The raising of Nazi and Confederate flags in a yard in small town Saskatchewan raised the ire of a First Nations man who drove to the town to take them down and burn them live on social media last weekend.
While more than 30,000 people have viewed the video that inspired a hashtag in support of the flag-burner, it also re-ignited racial tensions in a province that sees flare-ups too often.
“Its always been there, its always below the surface,” said Coun. Fabian Ironeagle of the Pasqua First Nation, surrounded by Saskatchewan’s grain belt.
“Everything we do, where ever we go, there are certain situations we’re put in as a First Nations person where you can actually feel it sometimes, where people don’t like you.”
(The Nazi flag flying in Saskatchewan)
Eleanore Sunchild is a Cree lawyer from Thunderchild First Nation in the central part of the province.
She said traveling elsewhere in Canada feels much different than living as a First Nations person in her home province.
Just three years ago, Colten Boushie, a young Cree man, was shot dead by a farmer for trespassing on his property near Biggar.
The farmer, Gerald Stanley, walked free.
“There are parts of Saskatchewan where you don’t go,” Sunchild said. “And a lot of those areas are the rural areas, just because its not safe, especially in the wake of what happened to Colten.
“It gave people a permission to be more open with their racism, and they are, as you by this display of the Nazi flag.”
Kamao Cappo of the Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation agrees the racial tensions are more openly displayed
“(After Stanley’s acquittal) it become more obvious and people feel they have more permission to do what they like,” said Cappo, who filmed himself being thrown out of a Canadian Tire store in Regina in 2017, after being racially profiled as a thief. He was in the store buying a chainsaw.
Sunchild said there are allies in the province but they’re too few and too quiet.
“Maybe they feel ‘it’s not my fight’ so I’ll stay silent but how will it change if we’re all silent,” Sunchild said.
Meanwhile the flag burner, Caleb Pelletier, 21, told APTN InFocus he stands by his decision to take action when the town and the police, refused to.
“I’d rather stand up than shut up,” Pelletier said.