Aboriginal Justice

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.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Finding the Church’s place 250 years after the Royal Proclamation.

Three years ago in Algonquin territory, an elder of Barriere Lake taught me about the Three Figure Agreement wampum belt.  It displays a trio of human figures; French, English and Algonquin, standing hand-in-hand beside the unmistakable form of the cross. “Some folks get angry when they see that cross” said the elder through his translator. “But I tell them why it’s there: because the Church promised to make sure that the Europeans kept their promises.”

As a Christian aiming to live and work in solidarity with the First Peoples of this land, I find it hard to ignore the Church’s history of abuse and betrayal as it collaborated with the colonial project.  Discerning how to be a faithful Christian given that knowledge is a challenge.  

Recently I accompanied a delegation of First Nation chiefs, elders & veterans to London, capital of my UK homeland, a city built on the spoils of Empire and cluttered with colonial mementos and monuments. A number of other Christians of both native and non-native heritage joined the delegation to mark 250 years since the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that set the stage for treaty-making.  In discussions, the role of the Church in these treaties became clearer to me.

Indigenous nations had long-established forms and traditions for international treaty-making, but the British government did not adopt a consistent policy regarding treaties until the Royal Proclamation.

 The Church’s significance for Indigenous negotiators can be emphasised by considering different interpretations of “treaty”—the European understanding of them as surrender of land, and the Indigenous conception as a relationship for mutual sharing of lands, technology and gifts. If a treaty is covenant, not land surrender, the spiritual dimension is central, and the Church’s presence must have reassured negotiators that these newcomers understood what they were committing to.

Elsipogtog: An Ugly Day in New Brunswick

Thursday 17 October was an "ugly day in the history of the province of New Brunswick,” according to Mi'kmaq Chief Arren Sock as he prepared to meet with Premier David Alward the following day.

At approximately 6 AM, the RCMP broke the blockade of vehicles owned by SWN Resources parked in a compound near Rexton, New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaq of Elsipogtog First Nation, together with their Acadian and Anglophone allies, kept the gate blockaded for 19 days, even in the face of a court injunction acquired by the US-based company doing seismic testing for the presence of shale gas.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Elsipogtog: Patience is a virtue

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Elsipogtog: Patience is a virtue

Standing at the BlockadeEntering its second week, the blockade at the Southwestern Energy Resources (SWN) “thumper” compound on Route 134 near Rexton, New Brunswick shows no signs of ending.

First Peoples from Elsipogtog and other communities, as well as Acadian and Anglophone protectors, make up the encampment. CPTers Chris Sabas and Carrie Peters also remain within the encampment, enjoying brief respites off site thanks to the generosity of local community members. Donated food and supplies continue to arrive at the encampment.

Elsipogtog: Blockade Begins

On Sunday, 29 September 2013, Elsipogtog women protectors blocked the entrance to a recently constructed compound housing Southwestern Energy Resources Canada (SWN) equipment on local Highway 134, near present-day Rexton, New Brunswick.  The compound is located on Elsipogtog traditional territory, which is unceded land.

Within minutes they were joined by other indigenous protectors, as well as Acadian and Anglophone community members. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) attempted to re-secure the entrance to the compound, but the unarmed protectors successfully stood their ground. An encampment was erected. At the time of this release, the blockade has entered its fifth day. All SWN property within the compound remains untouched and unmolested.