Constitutional Challenge brings Crown to Anishinaabe Lodge
John Hawke, an Anishinaabe man belonging to the Atik (Caribou Clan) self-represented himself in an Ontario court on Oct 27th 2020, and succeeded in getting the Crown and Judge to agree to resolve the dispute following the protocol of his Clan’s lodge.
Hawke brought a 25 page Constitutional Challenge to court that resulted in the Crown Attorney and Judge agreeing to try to resolve the matter under Anishinaabe law by following traditional protocol and meeting in a lodge built in Hawke’s home community on Christian Island.
Hawke’s charges stem from a decade long effort to reclaim his people’s stolen lands and to object to Band Council bodies accepting a $308 million settlement for the Coldwater Narrows Reserve. In May 23rd, 2012, a group of Anishinaabe Clan Members from Gchimnissing co-organized by Hawke established a cultural encampment on Indigenous lands unlawfully occupied by Ontario’s Awenda Provincial Park.
The encampment and Indigenous presence continued until July 28, 2019 when the OPP removed John Hawke from the camp and charged him with allegedly “uttering threats of bodily harm” towards Awenda Park Superintendent Mike Armstrong. Hawke denies the charge and suggests that they were made under “false pretences” in order to destroy his camp.
The charges came after Hawke blocked the main entrance to the park on June 21, 2019 for five weeks. Arrested on July 28, 2019, Hawke was taken into custody and released on bail. Shortly thereafter, Park Staff removed the blockade as well as the cabin and cultural camp.
On October 27th, Hawke appeared in Court and made a motion to have his charges withdrawn. The Crown declined to do so, and offered that Hawke take a Peace Bond, which he refused. Hawke then discussed his Constitutional Challenge. According to Hawke,
“The Criminal Code of Canada doesn’t apply to the original people of Turtle Island. As Indigenous people, we’re not Status Indians, because Status Indians are creations of the Statute Court. When you go in there trying to exercise and protect your rights as a statute entity under the birth certificate and as a Status Indian, they can have their way with you.”
Hawke however took a different tack, one based in his Anishinaabe identity: “There’s a process that we need to know on how to do this, because they’re [the Crown] liable under international covenants to protect our fundamental inherent rights. I utilized that process today, so this is what came out of it.”
“She thought for a bit, you could see her on the video, she was thinking for a bit. I instructed them that they needed to come into our court, in our lodge under Anishinabek jurisdiction, to resolve this if there’s to be any remedy to this charge. She thought and she agreed. She asked if the charges were then withdrawn, then she requested that I drop the Constitutional Challenge.”
“She gave me the option that she’ll withdraw the charges and come into my court. With a judge too.. I’m working with some elders and they’re going to do this properly. This process is exercising our jurisdiction, and if we stick to it and know what we’re talking about, there’s a proper process to bring them into our jurisdiction and have it recognized.”
The court will reconvene on Dec 9, 2020 and January 21st, 2021.