Man in RCMP vest watching protest marchersAn officer looks on as supporters of the Wet'suwet'en Nation block a road outside of RCMP headquarters in Surrey, B.C., in January 2020.

Law profs warn provinces “setting the stage” for violence against Indigenous Peoples

Recent legal reforms in Alberta and Saskatchewan suggest both provinces could be gearing up for more violence against Indigenous Peoples, even as both commit to reconciliation, write three Windsor Law professors.

In an article published Thursday in the Conversation, which shares news and views from the academic and research community, Reem Bahdi, Jillian Rogin, and Sylvia McAdam argue Canadian state violence against Indigenous Peoples has historically included direct force and invoking laws to intimidate and dispossess.

“These provincial reforms expand police powers, introduce military-style weapons and sanction the increased use of force by private individuals,” they write. “None consider treaty obligations.”

Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, which came into effect on June 17, made it illegal to be in areas designated as “essential infrastructure” without a reason. The researchers argue that it targets Indigenous people who protect the land and introduces more opportunities for authorities to harass and intimidate Indigenous Peoples in their daily lives.

They also expressed concerns about 2017 changes in Saskatchewan that gave provincial conservation officers expanded investigative and arrest powers, and armed them with military-style semi-automatic weapons.

“The militarization of law enforcement, expanded police powers, and empowerment of civilian violence have long marked white colonial violence on Turtle Island,” the article concludes. “It appears that provincial governments are gearing up for more of the same.”

Read the entire piece, “Provincial governments are setting the stage for more violence against Indigenous Peoples and their lands,” in the Conversation.

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