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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).

The Future Is Feminist: Slutwalk, 2017

by Meral Jamal

Photo: Meral Jamal

Photo: Meral Jamal

On Sept. 9, around 200 people gathered outside the Human Rights monument in downtown Ottawa for the 2017 SlutWalk.

The SlutWalk is an annual protest that began in Toronto as a stand against rape culture and sexual violence. The first walk took place in 2011, after a police officer suggested that to prevent sexual assault, “women should avoid dressing like sluts.”

Seven years later, it has spread nationally to cities like Vancouver, Montreal and Winnipeg, as well as internationally to countries throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America”. The event has seen as many as 2500 participants in some cities and had an upwards of 200 this year in Ottawa alone.  

Two of this year’s organizers, Carleton University students Fae Johnstone and Muna Mohamed, opened the event. The introduction was followed by speeches and poetry by Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, Summer Harmony Twenish, Elaine Marilyse and Lukayo Estrella, all of whom are prominent figures in the local literary and political scene. They addressed topics such as rape, race, sexuality, disability, patriarchy and intersectionality.

Once roads were cleared and security in place, the march began. The marchers walked through the streets and past Parliament Hill, with loud voices and loving hearts. Chants like “The future is feminist,” “Protect black rights,” “Protect black trans rights,” and “Hey! Ho! Rape culture has got to go!” had the attendees involved and included. Posters called for the protection of victims of sexual abuse, irrespective of their gender and sexuality and stood up for equality and justice with messages like “Blame the system, not the victim.”

The march organizers were aware of the controversy and alienation attempts to reclaim the word “slut” can generate. “Many members of the local community don’t relate to the term ‘slut’ and they’re often excluded from movements like this because it’s not a space that they feel comfortable in — it’s a really white-dominated space,” organizer Muna Mohamed explained to the Leveller.

“It’s something we didn’t want to shy away from this year, so we really tried to have diverse speakers,” she said. “We tried to show that intersectionality is not just a word you can throw around.”

McKenna Madigan, an English major at Carleton and one of the attendees said she has “never felt so accepted and included and powerful.” When asked if the future is feminist, Madigan said “it’s up to us. We can’t just hope things get better, we have to take action — real, genuine, forceful action.”

Another first year undergraduate student at Carleton, Sam Porta, was at her first protest during her first weekend in the nation’s capital. “It was an absolutely incredible experience to see so many people rally together for a cause that is so prevalent in our society,” Porta said. “Rape is one of the most severely under-reported crimes in North America. To give you a feel of how dark the statistics are, of every 100 incidents only 6 are reported.”

While the protest saw a lot of diversity, it was still lacking the presence and involvement of many cisgender, white men. When asked how she thinks more men can get involved in the movement, Mohamed said, “The first step would really just be to show up. And follow the rules of ally-ship — call people out when you know that they’re wrong.”

When asked what her hopes are for the event next year, Mohamed said, “To just do better. We did a good job of bringing in diverse speakers but I don’t think the audience was [very diverse]. I think we had a very predominantly white group and that was something I tried super-hard to have not happen this year. I’m struggling with it but I want more black women and women of colour to reclaim this space as their own because rape culture is a conversation that can’t happen without us.”

While more remains to be done, the attendees of SlutWalk 2017, marched with love, acceptance and respect, right down to the last step. The marchers moved forward with tear-stained eyes and hope for a better, brighter feminist world.

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

Activists Getting Organized as Fascists Plan An Ottawa Rally: New Campus Anti-fascist Network Coming To Carleton

by Brian McDougall

Antifaschistische Aktion Conference in Germany 1932 Credit: Wikimedia

Antifaschistische Aktion Conference in Germany 1932 Credit: Wikimedia

Mere weeks after the fascist violence in Charlottesville, a coalition of fascist and alt-right organizations — including Storm Alliance, La Meute, and the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens — are planning a public rally on Parliament Hill.

