The BC Civil Liberties Association supports Land Back reclamation at 1492 Land Back Lane, and is highly concerned about the developing situation within the Haldimand tract. As of September 21, 2020, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have charged 22 people in connection to the reclamation at 1492 Land Back Lane, and are criminalizing journalists and Indigenous land defenders. We condemn the arrests of journalists Karl Dockstader and Starla Myers, and researcher Courtney Sky.
Earlier this year, we issued an open letter to the RCMP condemning its activity on Wet’suwet’en territories. In that case, the RCMP set up an exclusion zone that prohibited the public, invited guests of the Wet’suwet’en, and media from accessing the area. It is disturbing that comparable actions by the police against journalists have emerged in Ontario. We are alarmed that the OPP fail to recognize the freedom of the press, a crucial mechanism for a functioning and healthy democracy enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Even in areas where injunctions are being enforced, the courts have upheld the constitutionally-protected freedom of the press. Arresting and charging Dockstader and Myers and imposing conditions on them not to attend at 1492 Land Back Lane are clear violations of Charter section 2(b) by impeding freedom of expression and freedom of the press. These unreasonable and unjustifiable state practices are part of a disturbing trend across Canada whereby police forces, through the use of court-ordered injunctions, continue to criminalize Indigenous land defenders for upholding their inherent responsibilities to the land, as well as silence allies and members of the media.
The BCCLA stands with the Onkewhonwe at this time and we will continue to monitor the activity of OPP within the Haldimand tract.