Thursday, May 29, 2008

Score one for the First Nations

Today is the National Day of Action for aboriginal people across Canada, but the celebrations started yesterday. The Ontario Court of Appeal released seven First Nations prisoners of conscience who had been given six months in prison and fined heavily for the crime of defending their land against mining companies.

"Savour this," said defence lawyer Julian Falconer. "Once in a while, out of the deep dark depths, comes justice."

The reasons for upholding the appeal against the contempt-of-court sentences--the harshest that observers can remember--will be given later.

Christie Blatchford is a passionate person, and I don't usually like where her passion leads her, but she is simply bang on today. Her Globe & Mail article (subscriber wall, unfortunately), from which the above information comes, is a masterpiece of focussed anger against the system: prosecutors, corporate land-rapists, the provincial government. "[I]n the contest between the state and first nations," she says, "the state almost always wins." "Almost," however, is the operative word.

She was quick to spot the community of interest between the mining companies and the Crown, revealed in a telling gesture: when lawyer for the native people spoke, Crown prosecutor Malliha Wilson and a mining company lawyer "would often roll their eyes in unison."

Blatchford is new to First Nations land issues, as she tells us. She is seeing the staggering injustice of it all with innocent eyes, and through her we see it all afresh. She is outraged:

Native pleas for genuine negotiation--whether in these specific cases, where they want the provincial Mining Act, which allows private companies to stake mineral rights on anyone's land without having to bother with getting permission, at least on the table for review, or in the sweeping land claims which drone on for decades--go unheard. Their letters to everyone from premiers to department heads and provincial coroners go unanswered. Their reports on poverty and suicide rates get no response.

And at the end of it all, in various courts across the country, government lawyers mouth words like "reconciliation" and "conciliation" with an ease that their collective daily conduct--they appeal every loss, fight on every technicality, argue for the harshest punishments, stall and obfuscate--utterly belies.

A national day of action? After yesterday, a national day of insurrection sounds more in order.

Woo-hoo! Tell it like it is, Sister.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the OPP has ensured that Shawn Brant, the Mohawk activist from Tyendinaga Mohawk territory in the Bay of Quinte region, will not be taking part in today's festivities. They have jailed him on what appear, at least to this observer, to be trumped-up charges. But OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino isn't having any of that. Not content to defend Brant's detention by his officers, he goes on to utter not-so-veiled threats against native people:

As for what I feel regarding the Day of Action, it is my hope that everyone will be respectful of the laws of the land. In any event the OPP will take appropriate action regarding those that don't.

Sod off, you old racist.
And to the celebrants, especially Robert Lovelace and the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Six, have a great day--and keep sticking it to the man.

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