Part of the history of the last five centuries on these territories is the story of Europeans displacing Indigenous peoples for economic gain. It is this history that Glen Coulthard, in his new book, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, calls the “violent transformation of noncapitalist forms of life into capitalist ones.” This form of primitive accumulation, through violent dispossession, has since given way to quieter, less visible, structures of constant displacement. In the pointed words of Patrick Wolfe, cited by Coulthard, “settler colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event.”
The decrease in permanent immigration and simultaneous explosion of the number of migrant workers is not, as some might contend, a reflection of a ‘broken’ immigration system. The temporary foreign worker program is a system of managed migration perfected to ensure the steady supply of cheap labour within neoliberalism while further entrenching racialized citizenship. What happens to migrant workers should matter to all of us because dispossession, labour flexibility, and hierarchical social relations are central to how capitalism and colonialism marginalize various communities.
The following is a speech by Natalie Knight delivered at “Decolonization 101,” a panel organized by Streams of Justice on June 2, 2014. The panel took place at Grandview Baptist Church, Unceded Coast Salish Territories.
I want to acknowledge that we are on occupied and unceded Coast Salish territories which are Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Skxwú7mesh-ulh Úxwumixw lands.
On February 26th of this year, an Inuk woman named Loretta Saunders was found murdered and dumped on the side of the road in Salisbury, New Brunswick. Her death raised a national conversation about violence against Indigenous women. It is a deeply sad loss, and an acute effect of colonialism. And I also wonder about the reasons why Loretta received a more mainstream response than others or those that can’t even be reported, those deaths that are basically sanctioned by the police. Loretta was in university and maybe it was easier for Canada’s white-dominated society to recognize her and her violent absence. Maybe an Inuk woman who goes to university is more comprehensible than the over 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women who have been documented in the recent RCMP report, and the many Indigenous women still in certain shadows, including those missing and murdered below the colonial border.
Crouching in the grass, armed with snipers and dressed in military fatigues, they aim their assault rifles at elders, women, and children. “Don’t point it at my mom,” says one woman. While the sniper refrains, his colleagues continue tasering people. Some have police dogs set on them, while others – including children – are shot at by rubber bullets.
Among the roughly 200 armed RCMP officers, some are from the riot squad, carrying shields, batons, and employing both tear gas and pepper spray against the people. A reporter from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Ossie Michelin, overhears one officer say: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” Forming a large barricade on the highway, the RCMP physically blocked protesters, also blocking cell phone signals, live video feeds, and media access to the site. In yesterday’s final account, at least 40 of the Mi’kmaw people, including Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, were arrested at the site near Rexton, New Brunswick.
For over two weeks now, a coalition of people led by local Mi’kmaq activists have blockaded the road leading to an equipment compound leased to a Texas-based energy company. The company, Southwestern Energy, has recently conducted seismic testing. Depending on the results, they will use the land to engage in the damaging process of hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, in order to extract the region’s shale gas resources. Among other things, fracking in the area will contaminate the drinking water, a mainstay of the fracking process globally.