It is worth noting that those on the front lines of land defence – those most affected by Canadian and other mining interests and the violence that so often accompanies resource extraction projects – come overwhelmingly from Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities. The struggles of mining-affected communities today are directly connected to centuries-old struggles against ongoing colonial dispossession and violence.
Land Defenders Or Human Rights Defenders?
It is essential to recognize the legitimacy and importance of civil disobedience in conflicts where there is an inherent power imbalance and where the historic marginalization of Indigenous, Afro-descendent, and farming communities is often reinforced. In doing so, we use the concept of “land and environment defenders” to move beyond those who would fall under the legal definition of “human rights defenders”.
The use of civil disobedience in these struggles is an important and a legitimate expression of dissent where, for a variety of reasons, institutional and legal mechanisms fail to respond justly and/or to meet their democratic mandates.
Criminalized and Stigmatized for Defending Land & Life
Despite all efforts to stigmatize civil disobedience as completely intolerable to a peaceful and law-abiding society, such actions are an important part of dissent. They are further justified when considered against the rampant and seemingly systemic impunity with which corporate and state forces inflict harm on mining-affected communities through violent, repressive acts perpetrated in the name of maintaining “business-as-usual”.
Important Questions to Consider
Why is one act considered lawful and peaceful when another is not, and who determines this?
Why should actions such as the destruction of water supplies, sacred areas, forests, and productive land – jeopardizing the peoples that rely on them – not be considered criminal and violent and duly prosecuted?
Ultimately, this line of interrogation raises further questions about the legitimacy of pertinent laws, about who has designed them and for whom they have been designed.
Land Defense Image Gallery
Click an image to expand then hit the X in the bottom corner of the featured image to read a detailed description.