Hill Times, December 6, 2021
It must be nice to not to fear the national police. It must be reassuring to have a level of trust in them. That trust is misplaced in the RCMP.
Journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano were arrested along with Sleydo’ and others working to protect the land against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. The RCMP tracked the two journalists in their active investigations’ database, and destroyed their equipment, according to The Narwhal. Not to mention that the details around use of force by police at Wet’suwet’en to arrest citizens is alarming as it sounds too much like states with issues with, well, police brutality. Tanks, sniper rifles, chainsaws, full tactical gear as if they were going to war.
Indigenous peoples can’t even gather together to voice their demands for better treatment, without getting an alarmed response from the federal government. Let’s ask the Government Operations Centre just how many times it has been activated for Indigenous demonstrations. Sorry, Indigenous protests, let’s use that ‘correct’ term. Wow, we are that scary, eh.
Imagine this. There was talk of building a new bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau at Kettle Island, very close to Manor Park. Imagine if the Manor Park neighbourhood were divided on the issue of building a highway—some supported it and some did not. Imagine if some families demonstrated against the bridge building. Imagine if the police stormed that demonstration in tanks, with sniper rifles that use five-inch long bullets, carrying chain saws to break down any barriers to arrest those Canadians. Imagine if the police blocked cellphones and WiFi to ensure they could do their evil without anybody knowing.
Alarming? Yes, it’s alarming for so many reasons. Because it would be called a demonstration if it happened in Rockcliffe, not a blockade. Because there would be tens of national and international media outlets covering it. Because it would be called an illegal action. The harsh truth is that nesting barn swallows can stop a bridge development in Ottawa (Jockvale Bridge), but First Nations can be brutally taken down when they try to protect their lands.
It seems journalists are now at risk of illegal arrest by the RCMP almost as much as Indigenous peoples. Indigenous journalists should have lawyers on speed dial. When journalists sharing truth are seen as a national risk by the RCMP, every Canadian should be worried.
Canada is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 26 asserts that “all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.” Indigenous peoples don’t receive the same treatment when they demonstrate, as do other Canadians. Canada is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which targets racial discrimination under law as well as to guard against discriminatory effects of the law. Indigenous peoples don’t receive the same treatment by the RCMP as non-Indigenous Canadians.
Then there’s the sexual harassment within the RCMP. The 2017 Report into Workplace Harassment in the RCMP says the organization is unable to address the issues—it is a failed institution.
When Global Affairs Canada hosted the Global Conference for Media Freedom in 2019 that led to the Global Pledge on Media Freedom, one wonders if the federal department realized the issue in its own backyard.
When Indigenous peoples are seen as a risk just for speaking up together, democracy is at risk. Let’s be frank here. The RCMP is a failed institution on many fronts, so much so that Canadians should be worried. We are now all at risk.