When a mob descended on Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, killing five people in the process, it was noted by observers that had the rioters belonged to any other demographic than white Republicans, the National Guard would have been called in and the day would have turned out very differently.
It’s important to note these weren’t people who needed a wheelbarrow of money to buy bread — many in the throng were doctors, lawyers and even soldiers. They were by any reasonable measure fairly well off financially.
A year and a bit later, another mob descended on Ottawa, shutting the capital down for three weeks while parading nazi flags. And we all watched in shock as police did… nothing. Blockades at two border crossings were also left alone by authorities — even the blockader who rammed a police vehicle was somehow spared arrest.
Again, these rioters were largely people who could afford to miss three weeks of work and drive their big, loud vehicles from all corners of the second largest national landmass on Earth demanding a different result to an election they had clearly lost. It was pointed out here and elsewhere in Canada that the restraint shown by police was very different from how the law had dealt with Idle No More, G20 protesters or just about any other protest in history.
With this in mind, let’s review the year in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Both provinces have long been run by parties promising to fix grievances with the federal government but never do, and they’ve both picked fights with Indigenous groups within their borders over their respective Sovereignty or Me-First legislation. In both provinces, First Nations chiefs have condemned the laws. In Alberta, premier Danielle Smith told her legislature she actually tried to convince Alberta chiefs that the oilsand’s difficulty getting pipelines built in other provinces was analogous to three centuries of colonialism. That went over as well as you would expect. Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron has stated, “If all else fails, we will blockade.”
Needless to say, if Indigenous groups in Saskatchewan start a blockade over premier Scott Moe’s goofy go-nowhere legislation, the expected treatment is that police will give them at least three weeks to express their concerns. Anything less would be a blatant display and admission of two sets of rules — one for white people and one for everyone else.
This also goes for the Wet’suwet’en — who should never have to endure a police raid on their camps again. It would again be a clear display of systematic racism. The same applies to Mi’kmaq fishermen and Black Lives Matter and far too many others to list.
Police have set a new standard for how civil disobedience is handled in Canada. After showing Canada’s clearly privileged such stoic patience, it shows they also have the ability to peacefully handle protests that don’t involve horns blaring at all hours of the day, that don’t flash nazi symbols on national television and don’t demand the death and/or removal of a legitimately elected head of state.
We as journalists have an obligation to Canadians to hold police to that new standard. Our first question should always be, “why wasn’t this handled like in Ottawa?”
There‘s no going back — police crackdowns on peaceful protesters cannot be tolerated any longer — they should have never been tolerated in the first place . To treat any other protest any differently — especially one around Indigenous and Treaty concerns — would be a clear violation of Truth and Reconciliation.