Racist mob exposes RCMP hypocrisy in attacks on Mi’kmaw
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce issued a misleading statement about the real role of the force in policing racist attacks on the Mi’kmaw.
By Starla Myers
MIDDLE WEST PUBLICO, NS – On the night of October 17, 2020, a massive fire destroyed a building used by Mi’kmaw fisherman to store their catch. The RCMP announced that one man was in the hospital with “life-threatening injuries believed to be related to the fire.” According to an elected official from the Sipekne’ katik Nation, “the building was owned by a friend and ally” of the Mi’kmaw fishermen.
The arson came in the wake of an escalating week of vandalism, forced confinement and theft of Mi’kmaw fishing gear and lobster. The all-out attack by commercial fishermen on the Mi’kmaw fishermen left social media buzzing with disbelief.
But it was the response by RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Joyce that sparked a collective gasp as the “Indian problem” was once again catapulted to the center stage of Canadian politics.
In the interview, Sgt. Joyce discussed the tactics used by the RCMP for “the preservation of life.” Referring to events that transpired on October 13, 2020, in New Edinburgh, Joyce starts by offering an account of the events.
“At 4:00 p.m., there’s a call to a fish processing plant where we were. On arrival, there is a 200 roughly 200 persons on a side that is very passionate toward what the issue at hand is. And there’s a smaller amount that are inside the processing plant that were essentially trying to do what they feel they have the right to do or that the Supreme Court has issued in 1999.”
The smaller group inside were Mi’kmaw fishermen who possess the constitutionally protected treaty right to fish and hunt on their lands. The Canadian Supreme court itself has ruled that Mi’kmaw fishermen have the right to a “moderate livelihood” through fishing.
Sgt. Joyce’s suggestion that it is a matter of “feeling” or emotion rather than a matter of law removes accountability from the RCMP and distances them from their responsibility in upholding the Supreme court’s decision and protecting the constitutional rights of the Mi’kmaw.
What Joyce fails to mention here is the actual issue; he carefully removes the underlying problem of racism that would certainly categorize the activities of the mob as a hate crime. He does this by not disclosing the race or identity of those two-hundred people forming the mob.
The Role of the RCMP in the Mi’kmaw Fishery dispute
It was towards the middle of the interview that Andrew Joyce reveals the obligation and role of the RCMP.
“We’re there to keep the peace and have and preserve life, so that is our main role here. We try to mitigate the situation and de-escalate the situation and have everybody basically get out of there get out of there intact,” said Joyce.
The reality was quite different according to Mi’kmaw fisherman Jason Marr. In an interview with CBC’s Matt Galloway Marr said:
“They proceeded to vandalize my van. They slashed the tires. I watched one guy pee in the driver’s seat of my truck. Another guy poured a jug of something, an egregious something down inside of my gas tank. Not one RCMP even tried to stop them. I said I wouldn’t leave without lobster. And the police forcibly removed me and said that I had to leave and let them take my lobster. They booted the door and grabbed me by the arms and told me to get out.”
As the incident was ongoing, Marr was doing a phone interview with Ku’ku’kwes News in which an RCMP officer can be heard in the background shouting several times at Marr to open the door. The officer can be heard telling Marr that “the owner of this property does not want you folks here. We’re removing you from the property.”
Marr replied, “What? To walk down the road by a lynch mob? No, you guys can’t do that. That’s not an option,” he said. Marr was eventually forced to leave without his lobster and the facility was destroyed.
Andrew Joyce’s interview was a loud and clear reminder that this is still John A. Macdonald’s RCMP. The RCMP were acting in lock-step with the white fishermen trying to destroy the Mi’kmaw catch and fishing equipment. They were just doing the same job they were created to do – to suppress Indigenous rights in a settler colonial society.