Skip to content

The Council rejects RCMP criminalization of land defenders

Amanda Polchies raises an eagle feather to RCMP officers raiding a Mi’kmaq camp on October 17, 2013. Photo by Ossie Michelin.

The Council of Canadians is concerned by the RCMP National Intelligence Coordination Centre’s Project SITKA.

APTN reports, “Rattled by Idle No More and Mi’kmaq-led anti-shale gas demonstrations [at the Elsipogtog First Nation in 2013], the RCMP compiled a list of 89 individuals considered ‘threats’ as part of an operation aimed at improving the federal police force’s intelligence capacity when facing Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to an internal intelligence report.”

The anti-fracking protests erupted in Elsipogtog when Texas-based SWN Resources began seismic testing in the area with “thumper” trucks. This happened without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples. Under the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760 and 1761 in the Maritimes, the Mi’kmaq and the Maliseet signatories did not surrender rights to lands or resources. The RCMP raided a Mi’kmaq Warrior camp on the morning of October 17, 2013. That resulted in numerous complaints against the RCMP including over the racist comments made by an officer who shouted: “Crown land belongs to the government, not to f—king natives.”

Prior to the raid, Mi’kmaq lawyer Amy Sock had commented, “Please do not think that warrior is someone that has weapons and someone that wants to fight and create trouble. A warrior is totally the opposite. A warrior protects the earth, a warrior’s weapons are our medicines, our feather, our sage and tobacco. We have no weapons, we have no guns.” When the RCMP arrested her on October 17, they left bruises on her arms. Afterwards, Sock commented, “People were violated, people were humiliated and people were injured greatly by what has transpired. It’s a great injustice and Canada should not stand for the use of that kind of injustice against peaceful people.”

The Council of Canadians Fredericton and Moncton chapters supported the camp on Route 134. In June 2013, Fredericton chapter activist Mark D’Arcy and ten others were arrested for blocking the thumper trucks on Highway 126. Our Kent County chapter formed out of that experience. The Council of Canadians also provided material aid to the camp including a generator, extension cords, tarps, sleeping bags, lanterns, coolers, and wood. On the day of the RCMP raid, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui stated, “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

APTN highlights, “It’s apparent the events of Elsipogtog weighed on the minds of the intelligence officers compiling the [Project SITKA] report. Thirty-five of the 89 individuals on the list were from New Brunswick.” As noted above, the RCMP raided an anti-fracking protest camp near Rexton on October 17, 2013.  By January 2014, the RCMP had designated Indigenous rights demonstrations as a National Tactical Intelligence Priority. RCMP intelligence officers spent from April to September 2014 developing the list. The report was completed in March 2015.

And the news articles notes, “The groups linked by the RCMP to the 89 include the Defenders of the Land, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, the Manitoba Warriors gang and the Council of Canadians, among others.”

This is not new.

Just after the January 2006 federal election, the federal government stepped up surveillance of First Nations to monitor protests over land claims, according to internal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and RCMP documents. In 2007 an RCMP unit was established to monitor protests by First Nations that they believed could pose a threat to ‘critical infrastructure’ like pipelines and railways. In November 2013, we expressed dismay that the National Energy Board’s ‘security team’ had coordinated intelligence gathering with the CSIS and the RCMP on opponents of the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. Those opponents included the Council of Canadians, Idle No More, the Sierra Club and the Dogwood Initiative.

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to respect the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its guarantee of the right to free, prior and informed consent. Without that fundamental respect for Indigenous rights and the obligation to protect land and water from extreme energy projects, Indigenous peoples and their allies will once again be put in the position of having to assert those rights. Just last week, Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon, who is a spokesperson for an anti-pipeline alliance supported by about 85 First Nations, commented that without respect for consent, Canada could see twenty Standing Rocks.