Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill C-51 Panel discussion to the Muslim Community.

Today I was honoured to speak at the Condemning & Confronting Terrorism: Panel Discussion on Bill C-51 organized by Fayaz Tilly, Ilm Intensive, and Saima Jamal. Thank you to the other panel guests, Stephen Garvey, Faraz Bawa, and Brian Seaman for your thoughts and professional opinions. I spoke about the long history of racially targeting and spying on Indigenous Peoples of this land in the boundaries of Canada. To all those amazing people that attended the 8th Fire Gathering and the march downtown against Bill C-51, here is the speech I said:

My speech, March 14, 2015 at a Bill C-51 Panel discussion to the Muslim Community.

-Welcome to Treaty 7 Territory, the land of the Blackfoot Confederacy-

This land has been colonized for over 140 years. In 1877, Treaty 7 was signed with:
  Kainai Nation (Blood)
  Pikani First Nation (Peigan)
  Siksika Nation (Blackfoot)
  Tsuu T'ina Nation (Sarcee)
  Stoney First Nation – Bearspaw, Chiniki, Wesley
  Assiniboine Nation – Nakota, Dakota, Lakota

I speak on behalf of my own perspective as a Yellowknife Dene born in Calgary/Treaty 7, in the Blackfoot Confederacy. I want to acknowledge the event organizers for allowing an Indigenous woman to speak.

There are many misconceptions about the First Peoples’ of this land as I have been personally told by local members of the Muslim community. I pay taxes and have NOT received a free university education. These myths were told to you on purpose to demonize a made up enemy which is something I think your community is being unfairly targeted with now. Communication, education and historical context are the key to finding solutions for you in Canada. I hope to teach some history you may not be aware of because of purposeful agenda to NOT teach the truth of the land you are on. I hope to show you a long history of spying on, tracking, an unfair racial targeting of the First Peoples’ of this land and how the Muslim community can navigate through these waters.

The Indian Act exists today. It is a racist piece of legislation designed to manage and track “Indians” with a legal status as wards of the state. The Indian Pass System was in the Cdn west from 1882-1935 by Indian agents. Indian agents were imposed leadership from the Cdn government where our ancestors had to fill out permission slips and have one on their person at all time so the local NWMP/RCMP could verify we had permission to leave the imposed reservation system the Indian Act created. That system was later studied and implemented in South Africa for their apartheid system. Today, I have my Indian Act imposed Status card on me. This is a tracking system.

The Indian Act started out within the Department of National Defence, because we were (and still are) the enemy. We later we were the largest population willing to fight for the King in the Great War. On the Armed Forces webpage they quote: “Aboriginal soldiers were seen to be adaptable and patient, with keen observation powers, stamina, and courage.”
“The sacrifice of killed and wounded achieved very little politically, economically or socially.’ Historian James Dempsey has described the disappointment felt by many Prairie Indigenous veterans when they returned home. Their exposure to the broader world had changed them profoundly, but they returned to the same patronizing society that they had left. Although eligible for the vote overseas, we lost our democratic rights in Canada. Requirements for veterans’ settlement packages disadvantaged many Indigenous veterans. Although they had fought overseas, their legal status had not changed; they continued to be wards of the Crown.” We did not the right to vote until the 1960’s and in 1965 in Alberta. (That right was fought for by other white veterans with our veterans. People who fight for our rights, we call allies.)

Most of our public fights have been through the courts through the course of past 140 years since our Ancestors signed what our people believe to be peace treaties. However, the Oka Crisis in the summer of 1990 showed the long history of the RCMP and the First Nations, in this case the Mohawks, resulting in violence and death. In the summer of 1995 at Gustafsen Lake in BC, a standoff between the RCMP and First Nations, ended up being the most costly of its kind in Canadian history having involved 400 police officers and support from the Canadian Military (under Operation Wallaby). To this day, there are calls for an independent, impartial inquiry into the RCMP siege at Gustafsen Lake and the alleged ensuing cover-up. Splitting the Sky was one of the leaders at that conflict. He died in 2013 of a bump on the head that the investigators say is a result of him falling and hitting his head. Out of respect to his family’s wishes, his cause of death of has not been disputed.

More recently in 2006, “Information obtained by Access to Information requests reveals that almost immediately upon taking power in 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) was given the lead role to spy on First Nations. The goal was to identify the First Nation leaders, participants and outside supporters of First Nation occupations and protests, and to closely monitor their actions.” June 7, 2011 First Nations Under Surveillance Harper Government Prepares for First Nations “Unrest" by Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak

PM Harper also cut funding for the Court Challenges Program on September 25, 2006; he did this by executive decision with no debate in the House of Commons. The Court Challenges Program operated on a meagre 2.3 million dollar budget, but it was a critical program that provided legal and financial assistance to those seeking equality who could not otherwise challenge unconstitutional laws. PM Harper justified this unilateral action by stating he "intends to behave in a constitutional manner" and his government "does not intend to adopt unconstitutional legislation."

On July 27, 2009, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Leadership issued a statement on their website on how appalled and shocked they were by the Cdn Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute’s report alleging First Nations as a threat to the industry and labeled First Nations as eco-terrorists.

