Thursday, January 17, 2013


It's amazing sometimes how deluded people can be.  It's amazing sometimes how hard some people try to delude others.  There are those folks who do all they can to clean up history so that it reflects their particular interest.  It's sad how sometimes the "oppressed" oppress.  It's scary how some people think their troubles even begin to compare to another's.

Quebec would like to be independent of English Canada.  Quebec has long felt that it was put upon and suffering under some form of oppression.  Okay, well, maybe, but there is something weird about the colonializers getting colonialized, if you get my drift.

But come on, folks, there is a qualitative difference to the genocide and holocaust perpetrated against the indigenous people of North America, including Canada, and what the French Canadians have faced under the English rule.

And now some in Quebec want to pretend, and I do mean pretend, that the their own French colonial ancestors are somehow exempt from what the white man did to the indigenous on this continent.  Did I mention the fact that the French are white.

The myth of the French trappers who were just buds with the Indians, of the French who came to this continent, took up residence, and somehow, some way avoided the blood that every other settler society in history has on its hand is absurd.  Now, it is true that since some of the original French who came to this continent didn't think of themselves as settlers and all that, but later on the French saw the land as "empty" and their to settle just like the British.  and Quebec is here to prove just that.   I won't even bother to get into the Church they came along with the French.  You know that story.

Modern French Quebec is not without apologies to make either for more recent crimes. This video which you can see   here not only documents what happened in 1990 but some of the history behind it.  What follows is a description, a longer description of what some called the "Oka Crisis" taken from the Global Nonviolent Action Database:

First Nations Canadians have a long history of struggle and resistance, confronting colonial and Canadian government policies, treaties and discrimination. On March 10, 1990, Mohawks of the community called Kanehsatake in the province of Quebec, peacefully occupied a stand of sacred forest known as “The Pines.” This land, never ceded by the Mohawk Nation, also included an aboriginal cemetery. The mayor and council of the neighbouring Non-Aboriginal town of Oka had just passed a motion for the forest to be cut down in order to allow for the expansion of the adjacent 9-hole golf course and for the building of luxury housing. The original nonviolent barricade in The Pines blockaded a small dirt road that ran through the forest for several hundred meters, and then alongside the existing golf course, before joining with a gravel road. After several weeks of peaceful occupation the mayor of Oka demanded that the barricade be removed by July 9, 1990. When it was not removed, on July 11 a Surete du Quebec (Provincial Police Force known as the SQ) SWAT team of an estimated 1,000 members was sent in to dismantle the barrier. By this time members of the Mohawk Warriors Society from communities in upstate New York, Ontario and Quebec had joined those from Kanehsatake on the barricade, which was no longer unarmed. When the SQ moved in, an armed confrontation occurred, leading to the death of Cpl. Marcel Lemay of the SQ. The SQ withdrew and the Mohawks used the abandoned police cars to erect a more substantial barricade, this time blocking Highway 344. The Mohawks of Kanehsatake were supported by fellow Mohawk Warriors at the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal, who blocked off the Mercier Bridge to Montreal in solidarity. A stand-off ensued between government and Mohawks at each barricade.

On August 6, the government of Quebec called for the Canadian Army to replace the SQ police force. On August 12, with the barricades still intact, an agreement about pre-conditions for negotiations was signed by all parties (Canadian and Quebec governments and representatives of the Mohawks). Despite this, and despite the initiation of negotiations, on August 15 the military began moving into place. By August 20 the military had surrounded the community of Kahnawake, and the blockade at Kanehsatake, which had retreated into the relative protection of the Treatment Centre. By late August, under threats of an armed invasion by the military, residents of Kahnawake were encouraged to leave the community for their own safety. Consequently, on August 28, a convoy of cars, mainly driven by women and carrying children and the elderly left Kahnawake. They had to cross the still-closed Mercier bridge, which they did via a cordon of SQ. Despite the cordon, as the Mohawks drove off the bridge and through the “Whiskey Trench” off-ramp they were attacked by a rock-throwing mob calling out racist threats. Numerous Mohawks were injured, all were traumatized. Joseph Armstrong, an elderly Mohawk man and Canadian veteran of WWII died of a heart attack a few days afterwards. The car in which he had been traveling was hit by rocks, and a large stone smashed through the windshield and hit him in the chest. The police did not move to restrain the rock throwers.

The “Oka Crisis” itself continued for 78 days. Human rights observers from the Quebec Human Rights Commission, the European Union and the International Federation of Human Rights were present at various times throughout the conflict. The Mercier bridge barricade was dismantled, following an agreement with the Canadian military, on August 29. The protestors in Kanehsatake remained behind the barricade until September 26, when those remaining in the Treatment Centre decided to leave the Centre and return to their homes. On leaving the Centre they were physically detained by the Canadian military and given into police custody to be arrested. Some of the protesters were beaten by army and police as they were taken into custody, as is evidenced in the video footage taken that night, and published in Alanis Obomsawin's film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance.

