The Elsipogtog First Nation anti-fracking protest of 2013 has left an undeniable, eye-opening impact on Canadians which allowed them to see current issues faced by Indigenous communities across the country. The unjust events that took place during the months of the protest, such as the violent raid by the RCMP, are prime examples of how the government continues to criminalize the dissent of Indigenous peoples rather than welcome them and respect their rights. The cruel and unjust interaction between First Nations protesters and government officials proves that colonization and police brutality of Indigenous peoples still exists today and they continue to face the social stigma of being violent.
Over many decades there have been several protests in Canada by Indigenous peoples in order to protect their rights as Canadian citizens, as well as to break away from the years of colonization placed upon them. It is thought that colonialism was abolished many years ago, however, it is still an ongoing issue. This was made clear with the outcome of the anti-fracking protest in 2013. Although apologies have been made by government officials and forms of compensation given to Indigenous peoples for past suffering, there are present struggles of othering that those in power refuse to address, including police and media outlets continuing to cast a negative view over Aboriginal peoples and continuing to oppress them. They are labelled in the news as terrorists, violent, and a disturbance to other community members (Wakeham, 2012).
Due to the violent stereotype placed upon Indigenous peoples, police are able to use unnecessary force when protests are in place without question. Even though media outlets broadcast footage of violent force tactics by officers, it is viewed as necessary due to the “violent” state of protests (Schwartz, 2013). In the case of Elsipogtog, the unnecessary force used on Mi’kmaq members by the RCMP was noticed and action was taken by citizens. Formal complaints were issued and authoritative membered were expected to be held accountable. “Improper arrest, excessive use of force, unreasonable detention and arrest without adequate grounds are just some of the complaints. Close to 20 people filed complaints against the RCMP, another 12 were anonymous” (Roache, 2014). However, this is not always the case when police brutality is displayed upon Indigenous members. Because of their violent stereotype, Indigenous peoples are assumed to be the instigators in violent acts and displayed as such over media networks.
“These techniques include the arrest and prosecution of Indigenous people engaged in direct action, but also discursive representations of Indigenous land defenders by media, police, and security agencies as “criminals,” “extremists,” “militants,” and “terrorists”” (Pasternak, Collis, Dafnos, 2013, p.77).
In cases similar to Elsipogtog, Police forces are typically labelled as pacifiers who are doing what it takes to keep the peace for the public good in these situations. In reality, they are claiming hegemony over Indigenous peoples. When drawing on other cases, Tyendinaga is a prime example of how police are able to adopt new policies in order to repress Indigenous peoples and label the act as a pacifying technique (Pasternak, Collis, Dafnos, 2013).
Colonization is still very much alive today and the analysis of the Elsipogtog protest has made it evident. Criminalizing the dissent of Indigenous peoples institutionally is just one of the many forms of colonization that we see in today’s society and proves to have a long lasting effect.
Pasternak, S., Collis, S., Dafnos, T. (2013). Criminalization at Tyendinaga: Securing Canada’s Colonial Property Regime through Specific Land Claims. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 28(1), 65-81.
Roache, T. (2014, October 15). Hundreds of complaints filed against RCMP after Elsipogtog fracking blockade. APTN News. Retrieved February 8, 2018, from http://aptnnews.ca/2014/10/16/hundreds-complaints-filed-rcmp-elsipogtog-fracking-blockade/
Schwartz, D. (2014, April 13). Aboriginal rights and the N.B. shale gas fracking protests. CBC News.Retrieved February 9, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/n-b-fracking-protests-and-the-fight-for-aboriginal-rights-1.2126515