This week we’ve got quite a few stories for you.
We are bringing you updates about the recent raid and arrests at Gidimt’en Checkpoint, and community defense of queer and trans events in both Vancouver and Montreal. We also provide an explanation of the hardening of the border between the US and Canada, and its already deadly consequences. We share demands for access to mental health supports from prisoners in Kenora, and an update on a fossil fuel divestment campaign in Hamilton. Lastly, we share a communique from Collectif Mashk Assi, following a recent rail blockade in Innu territory.
On to the full stories!
RCMP Raid Gidimt’en Checkpoint, Making Five Arrests for Obstruction
TW: arrest and violence#CIRG @grcrcmppolice arresting Wetsuweten people and allies on the yintah right now. @Gidimten#abolishcirg
— Decolonial Solidarity #KillTheDrill (@decolonialsol) March 29, 2023
A raid on Gidimt’en Checkpoint, the Wet’suwet’en land defense camp at 44 KM on Morice Forest Service Road outside Houston, BC, took place on March 29th. According to reports by Sleydo’, Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson, and a CBC article, multiple CIRG vehicles arrived on the scene in the morning to execute a search warrant. Five land defenders were quickly arrested and charged with obstruction of a police officer for preventing the execution of the warrant and for not cooperating.
URGENT MEDIA ADVISORY: RCMP C-IRG Raid Wet’suwet’en Village Site, Make 5 Arrests https://t.co/Us1P4a7Nlw #AbolishCIRG #AllOutForWedzinKwa pic.twitter.com/zQGa0nn0GJ
— Gidimt’en Checkpoint (@Gidimten) March 29, 2023
The search warrant was for an alleged theft under 5000$ which police say took place on March 26th about a kilometre away from the Checkpoint. A CGL worker alleges he was swarmed by a masked group which shot off flares, and that a chainsaw was stolen from his truck after he left the area.
According to a Gidimt’en media advisory:
This large-scale action by the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group (C-IRG) involved more than a dozen police vehicles and officers drawn from throughout British Columbia. The arrests come just weeks after the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) announced they have “initiated a systemic investigation into the activities and operations of the RCMP “E” Division Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).”
In the days leading to this police action, RCMP C-IRG have been found patrolling Wet’suwet’en traplines and cultural use areas, harassing and intimidating Wet’suwet’en members and disrupting constitutionally protected Wet’suwet’en cultural activities. Members of a private security firm hired by Coastal Gaslink pipeline, Forsythe, have also escalated harassment and surveillance efforts against Wet’suwet’en members in recent days.
“Sleydo’, spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, said:
This harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands. The constant threat of violence and criminalization for merely existing on our own lands must have been what our ancestors felt when Indian agents and RCMP were burning us out of our homes as late as the 50s in our area. The colonial project continues at the hands of industry’s private mercenaries–C-IRG.”
Roxham Road and Safe Third Country Loophole Closed, Migrants Die Crossing St Lawrence River
At midnight on Saturday, March 25th, deadly changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement came into effect. The agreement between the US and Canada, which forces migrants to claim asylum in the “first safe country” they reach, had until recently applied only to legal border crossings. Until Saturday, migrants could cross into Canada from the US, and vice versa, at irregular points along the border and, if they made it, claim asylum once they arrived without being immediately turned away under the agreement. Roxham Road, a relatively safe irregular crossing point in Quebec, was a popular crossing point for people seeking to enter Canada from the US. But last Friday, it was announced that come midnight the Safe Third Country Agreement would apply also to irregular crossings and that it would no longer be possible to claim asylum in Canada if you had come through the US and vice versa. It took time for word to spread, and the next day people were already being sent away, turned back from what had been until hours before a safe place to cross.
News outlets like CBC shared countless stories of shocked people stuck with no place to go, who hadn’t been able to get to Roxham before it closed and were now stranded, or who were now being forced to consider crossing clandestinely in other places. In the midst of this shock and desperation, it was reported that the deal announced Friday had actually been approved a year earlier, but was kept secret. According to CBC, “Government officials kept the agreement under wraps until the official announcement because they were worried about triggering a stampede at the border.” In other words, the US and Canada wanted to keep it a secret so that as few people as possible would be able to adjust their plans and cross safely.