Concerned aboriginal and non-aboriginal people across Canada were appalled by many of the things that happened during the “Oka Crisis” - by the blatant and violent racism enacted against the Mohawks, by the horrific attack on the unarmed convoy, by the lack of willingness to enter into real negotiations, by the ludicrousness of destroying a sacred forest and a burial ground in order to expand a golf course. Across the country, people were frustrated when their expressions of concern, and desire for a peaceful and just settlement seemed to go unheeded by the Canadian government. Many people channeled this frustration into nonviolent action.

And this brings us to yet another chapter in the amazing opening chapters of the movement called Idle No More....which is merely, and in reality, just another piece of a much longer and older story.

The following is from Rabble.Ca

Idle No More Quebec and national myths

Last week, I attended a presentation on Idle No More in Quebec City. It was the first time I heard about Indigenous solidarity in a Quebec context.

For the most part, it was very similar to other events I’ve attended. The crowd had a lot of questions and the two presenters did their best to explain the complex and difficult relationship between First Nations people and the Crown.

There was one intervention made, though, that I would have never expected to hear in Toronto, not because I don’t think this opinion exists, but because I don’t think anyone that has this opinion would be interested in attending an event about Idle No More. His words reminded me that with Quebec comes a different kind of relationship and sometimes, a particular mentality toward Indigenous people.

The older man insisted that the history of colonialism in Quebec is not the same as the rest of Canada. Where genocidal policies may have decimated language and culture, in Quebec the relationship between Indigenous people and the Québécois was congenial, even mutually beneficial. As such, Idle No More’s demands are more of a “Canada” thing, rather than a “Quebec” thing.

The intervention caused people to express their disagreement. I wondered though, how widespread is this belief?

On Wednesday, Lysiane Gagnon wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail about Idle No More that sounded like the intervention that I had witnessed a week earlier. Gagnon argued that Quebec has had a “more serene relationships with its aboriginal population than many other provinces.” She says this despite referencing Oka in the same sentence as “one of the worst standoffs between aboriginal militants and the authorities in Canada’s recent history.”

This analysis directly clashed with everything I’ve seen posted by Idle No More Quebec on Facebook. It contradicted everything I witnessed at the round-dance at Place Laurier in Ste-Foy and the January 11 rally where a few hundred people marched to Quebec’s National Assembly.

Of course, Gagnon is not necessarily representative. One person on Facebook likened her to Margaret Wente. But, just like Wente, she needs to be challenged for the content of her columns.

It’s true that Quebecers, through their descendants’ first points of contact, have had a longer relationship with First Nations people in this region of Turtle Island than, say, in British Columbia.

It’s also true that, like with Indigenous people, the British colonization of New France imposed assimilation policies on Quebecers who resisted these colonial pressures so impressively that the province remains remarkably French today.

There are some similarities between the colonial experience of Quebecers and Indigenous peoples. But to suggest that the relationship was harmonious, or as Gagnon argues, that Indigenous people in Quebec were co-founders of the province, not victims (words that are all-around loaded) is misleading.

In fact, it hides the truth.

Quebec was not immune to the genocidal policies inflicted against Indigenous peoples. Residential schools operated here. Pretending that First Nations in Quebec are treated differently completely ignores the fact that the Indian Act is still present and still controls the lives of First Nations people in this province just like in the rest of Canada.

Yes, Quebec and Indigenous people have a common enemy in the federal government. But Quebecers, as citizens of Canada, also have a responsibility to demand that the federal government change its approach to First Nations relations. They should fight together as allies, and this means using the power mechanisms available to them. Quebec commentators like Gagnon should not gloss over the history of this territory and argue that somehow the colonization of Indigenous people stopped at New Brunswick and restarted at Ontario.

Gagnon’s approach further colonizes Indigenous people, a dangerous approach for a province with a strong independence movement. While the colonized-turned-colonizer paradigm exists in nations around the world, Quebecers must be careful to not take that path as the province evolves. Discussions about independence, for example, cannot be premised on the notion that the Jesuits brought education and order to a wild territory (one of the comments that I heard here, for example) because policies that flow from this belief will re-colonize Indigenous people.

Her column is also an attempt to silence the impressive work that activists have undertaken in this province. Blockades, round-dances and rallies have happened here just as they have happened in other provinces. She ignores this fact and instead highlights a few dissenting Indigenous voices, including a seemingly random letter to the editor.

The civil rights movement that has crystallized under the banner of Idle No More has created a space for White commentators from all regions of Canada to dredge up myths and lies about Canada’s history. Just like Tom Flanagan’s revisionist histories, Gagnon’s article (written for an anglo, Globe and Mail-reading crowd) tries to undermine the movement by claiming that the problems that have identified don’t really exist.

Luckily, their versions of the truth wont change the facts: Idle No More allows Quebecers (and Canadians) to be better allies to Indigenous people; to build the bridges necessary between nations and to collectively fight for self-determination and independence.

That’s its strength, regardless of what the settler punditry says.

Nora Loreto's picture
Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is mid-way through a Master's in Education Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan. She is formerly the Editor-in-Chief of the Ryerson Free Press and the Communications and Government Relations Coordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. Nora's music can be heard here: and her blog is at

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