No. 38October 4, 2021
Actions continue by the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders to defend the sacred headwaters of the Wedzin Kwa river which sustains life in the territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation and beyond. They are defending their hereditary rights on their yintah – their territories – against state-organized assaults which are constant. Canadians are called on to unite as one to protect those who are protecting their hereditary rights on their own lands.
A video released on October 4 on the Yintah Access social media feed shows a new log cabin “that will be housing Wet’suwet’en people for generations to come,” Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’ said. The cabin sits on the site cleared by GasLink (CGL) for drilling under the Wedzin Kwa.
“They were supposed to have all of this done by the fourth quarter of last year, in 2020. They weren’t able to even complete the geotechnical drilling at that time. So they’re a full year behind schedule and they won’t be coming in any time soon to be drilling under the Wedzin Kwa. People are going to be living here and it will be occupied from now on.
“This (CGL) project is not a done deal. It’s only one third complete and most of that work has been happening in other territories. The Wet’suwet’en have been resisting this project since day one and will continue to resist this project until it falls,” Sleydo’ said.
“It’s time to end this once and for all because there’s no way that the Wet’suwet’en are ever going to stand down. (…) We’re not going anywhere. We’re digging in. We don’t give up,” Sleydo’ said.
Prior to this, on October 1, an action was organized by the Toronto chapter of Idle No More, Porcupine Warriors and Rising Tide where various speakers highlighted the recent events that have unfolded on the territory of the Wet’suwet’en and the efforts of Coastal GasLink to push a pipeline through their lands without their consent. Participants were told that the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders had taken over and shut down Coastal GasLink’s drill site which threatened the pristine waters of the Wedzin Kwa river and had cut off the access road to the Coastal GasLink worksite, in the face of the ongoing threats and violence by private security and the RCMP.
Everyone was called on to step up their support of the Wet’suwet’en people in their fight to affirm their land rights and sovereignty in the face of the silence by the media and the Trudeau government’s support for the pipeline despite broad opposition. Everyone was encouraged to keep informed through yintahaccess.com and to talk to their neighbours, family, friends and co-workers about the just struggle being waged by the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders.
Chanting and a round dance at the Yonge/Dundas intersection drew enthusiastic support from the public watching. This was followed by a march up Yonge Street to Ryerson University where the statue of Egerton Ryerson, one of the architects of the residential school system, was toppled in January this year.
On October 3rd, as part of the Red Dress Campaign, family, friends, and Prince George residents from all walks of life came together to remember and give voice to the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls along Hwy 16 – the Highway of Tears.
Beginning with a welcoming prayer and a powerful circle of drumming and song, family members and friends shared their stories of grief and determination. Then with empty red dresses held high, representing those lost and missing, participants lined the side of the Highway of Tears and were met with passersby waving and honking their support.
The event highlighted the heartbreak of losing loved ones, but also the resolve of everyone there to work together to change the situation.
– Pierre Soublière –
On September 30, two years almost to the day after the publication of the Viens Commission Report and its calls to action, a follow-up committee composed of lawyers and university professors published its own report on the government follow-up to these calls to action.
The Viens Commission was formed two months after ten Indigenous women of the region of Val-d’Or declared publicly that they had been victims of abuse by the Sûreté du Québec police. The public inquiry commission was to be on relations between Indigenous peoples and certain public services in Quebec: “listening, reconciliation and progress.” The mandate of the Viens Commission – so named after the judge who presided over it – was to inquire and to make recommendations for the government to establish corrective measures to the discriminatory practices and different treatment received by Indigenous peoples and all forms of violence. The measures were to be concrete, efficient and enduring so as to prevent or eliminate, no matter what the origin or the cause, all forms of discrimination and violence in the delivery of public services. This covered the period from 2001 to 2016.
The current Committee Report begins by mentioning that the Viens Commission had formulated 142 calls to action with the aim of improving relations between Indigenous peoples and those public services examined: police, justice, corrections, health and social services and youth protection. It also notes that the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan at the Joliette hospital on September 28, 2020, a year after the publication of the Viens report, brought to the fore the problems of racism and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples within Quebec public services, notably in the health sector.
The Committee points out how difficult it was to obtain all the necessary information from government bodies for its report. Government departments claim to have found not a single document to forward with regard to 13 calls to action and refused to answer questions with regard to 48 calls to action. Thus, only 60 calls to action were accounted for in terms of responses detailing their consideration, their application, or mentioning the complementary measures undertaken. For 19 calls to action (14 per cent), the Committee did not receive a single response from government departments or public services, in spite of receiving an extension of several months to do so. The Committee notes more particularly a lack of collaboration on the part of the Department of Public Safety as well as a categorical refusal on the part of the Department of Health and Social Services to respond to requests of access to information concerning that department.