We call on Prime Minister Trudeau to end the Safe Third Country Agreement, ensure that migrants can cross the border safely, and end the precariousness and exploitation of migrants in Canada. Status for all! pic.twitter.com/n3SXqHtrg9
— Solidarité sans frontières #StatusforAll (@SolidariteMTL) March 29, 2023
In recent months people have died crossing the US-Canada border, and these deaths will only increase as people have to try way harder to cross undetected. Just days after the changes to the agreement were announced, 6 people were found dead and 2 are still missing after the boat they were in capsized while it was crossing the St Lawrence in Akwesasne, the Mohawk community that straddles the US, Ontario, and Quebec. Police say the group was attempting to enter the US from Canada.
Nobody is illegal, and everyone should be able to move freely and live in dignity and safety. Canada and the US can try to harden the border through legislation, surveillance, and enforcement, but people will continue to cross the illegitimate and arbitrary boundary, as they always have.
In response to the announcement, Solidarity Across Borders, a migrant solidarity group, called a demonstration for March 29th outside Justin Trudeau’s riding office in Montreal to denounce the closing of Roxham Road. Speakers called for the abolition of the Safe Third Country Agreement. We hope to see even more organizing in support of migrants and against border infrastructure and enforcement as conditions get more and more deadly for people just trying to find a safe place to live.
Queer and Trans Community Defense
In Vancouver, a crowd of 75-100 people gathered to mark Trans Day of Visibility on March 31st. Unfortunately, a few transphobes showed up to disrupt the event, but were successfully dealt with by attendees. Vancouver far-Right personality “Billboard Chris” later posted a video looking bloodied and complaining about being assaulted.
A drag queen story hour at a public library in Sainte-Catherine, a suburb about 30 minutes outside of Montreal, was moved to a secret location and was ultimately able to take place after transphobes, conspiracy theorists, and the neo-Nazis planned a protest against it. Unfortunately, in the lead up to the drag story hour, Barbada, the organizer and performer, called for the counter protest to be cancelled, citing the belief that cops would protect the event and expressing that the best way to deal with the protesters was simply to ignore them. Some of those calling for a drag defense counter protest explained why they still planned to show up:
Ultimately, this is about our security and our survival. (These movements come too often with waves of murders targeting trans people, especially trans women.)
It also seems to us be a poor analysis to believe that this situation only concerns Barbada as an individual. While her performance is indeed being targeted, with the possibility that this situation can have repercussions on her career, this far-right group and its protest are not just about Barbada. We are all affected by their actions and their discourse. To do nothing might be the best course of action for Barbada’s activities, but that would be sending the message that we let these groups operate unopposed. It is unfortunate that Barbada finds herself in the middle of all of this, and we sympathize with the situation. However, we consider it necessary to oppose this proto-fascist group and any others who might want to erase our existence whenever and wherever they might show their ugly faces. We have neither hopes nor expectations for police and politicians to protect us.
We express all this in a spirit of honesty and dialogue. We invite all drag/trans defenders to listen to their conscience when choosing how they want to act in response to this situation. We are not looking to denounce anyone for their choice of strategies or actions, and hope to receive the same treatment from our community.
In the end, while the fascists showed up in large numbers to attempt to spout their transphobic and homophobic nonsense, a good number of queer and trans organizers and antifascists also came out to stop them, as promised. Because of the presence of the drag event defenders, the fascists and transphobes were unable to make it onto the library grounds and were forced to remain in the parking lot across the street. The queer, trans, antifascist group played music, danced, and held the line to keep the fascists away from the library, and handed out flyers explaining their presence. Among the mix of conspiracy theorists, right-wing Christians, and many brands of fascists and transphobes were also some neo-Nazis. Their presence sparked several physical altercations, which were all resounding victories for the antifascist side. As more and more cops showed up, and the fights continued, a few of the neo-Nazis were arrested.
