Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa and Ottawa Against Fascism organized a highly successful "Stand Up for Land Defenders!" direct action to challenge the "United We Roll" truck convoy when it arrived in Ottawa on February 19.
The convoy was pro-tar sands (expressing support for the building of pipelines), anti-Bill C-48 (the Oil Tanker Moratorium that restricts oil tankers on the north coast of British Columbia), anti-Bill C-69 (an act primarily on the approval process for pipelines), and anti-carbon tax (that would tax carbon pollution at C$20 a tonne).
The convoy also brought messages from Yellow Vests Canada (not to be confused with the more progressive gilets jaunes in France), opposing "illegal" immigration (targeting the non-binding United Nations Global Migration Pact), and the UN more generally, including its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that reflects the right to water and sanitation.
Messages of hate
A truck that arrived with the convoy had a huge sign on it that read "no" to "open borders" and "yes" to "photo ID and Canadian citizenship to vote."
As much as convoy spokespeople repeated the message that the convoy was respectful and not about hate, about workers hurting and fearful for their jobs, and focused on uniting Canadians across the country, the reality of their protest was very different.
APTN reporter Justin Brake tweeted, "Members of the convoy and supporters are expressing white nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Indigenous sentiments."
The comments repeatedly screamed by convoy participants at the protest were classist, intended to be demeaning, sexist, anti-Semitic, and insulted Indigenous peoples.
APTN posted a video clip of Crystal Semaganis, a Cree woman who lives in Ottawa, saying, "I see this kind of racial ugliness unfolding before my eyes. I see the Proud Boys screaming about Jews and Muslims and it's just… I have no words."
iPolitics added, "If anyone wanted to get to what this was really about, it's worth looking at who spoke. Presumably white nationalist Faith Goldy was speaking as an expert on the oil and gas industry?"
In 2017 Goldy recited on an alt-right podcast the white-supremacist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for our white children." She went on to say, "I don't see that as controversial… We want to survive."
Linking violence and resource extraction
Activist John Bell has commented, "We need to expose the convoy for its explicit racism, but the implicit racism of pipeline construction for Indigenous communities and of climate chaos for the global south is just as real."
The statement on "man camps" by the Secwepemcul'ecw Assembly, which opposes the Trans Mountain pipeline on Secwepemc territory, notes that the "impacts on women include higher levels of sexual assault and harassment, and family and domestic violence."
In November 2016, Amnesty International produced a major report that tied violence to resource extraction and highlighted consequences "that disproportionately impact the lives of the Indigenous peoples who live there, particularly Indigenous women and girls."
The Globe and Mail reported that the study described problems such as "women's shelters that are in a state of 'constant crisis' due to a lack of resources" and "men preying on Indigenous women because they perceive them to be an 'easy lay.'"
Climate breakdown is a key factor that drives displacement and the forced migration of people towards already militarized borders that some convoy participants want to "secure."
Counter-protest pushes back
The "Stand Up for Land Defenders!" counter-protest brought banners that read "Water is Life," "No One Is Illegal" and "Good Work, Indigenous Rights, and a Livable Climate," as well as "No Pipelines, No Fascists on Indigenous Land!"
The counter-protest of 150 to 200 people occupied the intersection of Wellington and Metcalfe Streets near Parliament Hill where the United We Roll convoy reportedly wanted to have their rally -- they had a hydraulic lift set up there for their speakers.
The counter-protest held that space for hours among the parked big rigs and half-tonne trucks with smudging, a water ceremony, drumming, singing, sign waving and shouting.
It also deplatformed Goldy who attempted to speak from the hydraulic lift.
As iPolitics reported, "She didn't get far […] before being drowned out. Always a nice touch when you tell Indigenous protesters that if they don't like this country, they can leave it. Uhm, who wants to tell Faith who was here first?"
People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, who has tweeted against "extreme multiculturalism" and promised "to take Canada out of the Paris accord," approached the hydraulic lift to speak, but then turned back to Parliament Hill.
The counter-protest unequivocally rejected racism and misogyny. It did not let economic anxiety be used to justify dispossession and the continuation of violations against the rights of Indigenous peoples and violence against the land and water.
It rejected the assertion that "we should unite to defeat Trudeau" given there can be no unity between those who "love Canadian oil and gas" and those who heed science and embrace a renewable energy future (not to mention the convoy's rally on Parliament Hill featured their preferred replacement for Trudeau -- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer).
The Leap Manifesto stated, "We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean energy economy." Courage calls for a Green New Deal in which "all workers in high-polluting sectors would have not only opportunities but long-term job security after the transition."
The Green New Deal's populist messages have not been widely embraced by tar sands workers and pipeline proponents (let alone the NDP), but a sustainable democratic economy that respects both people and the planet must remain an essential part of our vision.
On February 19, Indigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists collaboratively created a temporary space in front of Parliament Hill that challenged the alt-right and the violence of the fossil fuel economy. In doing so, it notably engaged in the real prefigurative politics of bringing grassroots movements together.
It was a good example of what we must continue to build.
For short video clips from APTN News of the protest, please click here.
Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.
Photo still: Red Power Media/Facebook
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