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Activist Communique: Occupy Toronto opens up vein of Native backlash

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So the Canadian myth that we're all loving and polite people gets exposed again if you're non-white, non-Western or Indigenous.

I would say I have not been taken aback from the spate of anti-Indigenous commentary coming from the detractors of Occupy Toronto. It ain't pretty but it's real.

Not only does the #OccupyToronto Twitter stream get filled with comments from the trolls like @dannyswitzer who tweet of the willing of First Nations participation in the Toronto movement as, "What else do you expect with Indians there? Has to be booze."

And that's one of the tamer comments, trust me, I simply don't have the heart to post the rest.

But here the public bears witness to the Indigenous backlash still overtly popular among the right-wing and covertly defended by a society that does not stand up to racism.

Think I'm worrying for nothing over words?

These words reflect a greater public trend of racism and neglect of care towards First Nations communities.

If Canadians wants to proclaim that racism has been abolished and all is polite and well in Canada, then I ask why the Chief of the Attawapiskat reserve is currently begging the Ontario government to evacuate them from the "Third World" conditions they have been forced to live in for the past two years despite living in Canada.

Families there have been living in makeshift tents and shacks without heat, electricity and indoor plumbing; using buckets as washroom facilities.

The Government of Ontario, while acknowledging the state of emergency that Chief Theresa Spence declared on October 28, 2011, has no plans in place to renovate or build more housing, or as a last resort, temporarily evacuate residents to safer accommodations.

Or when racist U.S. skinheads stalk and attack an American Indian family, guess who gets arrested? Hint: They're not of Indo-European heritage.

When there is bad medicine afoot, is tends to spread.

Ezra Levant of Sun Media has spent much of his time recently critiquing the Occupy movement in general and especially the presence of Indigenous rights activists at the site.

He then makes the fantastic leap of logic in which he links the mere presence of First Nations activists at Occupy Toronto to causing the next Oka as if -- using the currency of fear -- that could happen on Toronto's streets.

He goes on to describe Occupy Toronto as an "urban Oka" and the describe a Sacred Fire as nothing more than a "big public bonfire" without doing -- or not caring enough -- to do any research on the ceremony first.

I mean, to the right-wing, there must be nothing more funny than ridiculing a religious or spiritual ceremony (then again, right-wingers refer to Muslim prayer rugs as dirty dish towels. They refer to Muslims as "sand-Ni**ers").

Levant goes on to explain that the presence of Mohawks (Haudenosaunee activists, among other First Nations) will guarantee violence will break out at Occupy Toronto; perpetuating the stereotype that First Nations men are useful for nothing but violence.

The blog Blazing Cat Fur echoed the declaration that "Ezra Levant On The Warpath Against Occupy Toronto Mohawks" with a certain amount of sick glee when you take into account her general Twitter commentary around Occupy Toronto and the anti-Indigenous videos she posts on her blog.

In another example of "poor journalism" if I wish to be kind, though in this case Joe Warmington from the Toronto Sun also didn't care to do any research on First Nations before penning his article, "Bonfire of the Occupying Vanities for Toronto."

I mention this lack of care and due diligence by the Toronto Sun and Sun Media in terms of racism because it is exactly that lack of care to actually speak to and research First Nations culture that allows these two individuals to rely on idiotic stereotypes.

Relying on and perpetuating stereotypes in par for the course for racists as history has proven to us through Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

So let me make clear that the lack of care and due diligence while reporting on First Nations issues is not accidental, but actually highlights the racism that First Nations communities experience in Canada on a daily basis.

How would you feel if you, your family, and your community was constantly being referred to in the negative in the media, with no journalist even willing to try and get their facts straight?

In Warmington's article on October 26, 2011, he also writes about Sacred Fires as nothing but "bonfires" -- using a cruel, uneducated simplicity akin to referring to a "church" as just a simple "building" or the "Torah" as just simply a "rolled up piece of paper." Simplification on this scale not only insults but dehumanizes. It removes history and contexts.

It is meant to minimize and destroy both the ceremonial act and the individuals participating in the ceremony. In this manner, First Nations communities could be -- and historically were -- declared by the right-wing as nothing but a bunch of "dirt worshipping heathens."

Warmington ends with the familiar Sun Media refrain of racist stereotyping and violence, "... perhaps the next Ipperwash or Caledonia could be right in downtown Toronto."

Occupy Vancouver has unearthed its share of racist and disrespectful behaviour towards First Nations communities. Of note is the "controversy" surrounding the burning of a Sacred Fire at the site.

As explained over the phone by Tami Starlight, on Monday November 7, 2011, First Nations elders (including Barnie) were on site and received an inspection and permission to light a Sacred Fire under certain strict conditions. It was collaboration between the Vancouver Fire Department and the First Nations elders and helpers on site, with members of the fire department standing four feet away as it was lit around 4:30 p.m.

The same night, with a new shift and new orders from the Vancouver Fire Department at 10:00 p.m., flanked by a dozen police officers, fire fighters charged the Sacred Fire, beating the elders and other allies who stood to protect it. They eventually put the fire out and then outright stole the ashes from the site.

Starlight explained it as, "the fire fighters were just following the orders as they're required to. They are safe in following through on orders even if they are wrong since they know they are backed by the state."

You can watch the video of the Vancouver fire department charging the Sacred Fire here. I ask you to watch this video and watch the reactions of those individuals who stood in front of the police to defend that Sacred Fire.

Watch their reactions and their emotions. If the fire was burning at Occupy Vancouver was just simply a normal fire, then why would people risk life and limb to protect it? And why would the violence and desecration make grown men and women cry?

... If it was just a simple "fire," and nothing sacred, because that is how the state and the right-wing sees First Nations culture.

I ask: Would the religious right-wing in turn cry if a church was set on fire and burned to the ground? Or would that not be a "church," but just any old "building" burning down? Nothing sacred, just a collection of wood and nails? Think about it.

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