In response to that event, scheduled for 11a.m. on Sept. 30, members of Ottawa Against Fascism (OAF), a local Antifa group, are organizing a 10a.m. counter-rally, also on Parliament Hill. Other  trade unions and community groups are encouraged to follow OAF’s example and organize contingents to protest the fascist presence in Ottawa on Sept. 30.

Recent Mobilizations

Current efforts to mobilize Ottawa residents against fascism follow local actions after the fascist rampage in Charlottesville. The day after anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer was murdered in August, OAF attracted about 100 people to a vigil at the Human Rights monument on Elgin Street.

Ten days later, angered by Donald Trump’s failed “condemnation” of white supremacists, individuals from local religious and activist groups hosted a crowd of 700 people at the American embassy for a more liberal “protest against racism.”

Scapegoating

Trump’s election energized previously peripheral racist and fascist organizations. Feeding off his approval, they have set out to build organizations that can terrorize many segments of society.

Like Trump, fascists are scapegoating immigrants, racialized groups, feminists, leftists and others for the economic insecurity created by capitalism. And Canada is not immune from this kind of reaction. According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against Muslims rose by more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

Fascists believe public displays of force can win recruits for a campaign to smash the organizations their victims use to defend against poverty, racism, vicious policing and other forms of oppression. But their gatherings also represent an opportunity for an anti-fascist shut-down. For example, in Boston and Berkeley, mass mobilizations by opponents of fascism (40,000 people and 5,000 respectively) have forced fascists to cancel planned events.

Closer to home, La Meute organized a rally in Quebec City on Aug. 20. The far-right anti-immigration and anti-Islam group gathered in a parking garage, but were confronted and blocked in by hundreds of anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators. Riot police declared the counter-demonstration illegal and clashed with Antifa militants, enabling La Meute to carry out their march.

Universities

In the U.S., the fascist offensive is centered as much on the campuses as it is in the streets. Fascists use bogus arguments about ‘free speech’ to win recruits and advocate terror, hoping to intimidate faculty and students organizing against scapegoating.

At some American universities, outspoken anti-racist and anti-fascist faculty members have been harassed, disciplined or fired by university administrators.

At Dartmouth College in the U.S., Professor Mark Bray, author of the recently published Anti-Fascist Handbook, has been publicly vilified and harassed for his anti-fascist scholarship and activism.

Other academics have been targeted by death threats. For example, Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an outspoken critic of Trump and author of #From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, says she has “received emails that promised I would be lynched, shot and raped” — forcing her employer, Princeton University, to take special measures to protect her safety.

At Carleton, the Canadian chapter of anti-immigration group Generation Identity, which organizes around “re-instilling traditional western values,” put up posters on Sept. 11. The posters were torn down and a joint statement condemning them was issued by the undergraduate and graduate student unions.

“The Graduate Students’ Association recognizes that campuses are not immune to racism and xenophobia,” said Jenna Amirault, vice-president external of the GSA. “But Carleton students have a long history of standing up against hate on-campus. We encourage students to get involved with their students’ union and take action against racism and other forms of oppression.”

Campus-Based Initiatives

All this action explains the growing interest among Carleton activists in a new Campus Anti-Fascist Network (CAN). CAN which started in the U.S. but is now expanding into Canada. CAN differs from existing Ottawa anti-fascist groups in at least two ways. First, it is campus-based, seeking to build a broad alliance between faculty, students and staff to mobilize against fascist intimidation (whether on or off campus).

Second, CAN encourages activists to go beyond periodic mass mobilizations against fascism to conduct ongoing public education about the nature of fascism — and the social and economic conditions that make scapegoating possible.

Significantly, CAN has produced a syllabus on the history and nature of fascism for campus activists to use in organizing teach-ins, reading groups, workshops and strategy sessions. The goal is to build understanding about the history and nature of fascism as well as strategies to end its threat.

Anti-racist activists are already planning to create a campus-based anti-fascist group, perhaps based on the CAN model. In the meantime, you can learn more about CAN at http://campusantifascistnetwork.com/

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

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