The exercise undertaken by the Committee allowed it to come to the conclusion that where actions were taken to implement the report, many were taken up in a minimalist, piecemeal fashion and without any consultation – an approach which the Viens Commission had criticized. The Committee says that the refusal to this day to implement the call to action to adopt legislation taking into consideration the provisions of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a good example of this.
An example of the timidity with which certain actions have been undertaken is the signs in Inuktitut in the courthouse of Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq which are but a fraction of what is needed to answer call to action 15, which calls for bilingual or trilingual signs in all public service establishments with an Indigenous population.
As for interactions with police and courts, particularly with regard to people living in a situation of homelessness — in many cities the number of Indigenous persons who are homeless is greatly disproportionate to their percentage of the population. The Committee mentions that one of the calls to action of the Viens Commission was that authorities should take into consideration the inability to pay of the most vulnerable. In spite of this, the information obtained from many municipalities through access to information shows that arrest warrants continue to be issued in a number of cities.
The Committee also notes that while a number of measures were taken at the Joliette hospital in the wake of Joyce Echaquan’s tragic death, these measures have not found their way into other hospitals serving an Indigenous population. It also notes that to this day the Quebec government refuses to recognize Joyce’s Principle developed by the Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation which stipulates that all Indigenous people have an equal right to the highest standard of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health, with a right to traditional medicines and the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. The government must also recognize Indigenous rights to autonomy and self-determination in matters of health and social services.
To see the report in its entirety: click here.
On Sunday, October 3 a fundraising campaign was launched in Montreal to help the victims of the devastating earthquake of August 14, 2021, which affected three departments in the deep south of Haiti. The Interregional Support Group in Response to Haitian Municipal Organizations (GISROMH) has organized itself to provide structural support to the affected Haitian localities during the post-emergency period.
The goal of the three-month fundraising campaign, from October 3 to January 3, 2022, is to raise $3 million. GISROMH’s actions and decisions are guided by the following values: respect for Haitian sovereignty, autonomy, solidarity, democratic power and member participation. These values allow us to articulate an approach aimed at real and systemic change, GISROMH points out.
For information click here.
At the protest, Jennie-Laure Sully of Solidarité Québec-Haiti (SQ-H) addressed the years of destabilization by the members of the so-called Core Group, which includes the U.S. and Canada amongst others, that drove many Haitians to flee the country, especially after the 2010 earthquake. Forced to traverse the Americas, in some cases almost a decade later, many of them recently appeared at the U.S. border with Mexico. Had it not been for the interference in Haiti of the so-called Core Group, “there would be no refugee crisis,” Sully said. The crisis in Haiti is “the direct result of the fraudulent elections in Haiti, organized with Canadian and U.S. funds, she said, and concluded: We must say “No, Not With Our Taxes!, Not In Our Name! The Destabilization of Haiti Must End!“
“Canada is insisting that other fraudulent elections be organized, so that other leaders, puppets in the hire of the imperialists, continue to do their dirty work in Haiti. We oppose the role played by Canada in the Haitian crisis, in the refugee crisis,” she said. She also pointed to Canada’s responsibility with regard to family reunification. “Many of the refugees at the border have family here and could have been reunited with their families,” she said.
She addressed the importance for the U.S., to ”keep their stranglehold over Haiti … to not only have control over the Caribbean, but all of Latin America.”
Frantz André, also of SQ-H, described the U.S. administration’s treatment of Haitian refugees at the border between Mexico and Texas as “barbarity and behaviour which dates back to slavery” and said that this behaviour “shows that this group of imperialists wants to keep on trampling, keep their knee on our necks to suffocate us and this we cannot accept.”
Since at least 2004, he said, the Core Group “chooses our presidents and gets rid of them… Haiti must be recognized as sovereign and proud. We cannot continue to see refugees who left their country being exploited and displaced around the world whether in Brazil, Chile, the U.S. or anywhere else, in the hopes of finding a promised land,… to finally find themselves at the U.S. border and be rejected in such a barbaric manner by cowboys, border agents on horseback, whipping them and pushing them back into the river, where they risk being drowned … What’s being done is criminal and Canada has been and is complicit if it does not denounce this.”
A spokesperson representing Liaison Internationale des Haïtiens (LIH), noted that those pillaging Haiti “have a tendency to forget that Haiti is a nation, it is a people and like all other nations and peoples, they have the right to their dignity. We will always be a nation and we will always fight for our freedom, for the dignity that is due to us.”
“There is no longer anyone under the bridge at the border. There are still people in prison. We have the daily reports that show how they are being mistreated, forced to sleep in cold rooms, not given anything to wash with.”
“We are here to denounce the inhumanity of what is taking place in the U.S. and in many other countries,” she said. “Everyone must be treated with dignity. We deserve it and demand it.”
“Long Live Haiti!” she concluded, adding: “We are also here in support of all immigrants.”
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