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History of Abuses by Canadian Military

*CAUTION: This may be upsetting to some.*


While these people have stooped to a new level of cowardice by beating and sexually exploiting psychiatric inmates, it is necessary to point out that Canadian military personnel have an ongoing history of such actions.

During the U.S.-led 'humanitarian mission' to Somalia several years back members of Canada's Airbourne Regiment were involved in the torture and murder of a sixteen-year-old Somali youth who was allegedly stealing food from the base where they were stationed. 

Photos taken by Airbourne members showed a soldier holding this beaten, bloodied youth, displaying him to the camera as if he were some kind of trophy... 

This regiment had a history of being a haven for white supremacists. At a forum on hate crimes I attended in the spring of 1993, the meeting was invaded by a group of approximately 30 neo-Nazis who marched in as a group... more than half of them were wearing Airbourne T-shirts. 

Shocking video shot by Regiment members showed hazing rituals where people were drenched in vomit, and black soldiers were forced to crawl around on all fours with the letters 'KKK' written on their forheads.... soldiers covered in white-power tatoos talking about 'wanting to kill niggers' (I personally consider this term reprehensible; I use it here for context only). A number of soldiers were subsequently court-martialled when these horrifying images were released to the media. One soldier was declared unfit to stand trial following a suicide attempt while in custody that left him with permanent brain damage. The Airbourne Regiment was subsequently disbanded and personnel were restationed to other regiments... a lot of good this did, when basically nothing was done to deal with racism in the military. 

In August and September of 1990 Canadian forces were deployed to put down an uprising by Native people in the community of Kanesatake, on the Ottawa river near the town of Oka, Quebec. In July of that year people in this community had been involved in an ongoing blockade of roads leading to their community, in a last-ditch effort to defend their land when Quebec police moved in with drawn guns, tear gas and concussion grenades in an effort to break up the protest. Members of the Warrior Society moved in and a ferocious gun battle ensued, marking the beginning of a standoff that was to last for better than 2 1/2 months. 

(A few days after the standoff began I travelled to the area with a group of people who were attempting to deliver foodstuffs to the community. We were held at gunpoint by police for more than an hour before being turned away - during this time I was threatened with arrest for trying to take pictures, and the vans we were travelling in were literally turned inside-out. we eventually had to contact a couple living in the area who arranged to smuggle the food in through the woods, in the middle of the night!) 

The military was called in in the third week of August after negotiations failed to resolve the situation... the governments of Canada and Quebec were totally unwilling to deal with the issues leading to the conflict. As it was, 3,300 tropps from the Royal Canadian Regiment and the Royal 22nd Regiment - known as the Van Doos - were to be deployed at Kanesatake, and at the nearby community of Kahnawake where Warriors had barricaded Montreal's Mercier Bridge in a show of solidarity. 

After digging in for better than a week the army began to advance at the end of August... but disaster was averted at the Mercier bridge when Warriors agreed to dismantle their barricades. In light of subsequent events, I think they may have regretted this decision. 

In the early afternoon of September 1, 1990, troops began their advance on the community of Kanesatake, dismantling the barricades and advancing slowly on the Warriors and their supporters who were finally forced to take refuge in a detox centre located on the bank of The Ottawa River.

The standoff was to continue until the twenty-sixth of September.

The number of abuses perpetrated by soldiers and police during this time period is legion - some of them will probably never be known. 

At Kanesatake a Warrior on sentry duty was waylaid by several soldiers and severely beaten as he lay in a sleeping bag... he required hospital treatment. 

Just before the final conflict, a group of mainly women, children and elderly trying to evacuate from Kahnewake were detained by police and soldiers for two hours as a crowd of hostile non-Native residents gathered... these people then pelted the vehicles with rocks, as police and soldiers stood around and watched! One elderly man died not long after from a heart attack. 

Several raids were carried out on the sacred Longhouse at Kahnewake by police and soldiers on the pretext of searching for weapons and illegal liquor. It is my understanding that a number of serious assaults took place in the course of these raids. (Later on a group of women performed a ceremony to cleanse the site that had been desecrated by the raids.) 

Soldiers were to eventually sever all communications between those cornered at the Kanesatake detox and the outside world. This had the added effect of creating a partial media blackout as there were a number of reporters inside. Media personnel outside had been moved back a considerable distance from the building. Access to food supplies and warm clothing - the weather was growing steadily colder - was an ongoing problem. 

Finally, on september 26, 1990, the people in the detox were to lay down their weapons and march out as a group. This was not a surrender; the people felt they had accomplished all they could, and were simply returning home. As they walked down the road ferom the detox they were met by police and soldiers. 

There was a live TV camera rolling as events unfolded, and to call them 'outrageous' would be a serious understatement. It suffices to say that I was in a state of shock for days after viewing this coverage... people were allowed no dignity whatsoever. 

Most of those arrested - including members of the media who were taken into custody - reported being seriously abused by police and military personnel while detained. Defendants were showing up in court with visible bruises and burns inflicted with lighted cigarettes. 

Three members of the Warrior Society were tried separately. One man pleaded guilty... two others were tried and convicted of a number of offenses including mischief, weapons possession and participating in a riot, and received prison terms ranging from two to four-and-a-half years. 

Forty-three others were tried as a group the following summer - and were acquitted of all charges. 

No charges were ever laid against police or army personnel. 

In October of 1970 Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act and ordered the army in to deal with a nationalist urban guerilla organization - the Front de Liberation du Quebec - that was operating primarily in the Montreal area. This amounted to a declaration of martial law, and subsequently more than 400 people were arrested and detained without being charged... I understand many were mistreated by army personnel or police while detained. This was a long time ago and my memory is less than perfect, but to my knowledge very few - if any - charges were laid against those detained. But their human rights were effectively denied for the duration. (A number of FLQ members were subsequently arrested and jailed but not as a result of the military action.) 

Canada claims a reputation in the international community as a 'peacekeeper'... but if this is the kind of 'peace' they seek to enforce, I don't think I want any of it. 

 

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