From Unceded and Unsurrendered Algonquin Territory
Occupy Ottawa is organizing a protest at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 10 Wellington St., at the North Tower in Hull on Thursday, Dec. 1st at 2:45pm
We are doing this in response to the call made by Indigenous People in Solidarity with the Occupy Movement for a Day of Action on Thursday, Dec. 1st.
Attawapiskat Declares State of Emergency
At the same time that many Occupies were being evicted and their tent cities being confiscated and/or destroyed, the community of Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency due to the Fourth World living conditions:
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the living conditions are horrible and deteriorating:
For at least the past two years, many residents – including in some cases, multiple generations of one family – in the community have been living in makeshift tents and shacks without heat, electricity and indoor plumbing.
At least 90 people have resorted to living in two construction workers' portables equipped with only two washrooms and four showers to use among them.
Others are using buckets as washroom facilities and sleep in fear of fire because of wood-burning stoves in their homes, the chief said.[i]"
This is what occupation and colonization truly look like. While first nations are forced into inhumane conditions, the Canadian government and Canadian and Transnational corporations continue to benefit and profit from the historic and ongoing theft of indigenous lands and genocide of Indigenous Peoples.
While Stephen Harper can say that, "Canada has no history of colonialism," Indigenous people, communities and nations continue to struggle with the legacy of the Residential School System, a system designed, in the words of Duncan Campbell Scott, the head of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, ‘"to get rid of the Indian problem.… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department...."'
The most basic function of the Residential School system – to take Indigenous children from their communities and to forcibly assimilate them into the culture of their colonizers is precisely what article 2(e) of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is referring to: "Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group". And while the 2(a) – 2(d)[ii] may not have been intentional, they are also most certainly applicable as far as the real day-to-day practices of the Residential School System.
From Columbus to the Tar Sands
In 1492 Colombus "discovered" the Americas, or, more specifically, what we now call the Carribean. In 1493 he returned with 17 ships and installed himself as "Viceroy and Governor of [the Carribean Islands] and the mainland"... "[H]e promptly instituted policies of slavery...and systemic extermination against the native Taino population.[iii]" Although each colonizing power would proceed somewhat differently, and Indigenous Nations would resist in their different ways, the pattern for European colonization of the Americas had already been set in 1493: the usurpation of Indigenous Sovereignty, the genocide of Indigenous people, either directly, through mass murder, or indirectly by working them to death as slaves, the theft of their lands, all while the European invaders praised themselves for being civilized, Christian, and European, for being immeasurably superior.
The complete genocide of the Beothuk people (Newfoundland) stands as a stark example of the brutality of colonialism in Canada. Similarly the brutal wars between the English and the Micmac, where the English continued their genocidal policy towards Indigenous People, and where they repeatedly broke and violated peace treaties, is another example of the violent, deceitful nature of the English Crown and its representatives.
However, to take us from then to now (through a series of broken treaties, the illegal occupation of British Colombia, the Residential School System, and the essentially useless and certainly unjust specific and comprehensive claims processes) we arrive at the Tar Sands, which are currently considered the single largest industrial project in the history of humanity. The impacts on the environment, on working-class and poor people, and especially on indigenous communities is and will be extensive:
"Currently, tar sands operations are licensed to divert 652 million cubic meters of fresh water each year, 80% from the Athabasca River. In comparison, this amounts to approximately 7 times the annual water needs of the city of Edmonton. About 1.8 million cubic metres of this water becomes highly toxic tailings waste each day.
In 2008, tar sands operations produced 37.2 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, an increase of 121% between 1990 and 2008. Planned tar sands growth indicates a near tripling of emissions between 2008 and 2020, to a projected 108 megatonnes.
In 2006, unexpectedly high rate of rare cancers were reported in the community of Fort Chipewyan. In 2008, Alberta Health confirmed a 30% rise in the number of cancers between 1995 -2006. However, the study lacks appropriate data and is considered a conservative estimate by many residents.
Caribou populations have been severely impacted by tar sands extraction. The Beaver Lake Cree First Nation has experienced a 74% decline of the Cold Lake herd since 1998 and a 71% decline of the Athabasca River herd since 1996. Today, just 175 – 275 caribou remain. By 2025, the total population is expected to be less than 50 and locally extinct by 2040.[iv]"
For all of these reasons, and for all the reasons that we haven't been able to include in this short statement, Occupy(ed) Ottawa will be holding our protest on Thursday, Dec. 1 at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in order to show our solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and their struggles for the land, freedom, justice and dignity.
The Direct Action Committee
For Occupy Ottawa
[ii] In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
[iii] Excerpted from the book Indians are Us (Common Courage Press, 1994) by Ward Churchill, http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v9/9.11/1columbus.html
[iv] Canadian Tar Sands: Impacts to US and Canadian Indigenous Communities, http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html