Canada

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: IPS team attends Judy Da Silva’s court hearing, reconnects with partners, visits Shooniversity campus

 

Randy Fobister, Chuck Wright Carrie Peters, and ally Jon Benson 
                 
Photo by IPST intern Aly Ostrowski

May members of IPS team journeyed to Treaty #3 territory of northwestern Ontario to visit friends and partners of the project.  They timed the visit to attend the 14 May hearing about a pre-emptive injunction served to Judy da Silva of Grassy Narrows First Nation following a water ceremony originally planned on Canadian National (CN) Railway tracks running through Grassy territory.  At the request of an Elder, ceremony participants moved the 10 April ritual away from the railroad.  Although a Kenora court dissolved the injunction, da Silva awaits another court hearing on June regarding CN’s lawsuit against her.

While in Grassy, CPT-IPS had the opportunity to visit with a few long-time friends and partners. Local trapper, Shoon, shared about his passion for passing on traditional practices and showed the team a locally produced video entitled titled “Shooniversity,” which documented a workshop he led in the community on tanning hides. The team also hosted Band Councilor Randy Fobister for a pancake breakfast at the local Trapper’s Centre, where he shared about his efforts to assert sovereignty within Grassy territory and mobilize First Nation members, particularly youth, to advocate for protecting of the forest.  “Why would you want to destroy that which makes Grassy strong?” Fobister asked rhetorically. After a few nights in Grassy greeting people and receiving updates, the team returned to Kenora.   

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Aboriginal Justice Team changes its name to Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team

 

The Christian Peacemaker Aboriginal Justice Team has undergone a transition to a new team name, after much deliberation and discussion. Although the mandate and vision for the team remains the same, the name change represents an effort to maintain currency within Indigenous movements for self-determination, and the team feels Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team better captures the desired scope of its work. The team has floated this change past some of its Indigenous friends and partners who have welcomed it. 

Still in popular use, the term “aboriginal” refers to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. However, as Mohawk scholar Taiaike Alfred and Cherokee professor Jeff Corntassel (2005) indicate, while some Indigenous people have embraced this label, “this identity is purely a state construction that is instrumental to the state’s attempt to gradually subsume Indigenous existences into its own constitutional system and body politic” (p. 598). In 2008, the Union of Ontario Indians and later Grand Council of Treaty #3 representing the Anishnaabek passed resolutions and launched a campaign to eliminate the inappropriate use of the term "aboriginal." To many, “aboriginalism is a legal, political and cultural discourse designed to serve an agenda of silent surrender to an inherently unjust relation at the root of the colonial state itself” (Alfred & Corntassel, p. 599). To the chagrin of many First Nations, in 2011 Canada's Conservative government changed the minister and department title responsible for “Indian Affairs” to “Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,” embodying this discursive tactic. 

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 20, 2015 Indigenous Peoples Solidarity

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 20, 2015 Indigenous Peoples Solidarity

Give thanks that a judge in Kenora, ON dissolved the injunction calling for the arrest of Grassy Narrows member Judy Da Silva, if she tried to block the CN rail line.  Nevertheless, CN railway is still threatening to sue her.

*Epixel for Sunday, May 17, 2015
photo 2013
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?But if we hope for what we
 do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  Revised Common Lectionary
  readings.

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 15 2015 Indigenous Peoples Solidarity

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 15 2015 Indigenous Peoples Solidarity

Pray for the community of Grassy Narrows and Judy Da Silva.  On Friday, April 10, 2015 water protector and Elder, Josephine Mandamin, held a traditional Anishinaabe Water Ceremony on the shores of Wild Lake, near the CN railway mainline between Kenora and Grassy Narrows along with other Grassy Narrows community activists. Despite the fact the group called off a blockade of the railway—which transports toxic tar sands bitumen over local waterways—CN still served Da Silva with an injunction against impeding trains and/or trespassing on CN property, and/or ‘counselling’ others to do the same. The injunction will be before the court on April 16 at 10 a.m. in Kenora.

