A story running on Canadian newswires this weekend concerns the on-going Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the relationship of the RCMP to Indigenous communities and state programs, such as the residential school system. The CBC’s headline states “RCMP ‘herded’ native kids to residential schools” and reports that:
The RCMP released the report Saturday at a Halifax session of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is looking into how 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families over more than a century. The 463-page report found that the RCMP had a major involvement in bringing students from First Nation communities to the residential schools. The report says that at times, RCMP withheld information from parents of residential school students about what was happening with their children, and at times they acted like truant officers to schools.
“Students saw themselves herded like cattle and brought into RCMP cars and taken into school. What they say is that these stories have come out throughout the years, but what this does today is validate those stories and show that they were true,” CBC reporter Michael Dick said in Halifax.
The truth and reconciliation commissioners have been listening to powerful testimony from people who suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the schools and who were forced to give up their native language and customs. Manitoba Justice Murray Sinclair chairs the commission, established as part of a landmark $4-billion agreement reached in 2007 with survivors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government and the churches that ran the schools. “It is for the purpose of establishing a national memory around this so that future generations of people will be able to understand not only what happened but why it happened. And that will ensure that it does not happen again,” Sinclair said.
This story made me think of this incredible report by Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak (June 7, 2011) “First Nations Under Surveillance: Harper Government Prepares for First Nations ‘Unrest’.” Their article begins “Internal documents from Indian Affairs and the RCMP show that shortly after forming government in January of 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the federal government tighten up on gathering and sharing intelligence on First Nations to anticipate and manage potential First Nation unrest across Canada.”
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.
To accomplish this task, INAC established a “Hot Spot Reporting System.” These weekly reports highlight all those communities across the country that engage in direct action to protect their lands and communities. They include Tobique First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) First Nation, Six Nations, Grassy Narrows, Stz’uminous First Nation, the Likhts’amsiyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Gitxaala First Nation, Wagmatcook First Nation, Innu of Labrador, Pikangikum First Nation, and many more. They include bands from the coast of Vancouver Island to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
What we see in these documents – from the hot spot reports themselves, to the intelligence-sharing between government and security forces – is a closely monitored population of First Nations, who clearly are causing a panic at the highest levels of Canadian bureaucracy and political office.
They explain that as result of this oversight that:
Aboriginal people who are defending their lands are now treated on a spectrum from criminals to terrorists. On either side, under Harper, an intensification of intelligence gathering and surveillance procedures now govern the new regime.
Also telling here is the cozy cooperative relationship between INAC and the RCMP. The INAC briefing to the RCMP is almost indistinguishable from a presentation one would expect to see from security forces, rather than from a government ministry. Contrary to their claims, Indian Affairs is not an institution of reconciliation and negotiation, but rather appears to be a management office to control the costs of Native unrest, and they are willing to work closely with law enforcement to accomplish this task.
Two points immediately come up. It is clear from examples such as these that the relationship of state military force over Indigenous people’s lives is not a technique of the past. And, the notion of Reconciliation offered in the CBC article is seriously undermined by the actual practices of our political relationships detailed in the second piece. This exercise of truth and reconciliation is not nearly sufficient to address the concerns at hand.
If anyone is interested in doing an hermeneutic of the present through a reflection on these issues and their place in them, consider reading this facebook post by Ian Ki’laas Caplette and the commentary that follows.
Here are some responses to his meme:
what a load of crap. No one is trying to rob anyone of Identity or lands. Native lands have been growing quickly for decades. We are giving beautiful campgrounds, parks, beaches… etc. to Natives all the time. We share all Canadian land but yet if a Caucasian goes on Native reserve land they usually get confronted with aggression. We show off the Native traditions in our Olympic ceremonies even though the ones against the Olympics the most are most native tribes. We proudly display the native jackets. Totem poles… etc. Lets also look at history and war. How many lands invaded and conquered were returned back then. And who alive today was alive back then to rightly complain about it now? I have never heard Jews complain and I have rarely heard Blacks complain. NATIVES HAVE TO STOP BLAIMING PEOPLE OF TODAY FOR SHIT THAT HAPPENED BEFORE ANY OF US WERE BORN. Let’s co-exist together fairly and as equals. GET RID OF NATIVE RESERVES… THEY ONLY SEPERATE US AS CANADIANS. WE ALL USE CANADIAN ROADS, FUEL, UTILITIES SO LETS ALL PAY TAXES TOGETHER AND BE A MORE UNITED COUNTRY. ENOUGH WITH NATIVE RIGHTS FISHING AS IT IS DEPLEATING THE WORLDS SALMON SUPPLY ( catching millions of spawning salmon every year before they can lay there eggs while also trudging through the streams destroying where some eggs have already been layed. NATIVES AND CANADIANS WILL NEVER BE TRULY CANADIAN TOGETHER UNTIL WE START LIVING AMONG EACH OTHER WITH EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY AND WITHOUT BLAMING THE LIVING FOR WHAT THE DEAD HAVE DONE. Move forward, stop dwelling on the past stop passing blame.
I am not one of the ones who have hurt you, never will I be!!!! So, as far as racisim go, especially as far back as it goes….when none of us that are here NOW, has been part of what you are saying…….many generations ago………..why is it WE have to pay for their mistakes? Then, or now, I, personally, would never hurt any one who is not of my race, don’t let the way back pass hurt your future, as far as God goes, WE ALL ARE ONE, please remember that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
maybe starting a campaign to stop your brothers from indulging in such extreme alchoholism might be a more constructive use of your time than just wallowing in the past. I would love it if, rather than getting drunk in the streets every day, the local native population did more constructive things with their time.
The other day a native american who was drinking in the streets near my house climbed an electrical pole and got electricuted on the transformer.. You should be more concerned with this than you are with “your plight”.
indigenous people… your ancestors simply immigrated here before the rest of us. if your ancestors had encountered others living here i’m not sure that your people would have treated them any better. there is a myth of a kind of utopia existing before the european settlers arrived. i owe you no apology because i have done nothing to you. there are people in many areas of the world that would do just about anything to gain the freedom and rights of a canadian or u.s. citizen.
If anyone wishes to raise any questions from the discussion that is taking place, we can try to facilitate it here.