Occupy INAC in solidarity with Attawapiskat! A failed occupation

On April 14th in Ottawa a call was put out by a local indigenous activist to have a march and to occupy the Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada (INAC) offices lobby on 10 Wellington St., Gatineau, Québec. This occupation and march like the others that were planned in major cities in Canada like Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver was created to be in solidarity with Attawapiskat, an indigenous community in a state of crisis after 13 young people tried to kill themselves in one day, the root causes of this being the colonization of indigenous peoples, ongoing genocide by the Canadian state, missing and murdered indigenous women, systematic poverty and the generational trauma of the residential schools and the 60s scoop.

The movements that took place in Toronto and in Winnipeg were done very successfully, indigenous people and their supporters were able to achieve the goal of occupying INAC offices in their cities to draw attention to Attawapiskat, their communities and the genocidal system of colonialism more generally. As other communities rang victories in their mobilization, Ottawa sang another toon.

In Ottawa the whole mobilization was done through the Internet with no organization behind it and no meetings. This was the first problem that the mobilization in Ottawa faced, having the information out on the Internet that an occupation is being planned will only alert the police and the state that this will be taking place allowing them to be ready for our actions. The rally point was set for Parliament Hill like so many other events, the time here was used to wait for people to come and attend and to sing songs and play drums. The main organizers also took this time to talk to the police to let them know the plans we had and was also used to let the main organizers make announcements to the people that attended.

One of these announcements made was the condemnation of the march in Montréal hosted by the Anishnabe Nation of The Ottawa River Watershed because of the police brutality the people faced at this march. Putting the blame on the organizers and supporters for acting in self defense and not on the racist Montréal police that acted in violence to supress indigenous people. The marched started from the Hill and crossed over the border into Québec to get to the INAC offices in Hull, the whole time we walked on the side walk with police escorts. We were made aware by individuals in Hull that the police were already creating a line in front of the doors and would not be letting anyone into the building. When we arrived at the INAC offices we saw that this was true, a line of police stood in our way and this resulted in the event being stuck outside, right in front of the building.

The crowed was upset and angry that the police were here in our way and they expressed this but every time the people would be express themselves some of the leaders would quickly shut them down. They would go on to say that they do not want to hear about the police being the bad guys saying, they are here to help us, they escorted us here so no one would get hurt and that we could not lay blame on the police for the past. By talking to the police the organizers were able to send four people into the building for negotiations, the only thing they were told was that on Monday April 18th they might be let in for a meeting. Even if the leaders of this event have this meeting with state officials it will ultimately be useless, nothing is ever won by lobbying politicians and officials, change happens in the streets and by mass mobilization.

The problems with this occupation and march highlight the problems with the indigenous movements in Ottawa at this point. Ottawa’s movements are plagued with liberalism and respectability politics above all else, there is no organization to take a lead and no independences from the colonial state. This has resulted in failures like this this to take place and these politics and actions will continue to make failures. What is needed is a strong, revolutionary and anti-colonial indigenous organization to take up these struggles, to fix these mistakes and to build an indigenous movement for liberation!