Business As Usual

Business As Usual

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John Ahni Schertow
February 22, 2012
 

As shocking as this may be to the average Canadian, for Indigenous Peoples it’s par for the course. Since the earliest days of Confederation, Canada has worked endlessly to undermine and divide us, if not through economic sanctions and bribery, then through residential schools, enforced segregation, violence and overt psywar. Always it was in the name of ‘business’.

“Mixing interviews, photographs and front line amateur video with rare archival footage, the controversial and provocative BUSINESS AS USUAL literally pulls no punches while examining allegations made by the Canadian government towards First Nations protestors as being terrorists and ignorantly comparing them to the likes of Islam extremists.”

Following the official attempt to grossly mis-characterize native activists as ‘terrorists’ in the Canadian army’s draft counterinsurgency manual–as examined in Jay Cardinal Villeneuve’s short film Business as Usual–in April 2007, Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor announced that the final draft would “not make comparisons between aboriginal groups and any insurgent groups”; nor would it include any references to “current aboriginal organizations”.

Quite a few of us were on the edge of our seats over that one, so we were more than a little relieved to that activists weren’t going to be nailed down as terrorists. But as it turned out, Canada was already in the throws of something far more sinister: a vast surveillance network that explicitly targeted First Nations.

As the Toronto Star explained in December 2011, the mandate of this new network “was to collect and distribute intelligence about situations involving First Nations that have ‘escalated to civil disobedience and unrest in the form of protest actions.'”

“An annual Strategic Intelligence Report from June 2009”, continued the Toronto Star, “indicates the surveillance at the time focused on 18 ‘communities of concern’ in five provinces across the country. These included First Nations in Ontario like Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), Ardoch, Grassy Narrows, Six Nations and Tyendinaga, which have made headlines over the last few years for road and railway blockades or opposition to mining and logging on their territories.”

RCMP briefing on “hot spotsPDF

INAC’s presentation on “hot spots and public safety”
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Documents that were obtained through access to information requests revealed how the intelligence unit has “reported weekly to approximately 450 recipients in law enforcement, government, and unnamed ‘industry partners’ in the energy and private sector,” the Toronto Star continues. (One can only wonder if those industry partners include the likes of Chevron, Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Total, Korea National Oil, PetroChina and Sinopec, all of whom are neck-deep in the oil sands. )

A month before this was revealed, in October 2011, we also found out that the Canadian military counter-intelligence unit has been keeping its own tabs on Native groups.

DND intelligence reports on native groups, Compiled since January, 2010
PDF

Shortly after the story broke, the Drum reported, “The Department of National Defence in a gauche attempt to squash the whole affair has now denied they had anything to do with spying on First Nations. The DND has stated that information received on Native organizations was supplied by government agencies and not the military. Such a stupid statement, a blatant lie with all evidence pointing right at them. It is reminiscent of the CIA, black is white and white is black, truth is only admissible under emergent situations. At the end of the day, the Department of National Defense has a rotting omelet on their military mugs.”

“The intelligence units were started in the nineties, and they report to the head of Defence Intelligence. Their success rate will never be known, but the fact that they can free up time to watch over First Nation organizations opens the door to skepticism. The mandate of these units is ‘identifying, investigating, and countering threats to the security of the Canadian Forces from foreign intelligence services, sabotage, terrorism, and criminal activities.’ So far, the reports have looked closely at Native protest groups, especially the ones who show up on Parliament Hill. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is also under scrutiny, which is strange since the AFN exists under the umbrella of Indian Affairs.”

With its vast surveillance network firmly in place, the Canadian government has been working overtime since January 2012 to frame indigenous peoples as well as environmental and conservation groups as adversaries and enemies of Canada, some of whom are allegedly being funded by foreign “radicals” who want to undermine Canada’s economy.

If that’s not bad enough, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has also just announced a brand new anti-terrorism strategy that lumps together “eco-extremists, animal-rights radicals and anti-capitalists, as well as white supremacists and foreign terror groups”.

Jane Dollinger, a spokeswoman for PETA, responded to the new so-called “multi-issue extremist” strategy in the Globe and Mail, stating “If it is extreme to oppose bashing in the heads of baby seals, anally electrocuting chinchillas for a coat collar, scalding chickens to death in defeathering tanks, and poisoning cats in cruel lab experiments, then so be it.”

The same reasoning surely applies to NGOs like Greenpeace and ForestEthics–who can hardly be considered radicals–not to mention the tens of thousands of Indigenous activists across Canada who are simply trying to protect their lands and generate a decent quality of life without sacrificing their arms and legs for the glory of Canada.

Having said that, the biggest concern right now is not so much about this very Canadian psywar. Rather, it’s about what comes after it?

In his article, Why Canada Is Starting to Feel like Peru, Arno Kopecky suggests that it’s “hacked email accounts, bugged phone lines, spies posing as volunteers, cars following them at night.” However, the odds are good the surveillance network is already doing most of this. How else are they going to gather intel?

I the case of Peru, What came next was machines guns, helicopters, martial law and the arbitrary arrest of anyone the police could get their hands on.

Thankfully, the anti-native lunacy in Peru eventually subsided and the courts (and the congress) did an admirable job restoring reason AND protecting the rights of the Awajun and Wampis Peoples; but not before many lives were lost, because the government mulishly failed to do its job.

That said, it’s worth noting that, since 2006, Intercontinental Cry has observed similar programmes against Indigenous Peoples and non-governmental organizations in: Bangladesh, India, Burma, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Panama, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, and, of course, Peru.

In each case, the respective governments asserted one or more of the following:

These same Nation States also frequently went out of their way to label Indigenous Peoples as: terrorists (Peru, Indonesia), extremists (Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Panama), maoists (India), communists (Cambodia, Canada), lunatics (Ecuador), savages (Botswana, Tanzania), barbarians (Botswana), heathens (Botswana, Zimbabwe).

And always it was in the name of business. After establishing such a climate, they would place an enormous amount of pressure on the local Indigenous populations to force them to accept industrial projects that they would in no way benefit from, save a few short-term jobs (which is like trading a can of tuna for a lake full of fish!). Or, in true colonial form, the government would simply push forward by militarizing indigenous land (Burma) and violating or re-writing any law in their way.

Occasionally, they have also tried to engineer ‘consent’ to a project, for the public’s benefit. For instance, in the Philippines, a mysterious “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation” came forward last year to endorse the mining interests of China’s MacroAsia Corporation. No Customary Indigenous leader in Brooke’s Point has ever heard of the Federation. In the case of Canada, majority opposition to the Enbridge pipeline has been framed to appear as if it’s just a few inarticulate “troublemakers” scattered across the landscape; while a minor group of inaudible supporters are championed as representing “the all”.

In some cases, paramilitary groups (Peru), employees and entire settler mobs (India, Bangladesh) would also ‘lend a hand’ by issuing death threats, carrying out assassinations and kiddnappings, burning down villages and terrorizing entire communities. Some have even been known to throw homemade bombs into the houses of community leaders.

It’s hard to say if we’re headed down this road here in Canada, but it sure feels like it. Or perhaps that’s just what the government wants us to think? After all, if they can keep everyone off-balance long enough, they’ll be able to wiggle their way forward, like usual, at the expense of the land and its people.

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