Photo of a peaceful protest to draw attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
A peaceful protest was held at the Vancouver Art Gallery in October 2020 to call attention the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Credit: Breanne Doyle

Early in 2020 and late in 2021, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation faced down police forces as they tried to protect their homelands in northern British Columbia. The province and the federal government had no difficulty in sending in the RCMP to mete out justice. 

No mercy has been given to the First Nations when they protest. Oka, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake, logging standoffs and oil and gas standoffs, including the Tiny House Warriors standing against the Trans Mountain pipeline, were all met with unwavering police forces.

The last confrontation in Wet’suwet’en had First Nations from other provinces joining in solidarity. Enter Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his anti-protest legislation. Kenney quickly enacted Bill 1 to protect “critical infrastructure” and to fine those driven to protest.

This is your Canada. There is a rule of law for the First Nations and a rule of law that applies to non-First Nation people. 

What happens to First Nation people standing against injustice? They are beaten, cuffed and thrown into jail. At Wet’suwet’en, even some non-First Nation journalists were thrown into jail for reporting on the Wet’suwet’en land defence. How can we reconcile this?

When Colten Boushie was killed on someone’s “property,” an unbelievable misfire story exonerated Gerald Stanley. When the verdict was announced, a jury of white people ran from the courtroom. 

Cindy Gladue bled out in an Edmonton hotel and her womb was on display in an Alberta courtroom. Bradley Barton, a long-haul trucker was first cleared of Cindy Gladue’s murder, then convicted during a second trial.

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) makes decisions that rule as the highest law of the land but in the case of R v. Marshall (1999) S.C.R. 456, there was a second decision. In R v. Marshall (1999) 3 S.C.R. 533, the judges clarified their “ruling” with regard to the Mi’kmaq right to fish. This is the only time the SCC ruled twice on the same case.

How is it that justice can wear two hats in this country? 

From the earliest settler landing parties and agreements or treaties to the historic clearing of the western lands, and onto the present age, Canada or the descendants of European settlers have meted out justice that favours white male patriarchy.

The Ottawa convoy shows the gap between First Nation Indigenous and “everyone else” when white males are the predominant protestors. Mainstream media is reporting that this group of protestors are fighting for “freedom and rights” in the form of a massive anti-vaccination movement. This is not the complete truth. 

Sadly, there are also First Nation Indigenous who have been duped into thinking that this is an anti-government rally. Some misguided individual First Nations people are assisting this movement because they feel powerless in their reserve or urban homes. These lost First Nation or Indigenous peoples believe they can individually assist and resolve the multitude of historical grievances through this trucking convoy.

When the truckers and supporters descended on Ottawa, there was practically a red-carpet welcome from the police forces. Live footage posted on social media sites point to joviality between the police and protestors. People in Ottawa have been stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the excessive noise disturbances. When the issue of all-night honking went into the courtroom for an injunction, the judge was slow to grant an injunction at first. He maintained he could not issue anything because there was no surety in exactly “who was making the noise – the trucks or their supporters” so the honking noise was “indistinguishable.” The judge then granted a 10-day interim injunction on the honking and recently extended the injunction to 60 days.

The Ottawa debacle has revealed that there are two applications for the rule of law in Canada. There is a law for First Nation Indigenous people to stand against capitalism and the destruction of their lands. In this instance, policing forces dispense justice “equally” with unabashed force to elders, women, children or men. The public — that is the non-native Canadian public — looks on these Indigenous actions critically believing the narrative fed by politicians or mainstream media.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or any other political party will continue to bandy words like “reconciliation” about, while doing whatever they want to obtain all the lands in Canada. This is why there are unresolved deaths for missing and murdered Indigenous women. This is why the highest rates of children in child welfare systems are Indigenous. This is why the most inmates incarcerated in the Canadian “justice system” are Indigenous.

Canada’s own “reconciliation” processes include recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC has made calls to action that Canada ignores or reinterprets into actions that protect white supremacy. This white supremacy has been identified by First Nations as systemic racism.

White supremacy has always been covertly hidden and protected in Canadian law. It is Canada’s polite way of exercising discrimination while convincing non-First Nation Canadians that everything is fair and equal. This is your Canada. 

What else can be said when police are passing responsibility from municipalities to the province and then back again to the federal government without any discernible coordination? 

White patriarchy defines Canada

The fact is this: there is a very coordinated approach happening. It is one that protects the white man-made laws and white patriarchy. It is the silent voice that allows truckers to use First Nation Indigenous pain such as the “Every Child Matters” movement to further their own racist cause of advancing white patriarchy. It is the silent voice that broadcasts First Nation cultural appropriation of sacred items and ceremonies with white males posing as self-identified Indigenous voices.

White patriarchy defines Canada. John A. MacDonald and Duncan Campbell Scott devised the residential schools. Historically, white patriarchy herded First Nation peoples onto reserves and instituted the pass system. If reserves impeded economic growth or progress, the Indians were moved or starved into submission. 

How can this be the truth in a Canada that is so polite and friendly? 

The fact is Canada is very friendly — if you witness the current actions of white truckers on  Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Ottawa free-for-all has shown all peoples that Canada is not shy about partying with racists. That is their wheelhouse.

Nothing has changed for the First Nation peoples. What has changed is the noticeable increase in people in Canada in feeling powerlessness and intense anger at policing agencies.

Welcome to First Nation reality.

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Rachel Snow

Rachel Ann Snow is Iyahe Nakoda, the daughter of late Reverend Dr. Chief John Snow. She holds a juris doctor from the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan and is an outspoken educator, speaker, writer...