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Canada: The ordeal of the indigenous populations
Canadian “justice” has just reanimated, once again, the infamous quote attributed to genocidal US General Philip Sheridan: “A good Indian is a dead Indian”. On February 9, a jury in Saskatchewan found the murderer of Colten Boushie, of the Red Pheasant Cree “First Nation” Reserve, not guilty.
RACISM ASSASSINATES, “JUSTICE ACQUITS”
C. Boushie was killed by Gerald Stanley, a farmer who shot him from behind with a bullet that pierced his skull in August 2016. The 22-year-old First Nation man was with a group of friends on the property of the murderer after their vehicle had a puncture. The murderer accused the youths of wanting to commit a vehicle theft. This is how he justified the bursts of a semi-automatic weapon he fired at the group and the bullet he fired point-blank into the young man’s skull. Canadian “justice” did just as its American neighbor does so often in the murders of young black proletarians: It took the side of the murderers. The police acted as if the victim was the culprit, launching an illegal search at his mother's house.
Instead of fighting racism in First Nation communities, the provincial government has chosen to deploy the police in the name of fighting “rural crime”, a pretext constantly used to stir up anti-Native sentiments in Western Canada. Justice has conducted prosecutions only under the pressure of the indigenous populations. The media outlets reflected this. They blamed Colten and his group for entering the farmer’s land and looking “threatening”. It was only after long delays and much pressure from the First Nations that Stanley was indicted for Boushie’s death.
The trial confirmed this state racism. The jury – from which all aboriginal people had been excluded although they represent a quarter of the region's population – not only found him not guilty of murder, but even of manslaughter.
Less than 12 hours after the verdict, thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Canada and North America to demand “Justice for Colten”. The protest was organized by the Idle No More movement, an Aboriginal rights ‘network’ launched five years ago in Saskatchewan starting from a tweet.
CANADA, A PRISON OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
There are one million eight hundred thousand “Aboriginals” (First Nations, (“Indian”), Métis and Inuit) in Canada, representing 5.6% of the total population. Taken alone the 634 First Nations make up 2.8% of Canada's total population, but they make up one-tenth of the population of Saskatchewan (10.7%) and Manitoba (10.5%) and almost one-third of the total population of the Northwest Territories (32.1%).
Despite all the Canadian government’s hype about the “Multicultural Nation” Aboriginal people still suffer from racism and misery. Whether on-reserve or in cities, the aboriginal population everywhere is plagued by unemployment, poverty and disease.
Although Aboriginal peoples make up only 5% of the Canadian population, more than 25% of all men in federal prisons and 36% of women are Aboriginal. Nearly half of all Aboriginal adults are unemployed and more than half have less than a high school diploma. The rate of suicide among Aboriginal people and particularly youths is among the highest in the world.
The conditions in many First Nations reserves are often worse than those of the shantytowns of the imperialized countries: frequent lack of drinking water, lack of housing or moldy freezing habitations, few basic services and little employment. Many families live in uninsulated tents or huts with no running water or electricity, with all the lack of sanitation that this entails including the necessity of using buckets as toilets to empty into nearby ditches. On average 30% of Aboriginal families suffer from “alimentary insecurity” (i.e. often do not get enough to eat) and this proportion may reach 70% in some communities.
The conditions are no better for those who live in the city, with living conditions well below the rest of the population. Aboriginal workers earn 15 to 20 percent less than their work colleagues. In addition, 40,000 Aboriginal children are placed in residential care, representing more than half of all children separated from their families in Canada.
Aboriginal people are also victims – directly or indirectly – of police terror. According to a recent surveys, dozens of women and girls in British Columbia (Alberta’s neighbor to the west) cities have been abused by police with at least one rape. Some were pepper sprayed, tasered; attacked by police dogs, beaten, searched by male police officers, were groped etc.
Finally, the police and the “justice” system have refused to protect women. More than 1,200 Aboriginal women in Canada – some sources say 4,000 – have disappeared or been murdered over the last 30 years. The police often ignored these disappearances or turned the victims into culprits, accusing them of being prostitutes or alcoholics; often driving them many kilometers from town only to abandon them in freezing temperatures if they do not rape them first.
In the formation of Canada, Aboriginal peoples were and are considered “savages”. This racism has been the cover for seizing the lands and natural resources found there.
COLONIAL RANSACKING CONTINUES
Like the other peoples of America, the Aboriginal people of Canada have undergone a colonial conquest by the English, the French, the Spaniards ... They have been deprived of their lands and have suffered genocidal massacres and violence of all kinds.
The intensification of rivalry between the imperialist powers is pushing the Canadian bourgeoisie to accelerate the exploitation of “its” territory – particularly that of the many natural resources in the North. There is therefore a lot of pressure to rescind or ignore all the regulations that prevent or limit the looting of native lands. At the end of 2012, under the pressure of the oil pipelines industry and the big oil companies – including Total, which exploits the infamous Oil Sands – the government virtually liquidated the protection of thousands of lakes and rivers across the country. It also severely limited the environmental assessments which are a precondition for all projects for the exploitation of resources and the opportunity for Aboriginal people to be consulted on these issues.
As at Standing Rock in the United States, indigenous peoples refuse to give up their lands but are also mobilized to prevent the anarchic exploitation of resources – inherent in capitalism – destroying ecosystems, polluting soils and waters, degrading the health of the population... In Alberta, where the Oil Sands are exploited wantonly, First Nations must bring in bottled water while living on the edge of once pristine rivers, which are now polluted with lead and mercury.
Risks also comes from pipelines that cross their territories and expose them to gas and oil spills. In July 2017, a leak from a Husky Energy pipeline discharged more than 225,000 liters of oil into the North Saskatchewan River in the center of the country, leaving two towns and indigenous communities without running water several days.
In addition, the harassments are numerous. Seismic tests are performed along riverbanks and the West coast for oil or gas exploration. They consist of the emission of super-powerful sounds (290 decibels) under water, for given periods, every ten seconds, and 24 hours a day for five years. This is likely to kill marine mammals as well as the rest of the ecosystem and therefore the fishing that is essential for the survival of many Aboriginal communities.
Unfortunately, the numerous protests against these destructive and risk-generating projects are made on the petty-bourgeois grounds of native “nationalism” or ecology (sometimes with “socialist” fig leaf).
Indigenous peoples are not outside capitalist society, even if they are marginalized in it. The “First Nations” population, as in all nations, is divided into classes with different interests. There are proletarians who a few years ago waged big workers struggles. Well-integrated into the capitalist machine are many if not most Chiefs and a thin layer of sycophants. The disinherited indigenous populations will not be able to find a way out through a national union to create an independent or autonomous state, an objective of those bourgeois or petty-bourgeois layers who dream of exploiting the riches of the subsoil for their own profit. Their fate depends on the anti-capitalist struggle of the united proletarians of Canada and the world – above the barriers of ethnicity, language and nationality, origin and sex. Only this revolutionary struggle will succeed in destroying in a continuous revolutionary wave this despicable mode of production with its procession of misery and blood, to lay the foundations of a life and a society totally free from exploitation and oppression.
To put an end to capitalism, which is a criminal system that menaces the living conditions of proletarians, both workers and oppressed populations, but also directly threatens the survival of humanity, there is only one way out: the struggle for communism.
International Communist Party
February, 27th 2018
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