Thursday, May 31, 2007

"I want the fucking Indians out of the park"

Justice Sidney Linden's report on the killing of Dudley George was released today. It's a scathing one, uncovering a tangled tale of incompetence, stupidity, lies and racism at every level of the operation, from Premier Mike Harris' office down to racist OPP thugs on the ground:

Speaker 1: No, there's no one down there. Just a big, fat, fuck Indian.
Speaker 2: The camera' [sic] rolling.
Speaker 1: Yeah. We had this plan, you know. We thought if we could...five or six cases of Labatt's 50, we could bait them.
Speaker 2. Yeah.
Speaker 1. And we'd have this big net or a pit.
Speaker 2: Creative thinking.
Speaker 1: Works in the south with watermelons.

This is but one example in the Linden Report of the overtly racist behaviour by OPP officers, whose additional blundering and sheer incompetence led to the shooting death of an unarmed protester, a member of a group occupying Ipperwash Provincial Park. The latter, the subject of a Native land claim, is close to Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation territory that was confiscated during World War II by the Department of Defence, and that somehow has not yet been returned to the band.*

The judge does an exemplary job of tracing the roots of the conflict, providing considerable background history and context for the tragedy. His measured words are an example of what such a report, long overdue as it is, should be.

Proceeding to the killing itself, Linden documents a near-complete breakdown of communications within the police command structure. The police didn't even communicate with each other, let alone with the Aboriginal protesters. While the police had a tacit understanding that they would not enter the park itself, this was never communicated to the protesters, who feared eviction at any time. The skirmish line was a sandy parking lot just outside the park, which the police were determined to keep clear.

Undue pressure for a hasty conclusion to the occupation, emanating directly from the Premier's office, was transmitted down to the ops level, where two police teams, one in full riot gear, and both operating on conflicting and unverified information, moved in under cover of darkness. Reports of automatic weapons fire by the protesters, and of a car driven by a female passenger being attacked by Native occupiers armed with baseball bats, proved later to be groundless.

The culminating incident occurred after the protesters had moved back from the parking lot into the park--where, as noted, they did not know that they were in fact safe. A dog belonging to one of the protesters ventured into the parking lot and was immediately kicked by a moronic police officer, at which point protester Cecil George went back into the parking lot, convinced that the police were about to launch a full assault. He was, in Justice Linden's words, "excessively beaten on his head and face" then and there, by officers without badge numbers or nameplates, leading to more Native people emerging form the park to help him. From there, matters quickly escalated, and shortly afterwards Dudley George was dead.

In the course of his investigation, Justice Linden does absolve Mike Harris from the accusation that he directly interfered in police operations, but he finds that a sense of urgency transmitted by the Premier's office led to the closing off of options that might have achieved a peaceful resolution. And, although he doesn't use the word, he found that Harris lied on the stand when he denied saying "I want the fucking Indians out of the park," a statement that the Justice describes, not mincing words, as racist. As for Acting Sergeant Ken Deane, the man who shot George, and who was later convicted of criminal negligence, Linden manages to call him a liar on several occasions but once again without actually using the l-word--words like "implausible" are used instead. I admire his restraint.

Now we shall see whether the excellent recommendations at the end of Linden's voluminous report are taken up by the McGuinty government, whose spokespeople are already putting the kind of spin on the matter that indicates a wish to buy time. As for the federal government, cleaning up and returning the confiscated land to the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, Linden's Recommendation #19 in Volume I of the Report, would make a good start.

*In 1998, the federal government agreed to clean up and transfer the confiscated land to the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, and to pay compensation to band members. But at present, title to the land still remains with the Department of Defence.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pay your debts or we'll kill you

Don't mess with your utility company.

The late
Folole Muliaga, living in a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, owed $122 on her electricity bill. An invalid, Muliaga needed an electrical oxygen pump to stay alive. When a company employee came by to cut off her power, this was explained to him, but he cut it off anyway. Two agonizing hours later, she was dead.

For the breed of cat that finds, for example, the death of social assistance recipient Kimberly Rogers a bit of a chuckle, this will be good for another. Should have paid her bills...individual responsibility...dependency...blah, blah. But luckily, some good may come out of this killing.

The New Zealand Parliament may now be ready to consider a Corporate Manslaughter bill such as the one recently passed in the UK--all that is now required for the latter is royal assent. Those of us who remember the slaughter of twenty-six Westray miners in 1992, and those responsible getting away Scot-free, might give some thought to lobbying for a similar law in Canada, but one with teeth. (The so-called "Westray Bill," passed a full twelve years after the explosion, has proven inadequate to the task. Only one charge has been laid under it--and that one was withdrawn.) In the meantime, due to corporate neglect or malfeasance, more deaths are inevitable.

