Aboriginal Justice

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: The river still flows




Judy Da Silva, Slant Lake,
Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows)
October 2011

 

And the sun still shines; at least as it appears to when I look outside my window, in Toronto, Ontario.  Rains, however, have engulfed my heart and spirit, ever since I learned the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor on Friday of Ontario’s “right” to permit industrial logging on Grassy Narrows' (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishnabek) traditional lands.

“As long as the rivers flows and the sun shines” (referencing Treaty #3) has become the cry of resistance since 3 December 2002 when two members of the Grassy Narrows community stepped in front of a logging truck hauling timber out of clear cuts, located on their traditional territory.  Their resistance has become the longest standing indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history.  Make no mistake, it will continue.

“Our supreme law is the Natural Law, and our right to live our way of life on our territory is given to us by the Creator since time immemorial.  Our grassroots women, youth and land users will continue to maintain our blockade, our boycott, and our protest along with our supporters from around the world who recognize that we are standing for all life,” wrote Judy Da Silva, Clan Mother and CPT Partner (emphasis added).

Prayers for Peacemakers July 11, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers July 11, 2014

Pray for the people of Grassy Narrows.  The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that the Ontario government could permit industrial logging on their traditional lands today. 


Epixel for July 13, 2014



 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word. Psalm 119:107

 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Amplification

CPT takes seriously its mission of listening to marginalized people and speaking their truth to a wider audience.  For this reason, our delegation met community members in Grassy Narrows who represent their community’s interests in negotiations with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), logging companies, and before the courts.

Our host, Andrew Keewatin (Shoon), is building manager and leader of the Trappers’ Centre.  Within the community, Shoon runs AA meetings and teaches children traditional skills like building canoes, snowshoes, and drums, filleting fish, and tanning hide to make moccasins. 

In recent years the MNR licensed logging companies to clearcut sections of forest on his land.  Occasionally he has been able to negotiate with the MNR to preserve bands of forest connecting water sources or to spare trees that have little commercial value.  But in the end, the MNR decides where and when logging companies may cut down forests, not the people who have lived and worked on the land and for generations.




Community member Cheryl Fobister at blockade

When a logging company constructed a road within kilometers of Grassy Narrows, disregarding the wishes of the community, the conflict with the Grassy Narrows community came to a head.  On a cold December afternoon in 2002, three youth blocked the road by cutting down nearby trees.  This bold action brought the people of Grassy Narrows together to form a blockade, an expression of nonviolent resistance that they had been contemplating for some time.

Among the countless people that participated in the blockade, Judy Da Silva emerged as a strong advocate.  Mrs. Da Silva has watched logging companies enter her Nation’s territory for years, clearcut vast swathes of forest, and disregard the concerns her community expressed.  She is a protector of the forest and of the broader ecosystem on behalf of her children and her children’s children.  For her, dispossessing First Nations of their land, refusing to investigate the murder of 1000 First Nations women and the disappearance of 200 more, poisoning the English-Wabigoon River system with mercury, and disregarding the wishes of First Nations peoples for the use of their territory are all connected by a White settler ideology that values only those things that can be converted into money.

Prayers for Peacemakers May 28, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers May 28, 2014

Pray that Supreme Court of Canada will render a just decision, now that it has finished hearing the case presented by the Grassy Narrows’ Trappers that they have rights guaranteed by Treaty and Higher Authority to use their traditional lands.

Epixel* for June 1, 2014

 Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad; you restored your heritage when it languished;
your flock found a dwelling in it;  in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy. Psalm 68: 9-10

 
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised
Common Lectionary readings.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Through the window

[Note: The following reflection by a member of the May Aboriginal Justice delegation has been adapted for CPTnet.  The original is available here. ]

Two weeks ago on our Aboriginal Justice delegation, we attended bail court for people arrested and held over the weekend in Kenora, Ontario.  We hoped that our presence indicated to both the court employees and defendants that people were watching, that outsiders cared about what happened in that space.

The sharp gradient of power symbolized within the courtroom struck me.  The judge was literally front and center and at the highest point in the room.  His word was law and his orders carried out.  The defendant was cloistered behind glass panels at the side.  He could speak only when spoken to.  His fate was dependent upon the judgments of others.  Dynamics of structural oppression were also at work, from the racialized division of Anishinaabe defendants and white settler prosecutors, to the social, historical, and economic backdrop of the alleged crimes.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Otters and Oppression

One morning during my recent Aboriginal Justice Delegation, a walk around Lake of the Woods led me to an otter.  I love the slinky agility of otters: their graceful dives, the cord of bubbles that marks their underwater path, and their effortless mounting of ice floes.  As a break from its fishy breakfast, the otter climbed onto a dock and shook itself dry.  It squinted up at me, decided that I wasn’t a threat, and pooped on the dock.  Its defecatory duty done, it glided back into the water and disappeared.

Prayers for Peacemakers April 16, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers April 16, 2014

Give thanks that Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has decided not to issue logging permits on Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) traditional lands this year, and that the EACOM and Weyerhaeuser corporations have decided not to purchase lumber from Grassy Narrows' traditional lands.  Pray that justice will be done next month when the case goes to Canada’s highest court in Ottawa that will focus on whether Ontario has the right to issue permits on traditional lands, which First Nations believe are protected by a treaty agreements.

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 12, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 12, 2014

Pray for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, and for the Canadian authorities to begin taking violence against Indigenous women seriously.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Listening for the voices of missing and murdered Indigenous women

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Listening for the voices of missing and murdered Indigenous women

According to reports by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), there are roughly 600 known cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, many of them unsolved.*  Loretta Saunders, an Inuit woman from Labrador whose family reported her missing on 13 February 2014, is one of the latest.  The RCMP discovered her body along a New Brunswick highway on 26 February.  That Saunders was in the middle of finishing her PhD in Halifax— on Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women—makes her death particularly harrowing, yet each of these women’s deaths is reprehensible.

CPT attended the ninth Annual Strawberry Ceremony honoring missing and murdered Indigenous women on 14 February, when over 200 people gathered at the downtown Toronto police headquarters for a rally and march.  Many individuals in the crowd held up signs bearing names, dates, and occasionally photos.  Several dozen people carried black silhouette-style signs cut in the shape of women's profiles, with names in white lettering on one side, and dates—usually preceded with the word “murdered”—on the other.



ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: SWN makes hasty retreat from Signigtog region of New Brunswick

In an apparent about face, the U.S.-based oil and gas company, Southwestern Energy Resources Canada (“SWN”) has suspended its seismic testing operations in New Brunswick, announcing it will return in 2015.  The company issued its brief public statement late Friday afternoon, 6 December.

Previously, the company’s stated intention was to finish the exploration phase of its contract with the provincial government, despite ongoing opposition by Mi’kmaq, Acadian, and Anglophone protectors of the land.  CPT can confirm that SWN did not finish testing nor gather all necessary data regarding gas deposits in Kent County.

Protectors had maintained an encampment close to Highway 11 in Kent County and were not deterred by consistent heavy RCMP presence accompanying SWN nor the multiple arrests of protestors made in the last month.  (CPT partner and Elsipogtog resident Lorraine Clair was one of those arrested.  See interview.)

After a judge refused to extend the gas company’s initial injunction against protectors on 21 October, SWN filed another injunction on 22 November, which a second judge did grant.  Similar in content to the first injunction, it prohibited protectors from coming within a certain distance of SWN equipment, and/or impeding SWN’s work.

New Brunswick also officially joined the injunction in support of SWN.  New Brunswick Premier David Alward has called the protectors’ opposition a “beachhead” and refuses to engage in dialogue with those who oppose shale gas exploration.