Monday, April 02, 2007

Assembly of First Nations Decries Canadian Counterinsurgency Manual

Released yesterday by the Assembly of First Nations in response to the Canadian government's inclusion of reference to indigenous groups in its new manual on counterinsurgency warfare:

Assembly of First Nations National Chief demands that Federal Government Immediately Repudiate and Remove Reference to First Nations from Military's Terror Manual List

OTTAWA, April 1 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine today demanded that the federal government immediately remove any reference to First Nations in a Department of National Defense draft counter-insurgency manual listing international terrorist threats. According to a report by The Globe and Mail, radical Native American organizations such as the Mohawk Warriors Society are listed in the training manual as insurgents, alongside other insurgent groups.

"Any reference to First Nations people as possible insurgents or terrorists is a direct attack on us - it demonizes us, it threatens our safety and security and attempts to criminalize our legitimate right to live our lives like all other Canadians do. Just being referenced in such a document compromises our freedom to travel across borders, have unimpeded telephone and internet communications, raise money, and protest against injustices to our people," stated AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine.

"I am calling upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately and without reservation, reject and remove any references to First Nations from all versions of the training manual."

"It is shocking and outrageous to learn that the Canadian military would consider First Nations people as insurgents or equate us to Hezbollah or Hamas. Not only is there not a shred of evidence to make this link, First Nations have always served Canada well by their contributions to the Canadian services. Such absurd allegations only serve to undermine respect for the military and lead us to believe we will not be able to rely on their protection the way other Canadians do."

Moreover, the federal government has also recently threatened that it would aggressively audit and possibly cut off funding provided to First Nations organizations who participate in, or support a peaceful National Day of Action on June 29th. This, taken with the report that we are included in the list of insurgent organisations in the military's manual, raises serious questions about the federal government's respect for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for First Nations people. It appears that they want to silence us.

"The proposed June 29th National Day of Action is intended to bring focus to and generate awareness of the deplorable social - economic status of First Nations peoples in this country. Too often, First Nations poverty and the injustices suffered by our communities are not well understood. We aim to begin changing that by reaching out to Canadians and by putting our issues and our solutions front and center. First Nations people are people of integrity and we will abide by the rule of law while exercising our right to free speech," said the National Chief.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.


I suspect other indigenous activists and leaders might change some of the wording and political choices in this document, of course, and the manual deserves opposition on other grounds as well. That said, it is still vital for settlers of conscience to support the demands of the AFN around this issue.

(Received from DJ)


Korakious said...

Did they give any reasons for including said groups in the document?

Scott Neigh said...

Hey Korakious!

I notice from your profile that you are from Scotland, so I'm not sure what you know about indigenous struggle in North America. I'm certainly no expert, but I'll try to explain it as I understand it.

First, I would recommend this article for more information on the manual and its basically makes the point that indigenous people have always been targets of settler military in North America, and that this behaviour is consistent with Canadian current/recent engagement in counterinsurgency war of varying levels of intensity, performed in the service of empire, in Afghanistan and Haiti.

I would be inclined to understand the inclusion of the indigenous groups in the counterinsurgency manual as a declaration of intention to continue maintaining oppressive colonial relations within Canada, with guns if necessary. After all, the state has a number of choices when presented with a demand for justice in any given instance. One choice is to actually work towards justice. Another choice is to respond with military or paramilitary force, as the Canadian state has done on a number of occasions in the last couple of decades when indigenous nations or groups have peacefully occupied land that rightfully belongs to them but that settlers have stolen. The inclusion of indigenous groups in this manual seems to be indicative of a move away from the small, I think not usually terribly sincere, gestures towards dialogue and negotiation on the part of the state over the last three decades, and a more decisive move towards the option of guns if indigenous people don't "mind their place" in this white-dominated settler society.

Korakious said...

This is certainly very interesting. I'll put up a link to this post on my blog. I was completely unaware that there is still such tension between the whiteman and the indigenous peoples of North America.

Scott Neigh said...

Well, it's a tension that most white Canadians manage to stay fairly unaware of most of the time as well, until it flares up in a conflict that makes the news. In contrast, indigenous communities, both urban and on reserve, continue to be devastated by colonialism as an ongoing reality.