Protestors in Toronto blocked the intersection of Church and Bloor outside the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs Ontario in solidarity with the “1492 Land Back Lane” blockade in Caledonia, Ontario, which has been occupying a space slated for housing development since July 19th.
Organized by Rising Tide Toronto, the protest called on the Canadian government to recognize the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee nation, and criticized the Ontario Provincial Police for arresting “Land Defenders” and on a disputed plot of land slated for development in Caledonia, Ontario. An injunction was issued—and ignored—and as of Thursday the OPP have arrested 21 people at the site since August 5. Protestors claim the number is higher. The occupation in Caledonia has been ongoing since July 19.
The disputed land is part of the Haldimand Tract, originally gifted to the Haudenosaunee people for their loyalty to the British during the American revolution. Although developers signed an agreement with the elected band members, protestors reject this agreement as the elected band members hold their position under colonial laws and therefore do not represent them. They also objected to other pieces of land being sold off over the years.
As the ministry was closed, organizers urged the approximately 300 people present to call the Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford to demand the government stop criminalizing the “Land Defenders”, celebrating when the voicemail became full.
Protestors also painted LAND BACK on the street with red paint. They claimed it was harmless and would wash right off, but a photo of one of the cans revealed it was oil-based, long lasting, and toxic.
One of the event’s speakers quoted Arthur Manuel’s reference to injunctions as “a legal billy club,” saying they are “just a blunt tool to force people from their land” in favour of economic development. The trend to burn injunctions during the nationwide “Shut Down Canada” movement in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en was praised, with everyone urged to keep it up in defiance of colonialism.
At one point the crowd chanted allegiance to Palestine as one speaker said “Palestinians know all too well the tactics settler colonial states employ to further disposess, arm, and target our communities.”
The event concluded with a round-dance around the graffiti.