As June 28, the national day of protest for aboriginal people, approaches, some in the non-Native community are starting to lose their cool. Take, for example, the statement by Ontario Provincial Police Association President Karl Walsh. Mr. Walsh, very authoritatively, recently warned all Native leaders and National Grand Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations that they should take responsibility for the actions of Aboriginal people at protest sites and instruct them on what constitutes a peaceful protest.
Furthermore, Mr. Walsh said that the National Grand Chief should publicly denounce any future activities by protestors who threaten to breach the peace, are counter-productive to a peaceful protest, intimidate private citizens, cause destruction of private or public property or attacks on members of the public or police officers.
I find this statement very surprising. I have to wonder what Walsh said when members of the Montreal police service wore guns while the police were protesting a few years back? I’m sure a few citizens found armed protesters to be a bit intimidating.
What about when fire fighters defaced fire trucks and equipment with stickers and paint? Ambulance drivers have done the same thing when they protested wage freezes. Was this not destruction of public property? Should not the mayors and premiers be out there giving these organizations lessons on what constitutes a peaceful protest and taking responsibility for their actions?
Should we not have Prime Minister Harper get out there and do some denouncing himself? There are protestors at abortion clinics who intimidate the hell out of women, doctors and staff. Shouldn’t Harper take responsibility for these people? These protesters are his political supporters, after all.
To get really specific, let’s look at February 2000, when SQ officers deliberately slowed morning rush hour traffic by parking at busy traffic points and stopping cars, checking to see if drivers were wearing their seat belts.
Even more recently, in 2005, police officers in Toronto disobeyed a direct order not to wear their uniforms and firearms during a union rally. Did Mr. Walsh, who is, remember, president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association, feel some responsibility for these out-of control protesters?
Indeed, where were the Premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister of Canada at that time? Did they take full responsibility for the actions of the police officers who disobeyed an order from the top ranking officials of the police?
Don’t get me wrong here, I fully believe in non-violence as an effective means of protest. I believe violence is the last resort of fools as someone once said.
However, when I read or hear such ill-conceived words then I must step up and put forth a viewpoint that may seem strange to non-Aboriginal peoples: We do not all think alike. Aboriginals are not sheep blindly following leaders like puppets. We bear differing opinions that are just as varied as in any non-Aboriginal society.
In the end, First Nations hear the editorials and comments of one law for all. Add to this the words of Karl Walsh. If the two statements are true then should not Prime Minister Harper take responsibility for the actions of First Nations peoples as they are all Canadians under one law? Should he not explain what constitutes a peaceful protest and how to effectively utilize one to redress the issues Aboriginal people in Canada are fighting to see resolved? Should he not stand up and deal with them in a fair manner?
One should wonder why he has not and then decide who is ultimately to blame for the protests.