For a full and very detailed report back on the counter protest, including identifications of some of the individual nazis who were present and got beat up, see this great report from Montreal Anti-Fasciste.
Following the event, the protest organizer, anti-vax and anti-trans conspiracy theorist Francois Amalega Bitondo, tweeted that one of his car tires was popped during the event.
Both of these events illustrate the rise of conspiracy theories and hatred targeting queer and trans communities. But they also show the power and importance of people showing up to carry out community defense of queer and trans events and existence. Keep it up folks!
Kenora Jail Prisoners Demand Access to Mental Health Supports
On March 30th, the prisoners of Block 8 in Kenora jail released an audio statement that indicated they weren’t receiving appropriate access to mental health care:
People are suffering from mental health issues. We keep asking for help, and we keep getting told we are annoying.” A prisoner, wanting to remain anonymous for safety, reads from a prepared statement. The statement is on behalf of Block 8 at Kenora Jail, but “All Indigenous inmates (in this facility) are receiving this treatment.
So far the prison’s Superintendent, Kevin Holmquist has been denying the claims. The prisoners of Block 8 have released three demands, including having the superintendent visit the range with the mental health nurse to help prisoners schedule psychiatric appointments, having administration address issues with the range’s sinks, showers, toilets and phones, and better phone access.
Prisoners and their supporters are asking everyone to contact the prison to amplify Block 8’s demands. Updates and contact information can be found at @djnontario on instagram.
Rail Blockade Against Petapan Treaty in Nitassinan
Nitassinan: blocage d’un chemin de fer contre le traité Petapanhttps://t.co/gCVBjY6UMd
— Mtl Contre-information (@MTLCounterInfo) April 1, 2023
On March 30th, a group of Indigenous land defenders blockaded a rail line in Nitassinan, Innu land claimed by Quebec and Labrador. The line is owned by Rio Tinto and they blocked it for two hours in protest of the Petapan Treaty.
According to the Collectif Mashk Assi report:
More than 30 Innuat territorial chiefs demand by signed petition the immediate cessation of negotiations as well as the immediate cessation of logging in the Cyriac forest sector and the shutdown of the first phosphate corp mine!!! The communication of opposition to the Petapan Treaty of the Innuat Hereditary Chiefs was sent to all levels of government yesterday before the illegal signing scheduled today of this treaty on March 31, 2023!!!
The objective of territorial negotiations is to divide this territory into small territories and to extinguish the right to self-determination of the Innu people. Colonization, cultural amnesia and, above all, confinement on reserves have meant that many people and some chiefs no longer see what they are letting go, a vast territory, but imagine what they think they are gaining, a slightly larger reserve. The complex of the colonized is to come to define itself through the eyes of the colonizer. It becomes all the more problematic that those who do not see clearly are responsible exclusively for negotiating the future of all our people.
Under the Indian Act, it is important to remember that band councils have jurisdiction over the management of reserve lands only. In that sense, they do not have jurisdiction over off-reserve lands. It is the chiefs of territory, the guardians.nes of territory and the circles of kukum (grandmothers) who have the obligation to protect the ancestral territory. Under Innu law, land is inalienable and constitutes a legacy for future generations that must be protected and respected. In this sense and under Innu law, these negotiations are illegitimate and illegal. In this sense, the hereditary chiefs demand the immediate halt of the process of comprehensive territorial negotiations.
McMaster Students Demand Divestment From Fossil Fuels, Kick off Hunger-Strike
In late March McMaster University students in Hamilton escalated their campaign to push the university to divest from fossil fuels. After months of campaigning, five students took part in an 8-day hunger strike to try and force the university to cancel an unpopular energy generation project and commit to full divestment from fossil fuels. Construction is underway for four new natural-gas powered generators on environmentally sensitive swampland near the university. The generators will give the university access to financial incentives for heavy electricity users reducing their energy consumption during peak hours. However, students, staff and community members have voiced their opposition to the investment in carbon-emitting energy generation, as well as the university’s broader investments in fossil fuels. After 8 days, students concluded the hunger strike without concessions from the university, but vowed to continue their fight.
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