The Two Row Times recently caught up with some of the organizers of the February 13th nation wide day of action to #ShutDownCanada. Momentum for this day is growing, as almost 5000 people have now joined the Facebook group, 51,000 people have been invited to attend the event, and hundreds more have joined the groups in each of their respective cities. Last week’s story on #ShutDownCanada on the TRT website gathered more than 60,000 views in under a week, making it one of our most popular stories.
Shannon Hecker, of Mikmaq, Irish, German and French descent explains her reasons for being involved in ‘shutting down Canada’ on this day. “We have made the callout for grassroots across Canada to organize direct actions in unison so that we can show this government what we can do when we work together. There are over 2000 missing and murdered indigenous women which PM Harper has said “is not on their radar” due to economic reasons. Our message touches on a variety of issues but they truly all are related. People need to realize that our consumer economy is directly connected to the displacement of indigenous peoples which has extremely detrimental effects on their ability to survive as distinct peoples.”
Shannon goes on to speak about the poor living conditions found through out Turtle Island, noting that genocidal legislation and Canadian structures leave Onkwehon:we peoples in a place of poverty and oppression. Most reserves in the United States and Canada do not have access to clean drinking water, affordable and safe housing, or employment opportunities. These reserves were set up so that they lack a basic infrastructure, while most small towns with the same population as reserves have systems set up by government to ensure the functional operation of their communities.
From Shannon’s point of view, it seems some reserves are structured to keep the people down, and big industries are allowed to come in and worsen the already poor conditions and living situations the people are in. “Devastating resource extraction is not only harming indigenous peoples ways of life but are systematically poisoning the land and destroying the ability of survival on this planet for all future generations. We can see this at the tar sands where toxic waste is leaking on a daily basis from tailings impoundments or manmade disasters, or with the under-publicized tailings spill at Mt. Polley. And we continue to see little regard to the well being of indigenous women who are assaulted and disappear without any meaningful investigation. We demand an independent inquiry into the issue of #MMIW to shed light on the systemic racism and structural violence inherent to the government of Canada. Make no mistake that attacks on indigenous women are attacks on indigenous communities which is directly connected to the colonial agenda to maintain control of the land and natural resources. That is why we must call attention to these issues at the same time – the tars sands, the pipelines, fracking, mining, mega-dam projects and the #MMIW — it’s all connected. We are targeting the Canadian economy as it’s the only way to get the government’s attention.” Shannon notes that there are so many more issues, like high incarceration rates for Onkwehon:we males as well as legislation like Bill C-10 that completely disregards Indigenous sovereignty.
Also organizing with Shannon in Vancouver for “ShutDownCanada, Dan Wallace, of Kwakwaka’wakw heritage, shared his thoughts with TRT about these issues. “This is happening because people are tired of the serious systematic issues in all government institutions. #MMIW has been a serious issue for years and people have already been raising the issue here in Vancouver for 25 years now. It’s a slap in the face to those families that have lost loved ones but even more so proves the government is still racist. The government and its institutions passively aggressively use its systems like welfare, child apprehension, reserve life which is mostly impoverished lifestyles as a tool against indigenous people and our women feel it the most. Shutting down Canada and putting a halt to its economy for one day is small in comparison to how the government has used poverty as a weapon against not only indigenous people but all citizens of Canada.”
Wallace spoke about the common feeling of frustration shared by many, and wants people to unite and stand together free of fear. “We are tired of this government and we the people have the right to put this government in its place. Standing up and taking direct action needs to happen in order to escape the fear mentality many have in regards to speaking out about what this corrupt government is doing to all of us. We need to not only discuss, but engage in a diversity of tactics on a broader scale. You have an obligation to take a stand for what is right when we know what the government is doing wrong. Government is not the power, you are the power. We the people are the power, people are the strength and it is the people that vote and pay taxes and contribute to society who are not being heard. You are not a criminal or a terrorist if you decide to take a stand against a tyrannical government and how it has chosen not to listen to the majority of the people. You are not a criminal or a terrorist if you protest systemic racism within government institutions, oil corporations, pipeline corporations, mining corporations, tar sands exploitation, fish farming corporations and logging corporations. ”
The TRT also heard from Dini Toghestiy of the Wet’suwet’en nation and part of the Unist’ot’en Camp which was set up to block pipelines on their traditional terrority. Toghestiy offered our readers some inspirational words about Indigenous resistance. “Traditional Indigenous People and their allies need to get involved in a tangible way. We need to ensure that we do not wait for inspiration to mobilize but rather ‘be’ that inspiration. We owe it to our ancestors and are indebted to do so for our unborn. Consider this an opportunity for humanity and a warning to governments and industry who threaten our very existence.”
The issues highlighted for this day of action are many, Onkwehon:we peoples who have faced a multitude of these issues simultaneously on a regular basis can confirm that they are connected, and sadly even intended to keep native people in oppression. Hecker says: “We just planted the seed and now it is growing”. Some feel that blockading is pointless and will choose other tactics like peaceful demonstrations (outside of city halls and high traffic areas) to increase public awareness and education. The founders encourage a variety of tactics, maintaining the choice is really your own, but believe it is time that the people speak with a united voice so it is heard by government. For more information or to get involved, check out #ShutDownCanada on Facebook and Twitter.