- Category: news
- Created: Monday, 04 November 2013 04:08
- Published: Monday, 04 November 2013 04:08
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BY KRIS SIMS
HALIFAX - They block roads, stop trains and fight the cops. Men and women dressed in camouflage, boots and bandanas. They come from reserves, wave red flags, set fires, tear up roads and declare sovereignty for their tribes. They are the so-called 'Warrior Societies' and they mean business.
They even award themselves ranks such as general and lieutenant, insisting a military wing is a part of any sovereign nation. Many aboriginal rights activists consider themselves as members of a sovereign people, separate from Canada.
Many arrested at a recent riot in Rexton, N.B., where six police cruisers were torched, are members of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society. Charges range from possession of a firearm to unlawful confinement and uttering threats.
Dressed head to toe in combat fatigues, Susanne Patles was released on a $400 bond and talked to reporters outside court and explained where their anger was coming from.
"(Warrior societies) are the boots on the ground to emancipate people, to have the people rise up," she said
"We are a nation. We are above Canada. We are above it all, because we are a nation. Canada is a corporation, we are a nation, and when we signed on to our pre-Confederation treaties it was on a nation-to-nation basis, and we signed it with the British nation, not Canada."
And, while the claims, though rooted in history, might be spurious to many across the country, Canada's security agency has taken the warriors seriously for a long time.
Initially connected to the extremist Native movements in the U.S., such as Red Power and the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s, the Canadian movement really took root in the 1980s.
Most Canadians first saw the red warrior flag during the Oka crisis in Quebec in 1990, when Mohawks — and their warriors — blocked access to a burial ground set to be developed into a golf course.
A November 2008 CSIS report warned: "Multi-issue extremists and aboriginal extremists may pursue common causes, and both groups have demonstrated the intent and the capability to carry out attacks against critical infrastructure."
Douglas Bland, a retired lieutenant-colonel with the Canadian military, offered similar warnings in his 2009 political thriller, Uprising.
Bland says warrior societies are paramilitary organizations with easy access to weapons and explosives and believe they have the moral high ground.
"Whether they are very competent or not doesn't matter — they are an element and they are something we have to deal with," Bland said. "What if a small militant group shut down the railways for three months?"
Such a scenario is not out of the question.
The Idle No More movement, that shook up the Canadian economy with rolling blockades and other damaging protests in 2012, showed the disruptive power of Native militants.
"The Idle No More movement has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees," Derek Nepinak, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, boasted in January 2013. "It can stop Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper's resource development plan and his billion-dollar plan to develop resources in ancestral territories. We have the warriors that are standing up now that are willing to go that far. So we're not here to make requests."
The "warrior flag" was painted by Mohawk artist Louis Hall in the 1970s. Hall was born in Quebec on January 15, 1918. His writings include the Warrior Handbook which calls on all First Nations to band together and assert sovereign rights.
Gavin Taylor, history professor at Concordia University:
"There was never a point at which those groups signed over their sovereignty to the Crown, or certainly not to Canada ... In the eyes of the Canadian state, yes they are Canadian. In the eyes of the Canadian law, yes they are Canadian. But have they actually formally accepted that ever? Have they ever actually given consent to that? Not really, no, Canada is a colonial country, formed by the arrival of Europeans who took land and resources away from people who lived here originally, and we tend to forget that and paper over it, but it's still there."