(Above YouTube video done in response to previous linking by Canadian authorities of First Nations activists to terrorists. Video by independent filmmaker Jay Cardinal Villeneuve. Views do not represent editorial position of APTN National News)
By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The Canadian government won’t get any warning the next time it faces a major strike against its economy of the scale witnessed in 2007 when Mohawks from Tyendinaga shut down rail-lines and one of Canada’s busiest highways for several hours, according to one of the Mohawks involved in the event.
The blockade caused about $100 million in “economic damage,” according to a 2008 “secret” Canadian Security Intelligence Service memo obtained under the Access to Information Act by two academics.
Tyendinaga Mohawk Shawn Brant, who has done jail time over various blockades, said the strategy has changed among some militants who previously gave ample warnings about planned actions.
“We gave the government and society every opportunity. We showed our faces, we didn’t hide anything and the response was a brush off and continued indignation against our people,” said Brant. “There is a movement that is developing that isn’t…giving the same opportunity for people to have input. It is simply going to…unfold and people are going to say, ‘Where the hell did it come from?'”
Brant and several other Mohawks were involved in the June 29, 2007, National Day of Action blockade of Hwy 401 between Ottawa and Toronto. They also blocked rail lines crossing Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont.
The rail blockade stopped the movement of about 25 freight trains and 22 passenger trains.
The Assembly of First Nations called for the Day of Action, but distanced itself from the Mohawks’ actions.
“Sabotage of critical infrastructure was a major concern in connection with the 2007 Day of Action,” according to the CSIS memo, which discussed how the threat of sabotage had changed from the Cold War era to the present day.
The document, written by former CSIS director of operations Charles Bisson, was part of a batch of intelligence files obtained by Queen’s University doctoral candidate Jeffrey Monaghan and Kevin Walby, an assistant professor from the University of Victoria.
The files, dating from 2005 to 2009, include a list of perceived terror threats against Canada compiled by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre (ITAC), which includes participation from CSIS, the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, Public Safety, Department of National Defence, and other agencies.
The list of threats includes “Aboriginal extremists,” along with Al Qaeda-linked terrorists, Hezbollah-linked terrorists, home-grown Islamic terrorists, the Tamil Tigers, Quebec separatists, “lone wolf” operatives and “multi-issue extremists” like environmentalists, anti-capitalists and animal rights activists.
The ITAC list is included in several reports titled, The Threat from Terrorists and Extremists.
The reports note that the vast majority of conflicts between Canada and First Nations “are successfully resolved by peaceful means.”
The examples of conflicts cited in the documents include the 1990 Oka crisis, the 1995 Ipperwash occupation in Ontario, the 2006 Six Nations land reclamation in Caledonia, Ont., and the 2009 shut-down of the Canada-U.S. border-crossing by authorities after Akwesasne residents refused to allow armed border guards on their territory.
“Disputes over a range of issues including, among other things, land claims, natural resources, self-governance, environmental concerns and social services have resulted in Aboriginal protests that have occasionally turned violent,” the ITAC reports note.
The ITAC documents also note that, “multi-issue extremists and Aboriginal extremists may pursue common causes and both groups have demonstrated the intent and the capability to carry out attacks against critical infrastructure in Canada.”
Brant says it doesn’t concern him to know Canadian authorities include First Nations people as potential terror threats.
“I am proud that they put us in that category and it makes feel that we are working to achieve something,” said Brant. “When we have women that are going missing everyday and when we have communities that don’t have access to clean drinking water and our women and children are suffering, then we should be terrorists. If we have to take actions to bring out some concrete resolutions and changes to our society and our people, then that is what we have to be doing.”
Former Manitoba First Nation Chief Terry Nelson also makes an appearance in Bisson’s heavily redacted CSIS memo, which is separate from the ITAC assessments. A partially redacted line references someone raising the “possibility of sabotage that could target a planned oil pipeline project in Manitoba.”
Nelson, who authored the Day of Action AFN resolution, said he remembers referring at the time to an Enbridge U.S. oil pipeline explosion in November 2007, that killed two workers who were repairing a leak.
“All we were saying is that the pipelines were essential and we never wanted to see any type of activism like,” said Nelson. “It is possible, but I don’t think anyone said anything specific that we are going to blow up the pipeline. That was never our intention.”
Nelson said authorities have reason to be worried.
“They should be concerned with the way they are treating us,” said Nelson. “The only reason it is a threat is because they created the economics of desperate people. If they had given the Indigenous people a little bit of hope that they are serious about settling the issues, then they wouldn’t have that threat which is a creation of their own policies.”
Nelson is currently preparing to request an audience with the Iranian parliament. He is also planning on leading a caravan from Winnipeg to Ottawa to deliver information to embassies about the situation of First Nations people in Canada.