(Photo by Blaire Russell)
APTN National News
The Idle No More movement was like “bacteria” that spread across the country carrying with it the potential for an outbreak of violence, according to an internal RCMP document shared by senior officers.
The internal document was a site report from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s camp which was set up during her liquids-only fast on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River within sight of Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada. The camp became a hub of activity during the height of the Idle No More movement between December 2012 and January 2013.
The site report was written by RCMP Cpl. Wayne Russett, the Aboriginal liaison for the national capital region, and sent to Insp. Mike LeSage, the acting director general for National Aboriginal Policing. LeSage passed it on to Carrie Ann McPherson, a senior analyst with the RCMP’s Operations Intelligence Analysis Section.
APTN National News obtained the document under the Access to Information Act. APTN filed the request in April 2013 and only recently received it.
While the document primarily provided close to real-time details of the evolving situation inside Spence’s camp, it also included a discussion of the Idle No More movement.
“This Idle No More Movement is like bacteria, it has grown a life of its own all across this nation,” wrote Russett, in the Dec.24, 2012, document which was based on events as of noon that day and sent at 1:17 p.m. “It may be advisable for all to have contingency plans in place, as this is one issue that is not going to go away.”
The report also struck an ominous tone.
“There is a high probability that we could see flash mobs, round dances and blockades become much less compliant to laws in an attempt to get their point across,” said the document. “The escalation of violence is ever near.”
The document was titled, “Chief Spense’s Hunger Strike and the Idle No More Movement (sic)” and classified “for law enforcement only.”
It also provides mundane details about Spence’s state of health and life in the camp and non-events of the previous days.
“Chief (Spence) is doing well, she is in good spirts. Her camp is being well maintained by the Fire Keeper and the eight male Peace Keepers. Cpl. Russett is in daily contact with the camp,” said the document. “The chief has shown no signs of weakening in her previous commitment to continue her hunger strike until she and the other chiefs get a meeting with the prime minister.”
Russett also often forwarded emails he received from unknown persons giving him information on upcoming protests in the Ottawa region.
At its peak, the Idle No More movement attracted significant RCMP attention, according to the cache of documents released to APTN under the Act.
The RCMP “stood up” a “federal policing intelligence coordination team” to monitor Idle No More. It also created an email account specifically for Idle No More monitoring which received 575 emails between January 2013 and the end of March. The RCMP also tallied about 1,000 Idle No More related events as of April 8, according to a separate document outlining options for using the RCMP’s national intelligence capabilities to support monitoring of First Nation protests.
The majority of Idle No More protests, round-dances and blockades occurred between the end of December 2012 and January 2013.
The highly redacted document was titled, National Aboriginal Demonstrations and Protests; Framework for Defining the RCMP’s Coordinated National Intelligence support.
It has no date, but appears to have been drafted in April 2013.
It discussed a perceived shift away from specific-Idle No More movement to spin-off protests.
In particular, the document mentions plans for “Sovereignty Summer” which was a March 2013 campaign planned between Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, a pre-established network of Indigenous activists.
The document said the campaign planned to target pipelines, the Alberta tar sands, natural gas, fisheries and mines.
“The spring of 2013 has been marked by an evolution in terms of Aboriginal protests whereby INM-specific events have abated and land sovereignty/environmental protests that are not necessarily associated with INM have emerged,” said the document. “Associations of convenience have occurred and may continue to form in order to gain political traction. These associations blur the line between INM-sponsored events and activities from other groups or movements.”
One Idle No More spin-off which appears not to have been on the radar at the time was the simmering opposition to hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick.
Things took a turn in the province after the Mi’kmaq took the lead in protests against shale gas exploration. The first flare up came on June 21 that year, Aboriginal Day, when the RCMP arrested about 12 people during a tense demonstration.
On Oct. 17, 2013, heavily-armed RCMP tactical units raided a Mi’kmaq Warrior-anchored camp which had trapped several exploration vehicles. The RCMP raid turned up ammunition and three bolt-action, single shot rifles during a day of clashes that led to the torching of several RCMP vehicles.
The protests continued after the raid, culminating in the burning of tires on Hwy 11 in New Brunswick which connects Moncton and Bathurst.
*Editor’s note. Article was corrected to say 12 people, not 40, were arrested on Aboriginal Day in 2013.