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Carleton student arrested for protecting Indigenous lands: Blockade targeted Junex Inc. oil well in eastern Québec

by Andy Crosby, with files from Andrew Froud

Credit: Ni Québec, ni Canada

Credit: Ni Québec, ni Canada

Freddy Stoneypoint, a Carleton undergraduate student from the Sagamok Anishinabewk First Nation, was arrested on Aug. 14 for protecting the lands and water of the Mi’kmaq people from oil company Junex Inc. Stoneypoint participated in a blockade set up by Indigenous and non-Indigenous land defenders 20 kilometres outside the city of Gaspé, Québec, on Gesgapegiag territory.

Stoneypoint told the Leveller that after his role in the Reoccupation events on Parliament Hill during the Canada 150 celebrations, he was asked through anonymous networks if he wanted to engage in a land defence intervention.

“At the time, details about the action were unclear, but quite strangely, I felt deeply connected, spiritually and emotionally, to the offer to help,” he said.

Six days after the blockade was established, Stoneypoint was arrested in a raid by Québec provincial police that dismantled the blockade. He faces serious charges.

The heavy-handed criminalization of Indigenous Peoples defending their lands from resource development is a common occurrence — as also experienced in Canada by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the Ardoch Algonquins, Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and others in recent years.

Stoneypoint explained the charges to the Leveller: “I am facing eight charges — Trespass to Property in a Non-Dwelling Area or House, Mischief over $5000, Conspiracy to Commit Offences, Stealing Equipment or Machinery over $5000, and four counts of Setting Traps or Devices to Cause Bodily Harm or Death. Seven of these are eligible for a mandatory sentence of ten years.”

Stoneypoint’s charges are over the top and meant to send a clear message that interfering with Canada’s oil and gas industry (referred to in counter-terrorism vernacular as “critical infrastructure”) will be punished to the fullest extent of settler colonial law.

After his arrest, Stoneypoint spent four nights in the Centre de détention de New Carlisle in the Gaspé District in medium security. “If I have to serve time in Québec for helping to protect the mountain from fracking, it will most likely be in this prison.”

The blockade and raid garnered a lot of local media attention so Stoneypoint was well-known and admired upon entering the prison. “Spending most of my time with general population, all of the inmates on the range were largely supportive of my involvement in the action. One of them, upon hearing my events, said to the rest of them, ‘No. He should not be in here. That is bullshit. You should not be here.’ They all nodded and agreed.”

Stoneypoint attributes the wide support for his actions as indicative of a broad consensus in the region. “People from all walks of life in the Gaspé judicial district understand the dangers that fracking has on the lands and are largely opposed to the project.”

The blockade received support as well from the hereditary Mi’kmaq chiefs.

“We support the blockade and I think a lot of our people support it too,” said Gary Metallic Sr., the District Chief of the Gespegawagi Overseers Tribal Council, in an interview with Ni Québec, ni Canada, an anti-colonial collective.

“We don’t want oil and fracking exploration or extraction being done on our territory because it’s going to hurt the environment — water, wildlife and so forth,” he said.

The Mi’kmaq assert that Junex are trespassing on their territory, of which they are the original title holders. They are prepared to take that fight to the courts.

Stoneypoint released a statement on Aug. 17, a day before his bail hearing stating, “as a representative of the Bawating water protectors, my only wish is to activate my ceremonial being in defence of land and waters through peaceful means. I am not an activist, I am an Anishinaabe man looking to protect the lands for future generations. I thank all of my supporters working towards same future for all on Turtle Island.”

At the hearing, the Crown objected to his release, claiming he posed a risk to public safety.

Stoneypoint is hopeful that his brave actions will inspire others and empower young people from his reserve to think more broadly beyond our community and to connect to something greater.

“If I can normalize the work of helping to protect land and water, I think this kind of work has great appeal for youth unsure of their place in colonial society,” he said.

Stoneypoint’s hopes are the Canadian government’s fears, which is why the Crown considers him a “risk to public safety.”

Stoneypoint noted that a new camp has been set up at the base of the mountain — Camp de la rivière-Galt-Junex — in the aftermath of the police raid. “As long as Junex remains illegally at the site, they will remain.” he said.

A benefit concert to help with Stoneypoint’s legal and education fees will take place in Ottawa on Oct. 16.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 1 (Sept/Oct 2017).

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