ACFN chief says RCMP treatment of Indigenous protesters and Coutts blockade a ‘double standard’
February 4, 2022 By Jenna Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, with files from Brittany Gervais, Jason Herring and The Canadian Press
Feb. 3, 2022, Fort McMurray, Alta. – The leadership of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) says the protest blocking the U.S.-Canada border crossing in Coutts, Alta. has shown a “double standard” when it comes to police and Indigenous protesters.
In a Wednesday interview, Chief Allan Adam argued the RCMP would have arrested the people protesting COVID-19 restrictions by now had they been Indigenous. Adam said he does not support any violence from protesters or police, but wondered why legislation preventing protesters from blocking infrastructure had not yet been used.
“My question to the premier is if the law does not apply here, then who does the law apply to? If it only applies to First Nations, then the premier and his caucus should do away with it altogether,” he said.
The legislation was passed by the Alberta government in June 2020 as the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act. People found guilty under the act can be fined $10,000 on the first day and $25,000 for following days, or carry up to six months in prison.
The legislation was brought in after Indigenous protesters blocked railways across Canada in early 2020 to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline running through their territory in northern B.C.
Adam still opposes the legislation, violent protests or using aggressive policing to end them. He is also no stranger to Indigenous protest movements that have disrupted infrastructure. But Adam still feels the protesters in Coutts, Alta. are being treated with more dignity by police and politicians compared to Indigenous-led movements.
“It is shocking to see this blatant disparity as we watch the complete government inaction to address the blockade at Coutts,” said Adam in a statement. “If peaceful protests of critical infrastructure at Coutts is allowed, then we expect the same to be true in the future should Indigenous people engage in similar forms of protest.”
The protest at the U.S.-Canada border crossing started Saturday along Highway 4. Protesters were acting out of solidarity with the anti-mandate protesters in Ottawa.
RCMP officers started enforcing the legislation on Tuesday after negotiations with protesters collapsed. Protesters have begun clearing one lane each in both directions from the border crossing.
– Fort McMurray Today
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