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Partial victory of Land Defenders: now's the time to keep up the solidarity

John Bell

February 20, 2020

Less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not call on the paramilitary RCMP force occupying Wet’suwet’en land to stand down, he did just that.

This is a partial victory for the Wet’suwet’en land defenders and the tens of thousands of allies who have been blockading rail lines, disrupting traffic and occupying politicians’ offices and even the BC legislature.

But don't believe the lies from Minister Blair or the RCMP – they have not complied with Wet'suwet'en demands to get off their territory. But the fact is that the feds have blinked. They are terrified of the size and militancy of the demonstrations and blockades and the support being generated by settler allies across the country. 

Blockades vs Trudeau

It comes after new polls show that almost 4 out of 10 Canadians support the Indigenous land defenders and their supporters. While still a minority, this is a remarkable number – it means more people support the disruptions than voted for Trudeau in the election. 

Mainstream media tried to use the poll numbers to discredit the solidarity movement. They have been working overtime to undermine solidarity. Stories about layoffs of rail workers were everywhere. They neglected to mention that rail giants like CN and CP have been laying workers off for years, to boost profits and reflecting the downturn in manufacturing. Where was the hand-wringing then?

The satirical Walking Eagle website got it right: “CN blames time-travelling Mohawks for layoffs that began in 2019”. 

Racist violence

White supremacists – from the dog-whistle variety like Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay and Andrew Scheer, to the tuba-playing neo-fascists at Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media – have been calling for violence to stop the protests.

They may couch their threats in rhetoric about the “rule of law” but their far-right followers picked up the cues and organized vigilante violence.  

Indigenous activists in Alberta report shots being fired at them. Vehicles have been deliberately driven into blockades and protests. And neo-nazi Yellow Vest members in Edmonton tore down a rail blockade while police stood by. 

In case you ever wondered what fascism smelled like, here’s Rebel Media’s goose-stepping cheerleader Sheila Gunn Reid describing the scene: “The protesters just stand there shitting their pants, totally stunned, as the scent of pure testosterone and vigor wafts past their nostrils and overwhelms their soy-dullened senses. Ladies, we almost don’t deserve Alberta men.” 

It is worth reiterating – 40 % of Canadians support the blockades, more than voted for Scheer’s Tories (34%). But that won’t stop the far-right from using the crisis and its inherent racism to organize.

Actions in support of the Wet’suwet’en have been non-violent. The far-right have no such scruples. It is worth recalling Malcolm X’s statement on non-violence: “We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.” 

What is clear is that there has been a change: more and more of the settler population supports, and is willing to act in solidarity, with Indigenous land claims. In part this is due to shared allyship around environmental issues. In part it is the result of better education and growing awareness of issues like residential schools, violence against missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and a long history of colonialist genocide.

Whatever the cause, the Wet’suwet’en demands for sovereignty over their own land are just, and we must keep building solidarity until they win.


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