Deflection of Land Claim Issues to Terrorism

The dispute over the land rights and the reclamation of subdivision of Douglass Creek Estates in Calendonia by the Haudenosaunee has been portrayed in the media as lawless and it has decentred the focus of the reclamation of the Caledonian construction site from a land rights issue to an issue of terrorism (Adese 2009). The media continuously demanded increased police intervention and more law-and-order policing to control those who are seen as risky individuals, the First Nations protestors, to the residents of Caledonia (Toronto Star 2006). This reflects the imperialism of Canada and how the Canadian law does not protect Aboriginal rights but the protection of the accumulation of wealth by the state because the focus of the protests was not on the Aboriginal rights to their land claims but on the destruction of property (Toronto Star 2006). The focus on property during the reclamation of the Caledonia construction site shows the importance that is placed on capitalist accumulation and how threats to capitalism and property are seen as terrorism (Adese 2009: 275).  The shift in the focus of the Caledonia protest from land rights claims to claims that the Aboriginals are domestic terrorists show the significance in criminalizing dissent because it is able to discredit legitimate claims, such as land claims issues to illegitimate claims, internal terrorism (Adese 2009: 283).

To begin, the dispossession of indigenous lands for capitalist interests has been a long standing historical feature in Canada (Gordon 2011: 68-69). When possible, Canada would use their military power to exploit the economic vulnerabilities of the indigenous to limit their treaty lands and rights to further the capitalist development in Canada (Gordon 2011: 69-70). This is obvious in the police raid of the protestors who were occupying the Douglass Creek Estate housing projects on April 20, 2006, where the  Ontario Provincial Police subdued the indigenous protestors by using Tasers, M16 rifles, tear gas, excessive force and raids of occupiers’ homes to show the importance of the capitalism in Canada ( 2006). The reclamation also showed the importance of protecting capitalism as a policing duty. The protection of capitalism is crucial to policing because policing was established to direct the population’s activity to benefit, strengthen and increase the power of the state (Foucault 2009: 327). Foucault states that to increase the power of the state, the health of the state must be protected; which needed the protection against contagions and idleness (2009: 324-325). The police were particularly important in regulating the population to protect capitalist accumulation and act as a guarantor of the right to property because the police were able to protect the threats to property (Gordon 2006: 31). The Caledonia dispute showed how the Haudenosaunee threatened the private property of the Caledonian residents and the development of Douglas Creek Estates subdivision by Henco Industries; which was dealt with by using police force to protect the private property and deeming it a public safety issue ( 2006). By the depiction of the reclamation as a public safety issue it was able to delegitimize the issue because the focus on the destruction of property and hardships for the public redirect sympathy from the neglect of the Haudensosaunee land claim issues by the government to issues of terrorism and subversion (Kinsman 2010: 160). This incident propels the importance of capitalist growth in Canada as key to empire building, which can be achieved through the subordination of the indigenous, such as through their land claims rights, and the employment of police force (Gordon 2011: 122).

Along with the police force, the creation of the idea that the Haudenosaunee were domestic terrorist was central to the delegitimization of the Haudenosaunee land claims. Aboriginal protestors and Aboriginal resistance movements had the possibility of being easily defined as domestic terrorists or acts of terrorism because the Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-36 had a overly broad definition of who could be defined as a terrorist (Adese 2009: 277). Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the “disruption of essential services”, such as highway blockades, could be defined as a terrorist act (Adese 2009: 277). By deeming Aboriginal resistant movements as possible terrorist acts, it ostracizes the indigenous as “rebels”, social problems, lawbreakers to the acceptable order of the Canadian society, and delegitimizes the Haudenosaunee land claim issues (Adese 2009: 279). The land claim issues are put on the back burner because the imagery of the indigenous as terrorists made any argument for the native territory and land claims as an issue of native violence (Adese 2009: 279). Therefore, land claims issues were ignored for the protection of the rule of the law and the employment of the police force to protect public safety because the focus of the disputed construction site in Caledonia became a focus on the destruction and disruption of private property and illegal occupation; not land claims (Adese 2009: 279). It is interesting to see the connection between the delegitimization of the Haudenosaunee by deeming them as domestic terrorists and how it negated their land claims issues; which allows the continuation of Canadian sovereignty based on the denial of Aboriginal sovereignty rights (Adese 2009: 281).

