Canadian Indigenous protests against Olympics

In what looks like a press release that I received via email, apparently organizers from the Six Nations in Canada have taken actiona against the Olympic Torch Relay.

Their goal was to keep the torch and its relay caravan out of their territory to prevent the Torch Relay from being used to paint a benevolent image of Canada’s relations with First Nations, and to prevent a violation of their territorial sovereignty.

[I do not know whether these are the actions of individuals or are tribal government sanctioned actions.]

Spokespeople for the action made it clear that the intention of blocking the torch from crossing the territory was not about sports or about confronting their “own people” or preventing them from celebrating. Accordingly, there was no disruptive demonstration at the Torch Celebration site. Instead, a group of 30-40 people gathered at a point on Hwy. 54 which they had declared the torch would have to go around, even after the celebration had been moved.

At that press conference, local event organizers tried to claim that the re-routing had nothing to do with planned protests, and that they felt that the Olympics should not be made political. When pressed by reporters however, organizers admitted that the scheduled actions against the relay contributed to the decision.

Spokespeople for the action, like activists across the country, however, were quite clear in their statements that the international context of the Olympics inherently makes the torch relay political, especially with respect to Indigenous sovereignty and land rights (Canada is one of only three developed countries that have not signed the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Olympic organizers and sponsors were accused of using the Torch Relay and the Games as a propaganda campaign to change their image and Canada’s image on a global stage.

Spokespeople for the action also talked about solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in so-called British Columbia who have spurred a national anti-Olympic movement. In both Toronto and Montreal, the main message of and the primary chants of the rallies have been “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land.”

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