In the meantime, I look forward to the investigation that will no doubt take place in New Zealand, but long experience tells me not to be overly optimistic.

Be red!

Comrade Alfredsson addresses the masses

All over Ottawa, the flags are flying. It's a good time to be red.

We knew our time would come. We believed. And now, locked in struggle with the pawns of the mighty Disneyland Empire, which has ruled our culture and our politics for far too long, history has decided--or is about to do so.

A new day is dawning over Ottawa, and the old order will be swept aside. Yes, our vanguard was named perhaps too lightly after the rulers of another empire, one long since crumbled into dust, but we are not conjuring up the spirits of the past to our service. We have recovered our humour since the dark days of Comrade Stalin, and there will be dancing in the streets. Our first time was tragedy, the second time farce (and the third time, and the fourth) but now the victory shall be ours.

Comrades! What is to be done? We must leave our workplaces, leave our homes, abandon the marketplaces and rally round our brave fighters as they venture into battle. No sacrifice is too great! Recall the words of Comrade Trotsky: "During the first years after the revolution, battles were going on all over the country, woods and peat-bogs were burning, the fields were bare, and the ducks stopped flying." Recall the words of Comrade Krupskaya, reminiscing about the immortal Lenin:

Vladimir Ilyich was a passionate hunter. He got himself a pair of leather breeches, and prowled about all the swamps in the neighbourhood! They teemed with game, I must say. Arriving as I did in the spring, I had been rather surprised at it all. Prominski would come in – he was passionately fond of hunting too – and say with a huge smile: "The ducks have come over – I have seen them."

We too have seen the ducks. And we will do what needs to be done, what history demands of us. Be red!

UPDATE: (June 7) OK, OK, so this was 1905 and not 1917. Our time will come.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Perhaps it's decompression after a good vacation, but my perceptual screen is getting blurry and my sensorium is all a-tumble. I swear I gave up recreational substances many long years ago, but this week has been, to put it mildly, one long flashback.

Item: Three desperate contestants will vie for a life-saving kidney on a new reality TV extravaganza, The Big Donor Show, brought to the air by the folks who gave us Big Brother. Viewers will vote for who gets to live after watching short films about each of the players. "The contestants in the show have a 33-per-cent chance," says the chairman of the broadcasting company hosting the show. "That's a much larger chance than if they were on the organ waiting list."

Item: The Liberals won 85% of the seats in PEI yesterday, with barely half the vote, putting one in mind of the anti-Hatfield sweep in New Brunswick a few years back, when the Liberals won 100% of the seats with 60.39% of the popular vote, and of the PEI rout of the Conservatives in 1935 when the Liberals won every seat with 58% of the popular vote.

Conservatives oppose proportional representation, as a rule: they like the first-past-the-post system. Hey, why not? It works for them, from time to time, at least. We've got Harper in power after a substantial majority voted against him, after all. In fact, Liberal or Conservative, governing with minority support in Canada seems to be almost the rule. You can even win with fewer votes than the other guy (1957 general election). Hey, I'm all for minority rights, but does that include the right to rule?

In any case, does this count as surrealism? The latter has been defined as "
the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theatre by means of unnatural juxtapositions and combinations." Politics is good theatre, as we all know: and, as for unnatural juxtapositions and incongruous effects, what about "democracy" and "first-past-the-post?"

More items: 500 kilograms of trash have just been removed from Mount Everest. A couple were jailed for three years in Pakistan because the husband had undergone gender reassignment surgery. Cows in New Zealand are producing skim milk, and a tiger in the Edmonton Zoo is demanding French-language rights.

So, then, time for a little sobering reality? The notorious Peel Regional Police, the force that gave us Michael Wade Lawson,* received another black eye earlier this week (h/t to Mens Rea, Scriptor Reus for the link and to Paladiea for an earlier article). Racism is not exactly unknown among the ranks of Peel's finest: in this case, a Black woman was arrested, body-searched and called a "fucking foreigner" by a racist cop after a white individual accused her of shoplifting a $10 bra. The cop refused to examine a store videocam record, preferring instead the old laying on of hands. He has since moved on to the Sudbury police force, where an investigation into his hiring is currently underway. Meanwhile, the Peel police chief, rather than apologizing to the victim, may be appealing.

Give me soft watches any day.

UPDATE: (June 2) Alas, sometimes the truth that's stranger than fiction turns out to be fiction after all. The kidney show has been revealed as a hoax.
*Like Ian Bush, Lawson was shot in the back of the head, apparently contrary to the laws of physics. Police testified that he had been trying to run them over and that they shot in self-defence. The illegal hollow-point bullet that killed him would have turned back in mid-air if that story had been true, and the testimony was later recanted, but the courts sided with the police.