Oka Crisis: Critical Analysis

It is of the upmost importance to realize that the media play a massive role in the potential outcome of protests. Media coverage depending on what “side” they are on can make a change. The media has the ability to take the social issues at hand and make them known to everyone; however, they can also disregard the issues and focus on “violence.” This is extremely important in understanding criminalizing dissent. The media has the ability of legitimizing social movements or delegitimizing them by claiming the protestors are just creating a war, or in the case of the aboriginals making them a threat to national security. We cannot know for sure what is going on; instead we base what is going on strictly on the media. Even videos of protests can focus on the violent parts as opposed to the peaceful protests, which was the case during the Oka Crisis.

The state and media become a conflict because the job of the media is to be unbiased by getting both sides. However, most of the time the sides of the “official” (or police) are the ones being focused on. Thus this is also why media becomes so powerful because of the vocabulary they can use. Media does not act neutrally because they transmit the information being laid out therefore they choose how it is transmitted to public. There is a need to ask more questions when using mass media to find out information about certain things. Also one must not be quick to judge what is happening based on mainstream media and should look for alternative media in order to understand both sides. This is important to understand because there needs to be more focus on academic work in order to fully understand the issues that are going on. Boykoff through academia is able to highlight the issues of media on dissent.

Boykoff’s article “Mass Media Underestimation, False Balance, and Disregard” discusses the way in which the media twists certain protests around. Firstly underestimating the number of people involved, and how the crowd size grabs the attention of the media. Secondly false balance in which mass media misrepresents dissent through falsely balancing dissidents with counterdemonstrators. Thirdly the media’s ability to disregard certain protests; which helps to spread the cause being protested or completely lost to everyone else (Boykoff 2007a). These are the ways in which media was used to shift issues that were at hand and disregard the issues, but rather focus on the negatives of the protest. Thus Boykoff would in some respect blame the media for now focusing on the real issues at hand at Oka, which were the land claims. Instead the focus was moved towards a “war,” therefore losing the main point of why the Oka Crisis started to being with.

This article “Empire at Home” focuses on Canada’s imperialist history and explains how aboriginals are Canada’s very own “Third World Country” as an ongoing colonial project in present day. It discuses the current issues with indigenous people such as poverty, illness and suicide several times higher than the rest of Canada. These serve as underlining issues that have led to the over-representation of aboriginals in the criminal justice system. This Oka Crisis particularly reveals the racialized ideas many Canadians have First Nations people.  The Canadian governments treatment towards aboriginals have directly impacted the way in which the rest of the population has treated them (Gordon 2011). This was clearly evident during the Oka Crisis, in which the government perceived the Aboriginals as the enemy. Therefore the reaction was ultimately ending the crisis because it became more of a burden to everyday lives for people around the area. Furthermore the government were able to shape the views on the situation to their advantage, as well as the usage of making it seem as a war as Boykoff further discusses.

Boykoff’s article “Mass Media Depreciation” uses the violence frame, in which protestors are stigmatized with violent representations. Although a protest may be peaceful, the media uses words such as war, which are applied to the protestors. The disruption frame focuses on the protestors disrupting meetings and the general disruption of the lives of regular law abiding citizens. Ignorance frame claims that the protestors are ignorant and uninformed about the cause they are fighting towards (Boykoff 2007b). Many people agreed with the government decision to stop the protest instead of coming to a mutual agreement as well as many people felt a sense of inconvenience than anything else.

Adese’s article “Constructing the Aboriginal Terrorist” discusses the media using the concept of terrorism to create an enemy with aboriginal protestors (Adese 2009). This was precisely what had happened, the aboriginals were depicted as “soldiers” fighting in a war. The Canadian government had even brought in troops and military action. Clearly during the Oka Crisis the power had always been in the governments court. There was never any other option for the Mohawks, it was either a gunfight or to surrender. The law was used in order to reclaim the land by a judge issuing an injunction that the police had to follow through with. The actions of the Mohawk as well as the reaction of the police stirred up issues for many other aboriginals across Canada and the U.S who also started to protest against the decision of the police and government.

In summary the Oka Crisis is an event that affected many First Nations people that many people have forgotten about. The sad truth is that no one cared about the situation. It became a fight that only became nuisance for a lot of other people in Canada. The way it was dealt with was very unfortunate that did not only affect aboriginal people but indirectly many Canadians. The issue was a group of people having their rights taken away and treated badly by the Canadian government. This affects every Canadian who practices civil disobedience or act within dissent. Yes, this specific incident of the Oka Crisis is firstly directed to First Nations, but as a Canadian we should worry about our own rights that could be potentially taken away. We must ask ourselves are we willing to fight for them? For those who find Frist Nations protest as an inconvenience, I think we need to applaud their courage to fight for what they want. It is not just through the Oka Crisis, other acts of dissent that are criminalized from APEC 1997 or G20 is proof that our rights can be taken away at any moment, that our ideas of living in a free world may not necessarily be true. Especially when many people who are involved in protests face police brutality and their freedom of speech breached. The media or the government may depict acts of dissent as a negative by criminalizing them, this in turn keeps much of the population to stay away from protests in many respects.


Adese, Jennifer.2009. “Constructing the Aboriginal Terrorist: Depictions of Aboriginal Protests, the Caledonia Reclamation and Canadian Neoliberalism.“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.

Boykoff, Jules. 2007a. “Mass Media Deprecation.” Pp. 216-47 in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.

Boykoff, Jules. 2007b. “Mass Media Underestimation, False Balance and Disregard.” Pp. 248-60 in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.

Gordon, Todd. 2011. “Empire at Home.” Pp. 67-133 in Imperialist Canada. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.



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