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Indigenous Education Network
 

September 15th 2020

 

The Indigenous Education Network wishes to assert our uncompromising solidarity with and support for Indigenous land defenders at the 1492 Land Back Lane reclamation site on Six Nations territory outside of Caledonia, Ontario.

We are outraged to learn of the September 2nd, 2020 arrest of our colleague, Courtney Skye, a research fellow at Yellowhead Institute, who now faces criminal charges after bringing soup to the land defenders and joining them for lunch at the site. Skye is Mohawk, Turtle Clan, from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She studies and writes about Indigenous sovereignty, and injunctions and land claims, and also works as a commentator for CBC. Indigenous journalist Karl Dockstader from Oneida Nation of the Thames, has also been arrested and charged following several days at the reclamation site covering the resistance. In total there have been 26 arrests based on an injunction granted to Foxgate Developments, and according to the Land Defenders, 15 of these arrests have occurred off-site at people’s homes and workplaces. As Skye asserts,

People who are supporting the action are being criminalized. People who are making sure the land defenders are fed, that they are warm, that they are getting supplies, they are being criminalized. It's really alarming […] Cutting off Indigenous people's supplies to starve them off the land, it's genocide, it's colonialism. –

Since July 19th, a group of Six Nations Land Defenders have reclaimed and resided upon land in unceded Haudenosaunee territory near Caledonia, Ontario. They have set up camp on a site slated for the McKenzie Meadows housing development, renaming the site 1492 Land Back Lane.

As Six Nations community member Beverly Jacobs explains, “what needs to be understood is that this is a historical land claim going back a couple of hundred years that has not been addressed.” Jacobs, who is a lawyer, law professor and the Associate Dean at Windsor law school, explains that Canada has not been able to produce title to the land and negotiations have failed: “We never gave up title to those lands and territories, and in fact Canada owes us money for those lands and resources. The issue is with Canada.”  The current situation at 1492 Land Back Lane is part of a long-standing struggle to defend land rights of Six Nations of the Grand River and to address unresolved land claims to the area known as the Haldimand Tract. In 2006, Six Nations Land Defenders similarly protected this land from development of the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision.

The 1492 Land Back Lane reclamation site is an example of Indigenous peoples—Indigenous women and youth in particular—protecting the land and sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee people. As Jacobs reminds us, “What they’re doing is according to Haudenosaunee law in being land protectors. They’re following our rule of law.”

In response, Foxgate Developments has secured federal injunctions criminalizing land defense by prohibiting anyone from being on the site or setting up road blockades. This is part of a centuries-old colonial state practice of using Canadian law to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land. As Yellowhead Institute researchers report, out of 100 cases of injunctions they studied, 76 percent those filed against First Nations by corporations were granted, while 81 per cent of injunctions filed against corporations by First Nations were denied and 82 per cent of injunctions filed against the government by First Nations were denied. “This means that 4 times out of 5, the courts side with corporations and government rather than Indigenous claimants on land use cases.” 

From the lands of the Wet’suwet’en to Six Nations, from Kanehsatà:ke to Elsipogtog, attempts to prevent Indigenous women from fulfilling their responsibilities as caretakers and stewards of the land must be opposed; injunctions deny Indigenous peoples their inherent right to their land and to authorize police violence against Indigenous peoples must be opposed. We must condemn and take actions in opposition to such ongoing uses and abuses of Canadian law in ongoing attempts to destroy Indigenous nations and assert control over Indigenous lands, waters, and peoples.

We join our colleagues at the Yellowhead Institute at Ryerson University in condemning the arrests and calling on the Attorney-General of Ontario to drop all charges against Courtney Skye and others arrested in relation to land defense on September 2nd. We amplify their calls for the “Province of Ontario to develop policy prohibiting the use of injunctions on Indigenous people in cases of disputes over land use,” and for the “Federal Government to engage with the volumes of evidence on criminal justice reform and Land Back.”

Signed,

 

Dr. rosalind hampton, IEN Faculty Co-Chair

Dr. Jeffrey Ansloos, IEN Faculty Co-Chair

Kayla Webber, IEN Student Co-Chair

Julie Blair, IEN Coordinator

Lindsay DuPré, OISE Indigenous Education Liaison

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