The deeming of the indigenous protestors as terrorists is crucial in showing the importance that is placed on national security in the criminalization of dissent and the continuation of Canadian sovereignty because it prevents the indigenous sovereignty from gaining support and power to assert their indigenous sovereignty (Adese 2009: 283). National security is crucial in the criminalization of indigenous protestors because it deemed the Haudenosaunee protestors as national security threats, which in turn deemed it as subversion (Kinsman 2010). Subversive activities are activities that are engaged in challenging the existing economic, political, and social order (Kinsman 2010: 150). The reclamation of the construction site in Caledonia was seen as subversive because it used militant political protest to challenge the subordination of the indigenous peoples, especially in their rights to negotiate their land claims. Not only were the indigenous protestors seen as subversive but they are also treated as the “other” and excluded (Kinsman 2010). Through exclusion they lose human and citizenship rights, which furthers the perceived illegitimacy of their land claim rights (Kinsman 2010). Therefore, the Six Nation of Grand Rivers claim to the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision in Caledonia were seen as illegitimate because once they are labelled activists the attention was deflected from the real issues, of land claim issues, to issues of violence, terrorism, and destruction that was caused by the protests (Kinsman 2010). This then secures the Canadian sovereignty because the indigenous sovereignty is not recognized.

Therefore, the real issues behind the disputed Douglass Creek estates subdivision in Caledonia by the group of Haudenosaunee Six Nations from the Grand River Territory, was the reclamation of native land and the land rights of the Haundenosaunee. However, because of private property rights, land claims issues were ignored for issues of national security and domestic terrorism. This was accomplished through the criminalization of dissent because the police and media averted the attention away from land claim rights to individual property rights and violence. This then delegitimized the indigenous protests because they were seen as a militant protest that had under linings of subversion and terrorism (Kinsman 2010; Adese 2009: 277).


Adese, Jennifer. 2009. “Constructing the Aboriginal Terrorist: Depictions of Aboriginal Protests, the Caledonia Reclamation, and the Canadian Neoliberalization.” Pp. 275-285 in Engaging Terror. A Critical and Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by M. Vardalos, G.K. Letts, H.M. Teixeira, A. Karzai and J. Haig. Boca Raton: Brown Walker Press. 2006. “In Depth: Caledonia Land Claim: Timeline.” November 1.  Retrieved October 9, 2012 (

Foucault, Michel. 2009. Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978. New York: Picador. Pp. 311-328.

Gordon, Todd. 2011. “Empire at Home.” Pp. 66-133 in Imperialist Canada. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Kinsman, Gary. 2010. “Against National Security: From the Canadian War on Queers to the `War on Terror.“` Pp. 149-166 in Locating Global Order: American Power and Canadian Security after 9/11, edited by Bruno Charbonneau and Wayne S. Cox. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Toronto Star. 2006. “End Caledonia Chaos” Toronto Star, June 16, pp. A22. (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 1, 2012.)



  1. I completely agree with the point you make about delegitimizing the Haudenosaunee in order to further the goal of the police and the state. I think this is such a common feature of Aboriginal-state clashes. In order to gain public support and maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the public, the state constructs the dissenters as enemies and threats to the nation. I also like the point you brought up about how the Haudenosaunee could be considered terrorists under Bill C-36. This really illustrates the very broad net cast by the passing of Bill C-36 and how it has the potential to criminalize groups formerly not thought of as terrorists. The word “terrorism” carries with it significant connotations, and once a group is labeled this way, it makes it difficult to gain support and have their cause be seen as legitimate. I also liked your examination of the concepts of “national security” and “subversion”. In order to protect political, economic, and social interests, the state often invokes the notion of “national security” to portray dissenting groups as threats to national security – which is where the labeling of “terrorist” comes in – and it is by portraying Aboriginals in such a way, that the state can justify abusing its power and violating the rights of Aboriginals.


  2. Great article. You really made it clear that the police were regulating the protests to protect capitalistic values of the state. Your analysis showed that private property, corporate institutions, and land issues are in the the interest of the state. I understand from your article that the land claims of the Douglas Creek Estate was framed as a criminalized act in the media because it went against the states agenda to keep its property. You showed clearly how the media framed the land claimers as violent perpetrators by referring to news mediums. Great job on this piece, really enjoyed it.



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