December 5, 2011 - The federal government created a wide-ranging surveillance network in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including those that would garner national attention or target “critical infrastructure” like highways, railways and pipelines, according to RCMP documents obtained through access to information requests. “Since the dismantling of the Aboriginal JIG [Joint Intelligence Group], the work done by the JIG is no longer performed at RCMP HQ Criminal Intelligence [CI]. However, we cannot confirm that RCMP divisions are not performing Aboriginal JIG activities under another name of program.” The so-called Aboriginal JIG that gathered the surveillance was run by the RCMP Criminal Intelligence branch and the RCMP’s National Security Criminal Investigations (NSCI), which has teams of officers in strategic locations across the country that deal with “threats to national security and criminal extremism or terrorism.”

Idle No More, and activists against the Northern Gateway pipeline were spied on by CSIS and the RCMP after an access to information request came out showing CSIS and the RCMP were taking direction from the National Energy Board.
This is an another example of intergovernmental cooperation against First Nations.
“In what may be a pitch to the private sector, the RCMP slideshow presentation states that the aboriginal intelligence unit can “alleviate some of your workload as we can help identify trends and issues that may impact more than one community.” It can also “provide information on activist groups who are promoting aboriginal issues within your area.””

Under the Indian Act, there are human rights violations in every sector because we are at an infrastructural funding deficit with the Federal government transfer payments. To compound the issue, we also get targeted for pointing it out. Cindy Blackstock is being monitored because of her human rights claim for Indigenous children against the Cdn government of unequal funding for foster care system. No other municipality or province would tolerate that treatment but our peoples and Chiefs live under this every day. As Pam Palmater said in her blog that was later published on “If someone were to ask me who was the LEAST likely to be spied on by Canada, I would have said Cindy Blackstock because for anyone who knows Cindy or her work, they know she is a peaceful, law-abiding citizen with a big heart. Her only alleged "subversive" or "hostile" act against Canada is that she peacefully advocates on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society: First Nations children.
Cindy does not do her advocacy by riding in on combat helicopters or tanks -- but instead runs the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society, donates her free time to spreading information and speak publicly about the realities faced by First Nations children, and is now running the Have a Heart campaign to raise money for First Nations children.”

Dr. Pam Palmater has also been spied on which she details on her same blog, CSIS and me, Jan 5, 2012. Dr. Palmater a Mi'kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

April 30, 2013 -Canada can't account for $3.1B in anti-terror funding, auditor general’s spring report finds
that means they will find the resources to target you with no accountability or transparency. Remember, this is before Bill C-51 so their claims of having oversight has been proven to be unfounded time and time again.

On Feb. 7/14, First Nations Education Act (FNEA) was launched at Kainai High School, Blood Reservation, here in Treaty 7. Although it was billed on the PMO’s press release as “open to the public, all of us “uninvited” had Blue dots placed on our hearts. It was placed over my heart and worse, my daughter’s. We were watched with Blue Dots, tracked by the police which started the #Bluedot movement and was recognized by Idle No More. That happened here and I bet you didn’t read about it the newspapers or seen that on the TV news. Awful things happened that day but the point is we were monitored by the police as uninvited, in our lands, on our territory. I blogged about it and as far I know is literally the only piece that documented it.

All of these examples are violations of our own Charter of rights and Freedoms. Now you know why you’ve been told so many lies about First Nations, Metis and Inuit. With my examples of spying and surveillance, the Japanese interim camps and since Sept. 11, the security certificates, you need to get political in a different way by going into every party and start submitting your own policies.

Feb. 21/14, A resolution to denounce spying on Indigenous peoples/organizations passed at the Liberal Party of Canada Convention protecting Indigenous Charter of Rights in Sec. 35.
WHEREAS the Conservative Party of Canada created a vast surveillance network
to monitor First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (Indigenous) peoples;
WHEREAS the Federal Government of Canada currently spends millions (how much) of taxpayers dollars annually on these surveillance networks straining the taxpayer;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party of Canada support the immediate end to discriminatory surveillance practices against Indigenous peoples.
I wrote that policy, I advocated for it and it passed. You can do this too.

“Looking at the flipside to these surveillance projects reveals another important dynamic at-play: the strength of ecological movements is being acknowledged.”
If the Muslim community is being unfairly targeted, that means you also have power for them to worry about. Start letter writing campaigns to your newspapers. Join local community boards and other ethno-cultural boards because the more exposure your community gets in a positive way, the more other people will advocate for you. You can’t just stay in your communities talking to your own. Join the military, police and run for office so we can get policy makers at the table that are culturally sensitive. If you learned anything from me today, it’s that Canada has a long history of racially targeting and being actively engaged in is one of the solutions to manage it and hopefully, working to change it.

No one from the Indigenous community wants you to leave. As First Nations, our Ancestors signed those Treaties believing we could respectfully live in peace with the newcomers. I still believe that and want to honour my Ancestors wishes. We can be your allies and embrace this land together. Respect our spirituality and we’ll respect yours as we learn and grow from each other. All of this falls in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our historical Treaties. I’m Treaty, you’re Treaty, we are ALL Treaty. Honour the Treaties.

I am truly honoured to be here and humbled to be able to speak with these fine individuals who share our worries and concerns in their own way. Mahsi Cho.