The crown prosecutor in his case had asked for a one-year sentence, in order to send “a strong message,” whatever that means.
To his credit, the judge refused, saying a year would likely be an illegal sentence. Nonetheless, the judicial urge to get tough on Native activists is growing in Canada, with First Nations leaders and activists seeing ever-steeper fines and more serious jail time as state retribution for their political activism and refusal to acquiesce.
One wonders exactly what that strong message is when you’re a First Nations person. Is it that resource exploitation and concern for the land, people and culture can’t meet on a consensus basis? Or is it simply that poor people had better not get in the way of government and big business, even if they have a credible reason to resist?
It’s getting harder and harder to see a difference between political and what I like to call corporate prisoners – those who wind up incarcerated essentially at the behest of business interests.
By any definition, Canada is seeing a race-based denial of equality before the law. How many peaceful protestors comprised of the elderly, children, pregnant women as well as men are subjected to a vicious, violent attack by police riot squads?
Barriere Lake is also under third-party management. This is where an Indian Affairs appointed person or company takes over the finances of the band and tells them how to run their community. Add to this mix, two competing band chiefs, each claiming to legitimately represent the people. The federal and provincial governments can pretty well choose who they want to recognize as the community’s leadership, and shower them with the cash needed to buy the community’s loyalty.
This is no small thing in a community that has never had a land base or federal support. In this issue you will read that an alternative local school in the community is asking for donations to get enough fuel to provide heat for the school. They are looking at installing a wood stove so the children’s fingers don’t freeze when they are trying to learn to write. Many residents are also worried that electricity may become a part of the pressure tactics used to bring them into line.
Some of the youth and children participating in the protests have been placed under Youth Protection. Will they be taken away from their families and communities? At present the issue is murky but the threat is there. If a First Nations person protests then you can lose your children and if you are a child who believes in rights be prepared to be assimilated. No children to date have been removed from the community but parents are worried by the high SQ presence and what it could ultimately mean.
Barriere Lake residents are hoping to get a public inquiry into how the feds and Quebec are handling the community issues. They are in court over the leadership and the third party management as well.
Levels of frustration on all sides are high but residents say they are not backing down. This, one of the poorest First Nation’s communities in Canada, remains undaunted and promises to continue to fight for their rights.
Undoubtedly, at the end of 2009 some adults from Barriere Lake may be singing, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” Isn’t it time there is a public inquiry into the actions of Quebec, Canada and the First Nation’s people of Barriere Lake before things get even more out of hand?