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Land & Jail Part II

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January 5, 2009

Land & Jail Part II

Canada's incarceration strategy

by Kim Petersen

Police at a demonstration near Six Nations. cc 2.0 Photo: Vidman

NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA–Armed Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) entered the Six Nations Territory of Douglas Creek in Caledonia, Ontario – about 20 kilometres east of Hamilton - on September 19 of this year. According to witnesses, the OPP jumped a resident, “beat him down,” and arrested him while threatening other residents not to interfere.

The Crown, after repeated arrests and jailings, reached a deal with the defense on September 29 to have activist Shawn Brant plead guilty to involvement in two blockades in Desoronto, Ontario, in April 2007. The Crown agreed to drop all but three of the mischief charges, with Brant to receive a sentence of time already served pretrial, a 90-day conditional sentence, and one year of probation.

Brant cited familial considerations behind his agreement with the Crown. However, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino still faces scrutiny over his controversial threats to Brant. Ontario New Democrat MP Peter Kormos chided Fantino for his “pugnacious and bellicose” remarks and his “Rambo-style policing.”

Brant challenged Fantino afterwards: “Commissioner Fantino has always said he couldn’t comment because [the case is] before the courts. Well, now it’s settled, and it's time the public hears from Mr. Fantino.”


Incarceration of First Nations people has been the long-standing strategy for Canadian authorities.

The Supreme Court of Canada stated on April 23, 1999, in R v. Gladue: “If overreliance on incarceration is a problem with the general population, it is of much greater concern in the sentencing of aboriginal Canadians.”

R v. Gladue referred to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which held that the “crushing failure” of justice meted out to Original Peoples was due to “the fundamentally different world views of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people” and that it “emphasize[d] the importance of an understanding of history.”

In the vein of this recommendation, it is important to note that culturally insensitive and racist proclamations have long been a part of the Canadian criminal justice and political establishment’s make-up. Meanwhile, provincial authorities continue the use of aggressive strategies in disputes with Original Peoples. At Barriere Lake First Nation, in October of this year, the Quebec police used tear gas and “pain compliance” techniques against peaceful demonstrators, including elders and children, said witnesses.

Canada’s first prime minister, John A Macdonald, exposed an animus toward the Métis in writings to his London agent: “These impulsive half-breeds have got spoilt by their emeute," he wrote, "and must be kept down by a strong hand until they are swamped by the influx of settlers.”

The controversial deputy superintendent general of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott, testified before a Special Committee of the House of Commons examining the Indian Act amendments of 1920:

I want to get rid of the Indian problem.
Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.

In 1991, the Kanienkehaka community of Kanesatake was at odds with the township of Oka, ON over the township’s proposal for a golf course expansion and condo development on land claimed by the Kanienkehaka. The Sûreté du Québec, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the Royal 22nd Regiment were brought in to break up the Kanienkehaka blockade.

Racism was heightened by the Oka Crisis. Warrior Publications informed of “white mobs” burning and hanging effigies of Kanienkehaka warriors from lamp posts.

In 1995, a group of Original Peoples had gathered to hold the previously banned Sundance ceremony at Ts’peten (Gustafsen Lake) in central British Columbia. There the celebrants were accosted by ranch hands and told to vacate the land. This led to a major standoff over the unceded Secwepemc land of the Canoe Creek First Nation.

Prior to the mobilization of the RCMP at Ts’peten, Bruce Clark, legal counsel for the Ts’peten Defenders (as the defenders of indigenous title were called), informed the RCMP that action against the Sundancers would be illegal according to international and constitutional law.

Clark reminded the RCMP of their duty “to respect and to defend the rule of law” that he insisted was "clear and plain.”

Clark applied logic to remediate the crimes committed against the Original Peoples: “Legal justice requires that the rights usurped be restored, and that reasonable compensation be made for past transgressions. Territory should be restored where it has been illegally taken away. And the existing aboriginal right to govern upon that territory should be respected.”

Fifteen of the 18 Sundancers at Ts’peten were found guilty, including Secwepemc Elder Wolverine (William Jones Ignace), who was found guilty of mischief to property and other crimes.

Wolverine contended that ranch “owner” Lyall James was a squatter on indigenous land.

“It’s the real criminals who are in control here. The judges," he said. "The lawyers. The politicians. And in the enforcement arm, the RCMP and its agencies. These are the real criminals because they're covering up the theft of native land.”

Clark stated that the treaty process is designed to “extinguish the Indians’ natural law, international law and constitutional law right of jurisdiction that otherwise is not supposed to be ‘molested or disturbed’ by domestic crown governments, their courts or their police.” Clark implicated the judiciary in the “theft of jurisdiction” and cover up of genocide. An RCMP management team video depicted Ryan relaying orders from Superintendent Len Olfert: "Kill this Clark and smear the prick and everyone with him," and, "Clark is a goddamned snake."

The Law Society of Upper Canada v. Bruce Clark acknowledged on June 19, 1996, that “the ‘genocide’ of which Mr. Clark speaks is real” and inescapable. Despite this, Clark was disbarred in 1999 for being “ungovernable.”

Clark does not flinch from indicting many of his peers in the genocide. He contends that the judiciary is running the “perfect scam,” “the absolute quintessence of crime personified” by preventing an impartial third party from ruling on the genocide perpetrated on the Original Peoples in Canada. Wrote Clark, “The moment you get third party adjudication, it’s game over for these criminals.”

Kim Petersen is the Original Peoples Editor for The Dominion.

For more on Canada's strategy of incarceration, see "Land & Jail: Ipperwash, official racism, and the future of Ontario," also by Kim Petersen.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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