On Mi’kmaw waters

Hit and Miss #163

Sometimes Twitter* seems to turn its attention to one issue. The feed fills with folks discussing something unfolding in real time. These past few days have been one of those times. (Weeks, really, but it’s been heightened since Friday night.) And it’s always a good reminder to refocus—to heed injustice.

(*the folks on Twitter is perhaps a better way to say it—especially as it reminds us that this isn’t necessarily what the people not on Twitter are discussing, or, even, what the folks I don’t follow on Twitter are discussing.)

Back in Mi’kma’ki, the racism of many commercial fishermen that is usually well hidden behind their massive fishing boats, fancy trucks and large houses funded by the billion dollar fishing industry on Mi’kmaw waters, is on display for the whole world to see. What this spectacle of racialized violence shows is that the ‘rule of law’ is a fiction and always has been. These fishermen have been able to engage in crimes of violence and property destruction with apparent impunity, even flaunting the removal of Mi’kmaw lobster traps in the media. They have been able to violate many laws, rules and regulations in relation to how they operate their boats on the water by putting Mi’kmaw lives at risk—again with impunity. Yet, we all know that had Mi’kmaw peoples engaged in any of these violent or criminal acts, there would have been swift arrests and confiscation of our gear. That’s not the rule of law. That’s the law of rulers.

That’s an excerpt from a piece by Pam Palmater. Palmater, a Mi’kmaw lawyer and academic, briefly explains the current situation in southern Nova Scotia, before providing historical and legal context. If video is more your speed, Alanis Obomsawin created a documentary on precisely this issue—over twenty years ago (you can stream it free from the NFB).(Both of the last two links were via Sean Carleton.)

I find that excerpt captures well some of the most egregious things the mob of non-Indigenous fishermen have carried out in the last few weeks. And we can’t lose sight of that. Sharon Nyangweso, fixing a CBC headline, wrote that “White terrorists committed arson and destroyed a Mi’kmaq lobster facility”. The way we describe what happens matters. It implicitly privileges some over others (usually, settlers over Indigenous folks). It excuses crimes (like assault, property damage, intimidation). It excuses those who stand aside and watch it happening—like federal government officials and the RCMP. (Who, we should remember, are doing the job they were designed to do.)

Consider turning to other sources to learn about what’s happening.

You might also consider donating directly—and remembering in the process that Mi’kmaw lives are not the only ones at risk across Canada at the moment, fighting for their rights.

All the best for the week ahead—may it be one where you learn more about systemic racism, one where you push others to do better, one where you pressure the system itself (through letter writing, calling, or however else you manifest your positions) to abandon its ongoing role in perpetuating injustice.