Assembly of First Nations, RCMP co-operated on 2007 ‘Day of Action’
The Assembly of First Nations worked closely with the Mounties and provincial police to exchange information about protests and develop common stances before a national aboriginal day of action in the summer of 2007, according to RCMP documents.
The revelations are likely to provoke anger among Idle No More protesters and provide ammunition to aboriginal critics who have argued the AFN’s relationship with the federal government has become too cosy, with few gains to show for it.
The documents, acquired through access to information requests, reveal that heads of the RCMP and Ontario and Quebec police met in the summer of 2007 for the “first time in history” with then AFN national chief Phil Fontaine to “facilitate a consistent and effective approach to managing Aboriginal protests and occupations.”
The RCMP’s heightened collaboration with the AFN coincided with the start of a sweeping federal program of surveillance of aboriginal communities and individuals engaged in land rights activism that continues today.
“There is growing concern about the potential for unrest in Aboriginal communities, as a result of enhanced frustrations stemming from outstanding land claims or grievances,” reads a 2007 briefing note to the RCMP commissioner.
Before the Idle No More movement exploded, the June 29, 2007 day of action was the biggest recent national expression of First Nations protest. It included a railway and highway blockade by the Tyendinaga Mohawks near Kingston and “more than 100 events across the country, more sites than any other demonstration in Canadian history,” according to an RCMP document.
Although an assembly of chiefs had given the AFN the mandate to call for a national day of protest that would involve blockades, the Mounties and AFN decided to rebrand it as a day for “building bridges — not blockades.”
According to a document detailing a joint media relations strategy, all communications were reviewed by both the AFN and RCMP to “ensure consistency and accuracy.”
During the day of action an RCMP officer worked within the AFN’s Ottawa headquarters to ensure a “seamless flow of information.”
Fontaine did not return requests for an interview about the AFN’s co-operation with police.
“These exchanges with police are more evidence that the federal government thoroughly co-opted the Assembly of First Nations under Phil Fontaine, and that the Idle No More movement should be concerned whether this is an ongoing AFN practice,” said Russell Diabo, an aboriginal policy analyst who advised the AFN in the 1990s.
He said the AFN’s dependence on federal funding has weakened its ability to advocate forcefully for First Nations.
“The Canadian government managed to get the AFN under Fontaine to work against its own people, using them to contain the discontent of First Nations and to try to prevent it from spilling into a broad social movement,” Diabo said. “Will the AFN turn against Idle No More and support police interventions?”
The AFN didn’t respond to questions about whether such co-operation has continued under current National Chief Shawn Atleo, who during 2007 was the AFN’s British Columbia vice chief.
Neither would an RCMP spokesperson comment on the nature of current cooperation with the AFN. “The RCMP will collect information on any group involved in protest activity, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity,” a spokesperson said by email.
The government briefing notes acknowledge that mass protests by First Nations would be difficult for police forces to handle.
“The RCMP could manage a number of small or isolated events of short duration, however, multiple protracted incidents could overwhelm resources,” reads one of the documents.
Their intelligence units “capitalize(d) on the relationships in place with the AFN” as well as with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Aboriginal Affairs and private companies to monitor “communities of concern” and “people of interest,” including Tyendinaga Mohawk activist Shawn Brant.
A week after Fontaine had a bi-weekly discussion with top police officials, including then OPP commissioner Julian Fantino, the Tyendinaga Mohawks blockaded a railway and highway, responding to a call from the Chief of Roseau River Terrance Nelson, who had first tabled the idea of a national day of action with blockades.
According to the RCMP documents, Fontaine had “expressed concern around the growing resolve to support the June 29 blockades.”
Hundreds of OPP officers including a sniper squad were deployed to Tyendinaga, in what Amnesty International called a “disproportionate police response that contemplated use of lethal force against unarmed protestors asserting rights protected by treaty and law.”
“I’m now telling you pull the plug or you will suffer grave consequences,” Fantino told Brant the night of the blockade, according to transcripts of wiretapped conversations later released in court. “Your whole world’s going to come crashing down.”
Posted on February 15, 2013, in Indian Act Indians, State Security Forces and tagged AFN, AFN 2007 Day of Action, AFN and RCMP, Assembly of First Nations, Native collaborators, Phil Fontaine, police state, RCMP, RCMP and Natives, Tyendinaga. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.