Thank you so much to Solangel for inviting me to participate on the blog. As she kindly wrote in her introduction, I also help Matthew Fletcher run a blog on Indian law over at TurtleTalk. While we do offer some commentary, we also spend much of our time pointing out interesting stories or cases our readers might be interested in. I use our Twitter account (@ILPCTurtleTalk) for the same purpose. What I’ve been interested in is watching Indigenous social action in Canada and how those stories are disseminated and talked about on Twitter. I think the perception from the United States is that Canada somehow has a better relationship with its Native Nations than the United States. In fact, the very different legal systems have led to different relationships between the federal government and tribal governments on either side of the North American border. The Canadian one is not necessarily a better one.
Here are few stories we’ve been following:
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (#MMIW)
The RCMP recently confirmed there have been more than a thousand missing or murdered Indigenous women in the past thirty years. The Harper government continues to ignore calls for a public inquiry. One traveling exhibit, Walking With Our Sisters, uses vamps, or the beaded tops of unfinished moccasins, to draw attention to both the issue and the women. The work is currently in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Various direct actions over this issue have happened in Tyendinaga and in Toronto.
Ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Hearings on Residential Schools
Much like in the United States, the Canadian government used boarding, or residential, schools, to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their families and attempt to assimilate them. Children were abused, tortured, and many died. A lawsuit against the government and the churches that ran the schools led to the largest class action settlement in Canada and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The ongoing proceedings of the TRC , and the federal government’s continued resistance to them has been the subject of repeated news stories and court orders. One of the leading advocates for Indigenous children in Canada, Cynthia Blackstock, has been the subject of federal surveillance.
Fracking on or near Reserve and/or Crown land has been a particularly controversial issue. This past fall, direct resistance to the testing by SWN Energy Company on land near Elsipogtog First Nation led to a raid by the RCMP and numerous arrests. New Brunswick courts issued various injunctions to both sides, ultimately siding with SWN. SWN’s promised return to the area for more shale gas testing will likely lead to continued clashes this summer.