Anishinaabe water ceremony targeted with injunction

Epixel* for Sunday, April 18, 2015
photo by Alex Hundert

How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words,
and seek after lies? Psalm 4:2

 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary
 readings.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Justice favors the powerful


It was my second accompaniment since I began work in Colombia. Tito had been on the receiving end of a severe beating two years ago and was headed down the river to El Peñon for a court hearing of his case. As we settled into the community boat that would take us to El Peñon, an hour and a half away, Pierre filled me in on Tito’s case with the comment, “It’s crazy, really. If it was Tito who beat them up, he’d already have been tried and sentenced.”

As much as I know that this is true, and accepted it as he said it, a little piece of me still felt surprised. Why should this be true? When I consider the principle of the law, everything feels clear cut to me. If one person assaults another, the perpetrator must face the legal consequences of those actions, regardless of who they are. Why should the process change, become longer or shorter or more or less vigorous? The law is clear: physically and violently assaulting someone is wrong. Why, if this were Canada…

And it is this thought that stops me in my tracks, because I know that the reality of a broken justice system is true both here in Colombia and in my own country. The law favours certain people in both places. It favours the influential, the rich, those with resources.  Above all, it favours the powerful, be it power of connections, money or skin colour.

Prayers for Peacemakers, December 10, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, December 10, 2014

Pray that the citizens of Winnipeg, Mantoba repent of their injustice to the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.  Winnipeg’s access to clean water comes at the expense of the residents of Shoal Lake, who have been under a boiled water advisory for eighteen years.

Epixel for Sunday, December 14, 2014
61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall
repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations…
For I the LORD love justice, I hate
 robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense…Isaiah 61:4,8
 
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  
Revised Common Lectionary  readings.

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Thoughts on the children of Grassy Narrows First Nation to commemorate Universal Children’s Day

Judy Da Silva, Slant Lake Blockade, 
Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) 
October 2011

Grassy Narrows Clan Mother, and long-time partner of CPT’s Aboriginal Justice Team (AJT), Judy Da Silva wrote the following for United Nations Universal Children’s Day ( 20 November 2014.) 

In Grassy Narrows, we have children and youth that outnumber the adults in our total on-reserve population of 800 people. 

These children and youth are true survivors as they inherit the legacy of a land devoured by consumerism, namely from the logging industry.  This industry is also what dumped 9,000 kgs of mercury into the English/Wabigoon river system, effectively poisoning water that is supposed to be life-giving and is now life-taking.  

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)  That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable. 

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 1, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 1, 2014

Pray for the members of the CPT Aboriginal Justice Delegation, currently in Grassy Narrows and Kenora.  Give them wide open eyes, minds and hearts as they witness how the criminal justice system plays out in the region, the different ways CPT’s partners in Grassy Narrows are standing up for their rights and dignity and how they are asserting sovereignty over their traditional lands.

Epixel* for Sunday, October 5, 2014
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard
Psalm 19:2-3
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's 
Revised Common 
Lectionary readings.

IRAQI KURDISTAN/ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: “Now is the time we say ‘No More Stolen Sisters’”



 

 

"Stop ISIS Brutalizing Against Yazidi Girls"

Today as I sit in Quito, Ecuador, a participant in the Christian Peacemaker Teams biennial gathering, messages are coming from both of my communities on two sides of the world. The calls have similar themes: sisters are being stolen; governments must investigate their disappearances and their murders; violence against women must stop.

From Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, where my Christian Peacemaker team has been working with partners who have sought to help thousands of displaced minority groups, came a call from the Kurdish women’s group, Jian (Life).  They proclaimed Sunday, 24 August a day for a civil demonstration on behalf of the Yazidi women whom members of the militant group known as IS (Islamic State) have captured and enslaved in the city of Mosul.  Clandestine phone calls from a few of these women described desperate conditions and horrific abusive treatment.  They told of women and girls forced to become wives of fighters and others sold into slavery.

Sixty activists from several women’s organisations and other civil society groups gathered in front of the United Nations office in the capital city of Hawler/Erbil. They demanded that the U.N. do more to help the Yazidi women and girls enslaved by the militant group. At the end of the march, several activists were able to take their message into the U.N. building to ask the representatives and the Kurdish Regional Government to act on this emergency and to take urgent measures to help the vulnerable women.