the fight and another protester get wrestled to the ground while the instigating cop just watches everything. People were released, but information is not known about charges.

Fairy Creek Blockade Updates

The Fairy Creek blockade continues forward, with continued arrests. On August 14th, the campaign stated in an update on social media that:

Today, forest defenders ended a long, heartbreaking week of ground loss with a triumphant wave of mass mobilization.

Protectors laid anxiously in their trenches as RCMP laid down plywood so they could attempt to drive over top of them. Police harassed defenders about harvesting deadfall for tripods and soft blocks while officers with chainsaws took down entire trees in the background to circumvent hardblocks. After building over and around arrestees, police began excavating near a pile of logs, endangering three people locked into dragons who were located directly downhill.

Luckily, as this unfolded, Uncle Bill was assembling a whopping 220 people to storm the gate at HQ. Called on to walk in his place, Haida Nation drummers Kuu’laay (Charlotte Jones) and Xaay Gaas Jaad (Sylvia Williams) led the group on a smoky 4 hour march all the way up to the frontlines. As they got closer to River Camp, the group passed an RCMP presence in the midst of a haunting display of red dresses hung all over the barren clearcut mountainside – a stark reminder of the horrors still actively perpetuated by the RCMP towards this country’s MMIW. Upon reaching and resupplying the folks from River Camp, the group turned back around and eventually called a halt about 1 KM above the original HQ location.

At one point, apparently after forest defenders were singing too loud for Staff Sergeant Charney to use his radio, a helicopter was called in to hover ominously over the crowd, very intentionally whipping up a cloud of dust and dirt that engulfed those assembled. With midnight approaching, the call was finally made that all police vehicles on the upper stretch of road further up evacuate back down the hill. Meanwhile at Waterfall, a car managed to get up the road to drop off supplies and relieve some of the small skeleton crew holding down the camp.

In a legal update:

The court was asked to decide whether the RCMP’s establishment of exclusion zones was a valid exercise of police powers. In order to do that, Justice Thompson had to determine what duties the RCMP had as a result of the court’s order and whether the actions in question were reasonably necessary to carry out those duties. The RCMP said its duties were twofold: to arrest and remove people who were violating the injunction by blocking the roads, and to prevent people from violating the injunction. The first duty is apparent on the face of the order. However, Justice Thompson found that the RCMP had failed to prove the second duty. In other words, the RCMP has no duty to prevent people from violating the injunction, meaning that they cannot use that as a justification for their enforcement actions.

To read the full legal update, go here. Check out a new feature on the blockades in Teen Vogue here. Also, the campaign is in need of donations!

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Source: Itsgoingdown.org