Anti Racist Action (ARA) and the First Nations Solidarity Working Group (FNSWG) are calling on all anti-racist allies and activists in London, Toronto and Ottawa to mobilize opposition and respond to the racist and anti-Muslim/Islamophobic Dutch politician and leader of the Anti-Islamic Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, who will be speaking on May 8th in London, May 9th in Toronto and May 10th in Ottawa.
Category Archives: Open Letter of Protest
by Kate Milley
As a white settler academic who has been studying the anti-Native activity of Gary McHale et al for several years, when I heard that they had been personally invited to an academic conference I was alarmed. Though familiar with Frances Widdowson’s work, I mistakenly imagined even she would want to distance herself from such ardent anti-Native activists. On May 5th, 2010 I went to the New Directions in Aboriginal Policy Forum held at Mount Royal University to see for myself what was going on. The conference was minimally attended with about 40 participants in total including the invited speakers. It was held in a dark performance theatre, where mostly empty benches circled three sides of the stage floor. The conference was most prominently sponsored by the Frontier Centre, a think tank known to push neoliberal public policy recommendations and which has alarming positions on Indigenous issues (http://www.fcpp.org/aboriginals.php). McHale and Vandermaas spoke on a panel entitled “Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Rule of Law” with Ron Bourgeault, professor of sociology at Regina University and Wes Elliott from Six Nations.
Bourgeault started things off by recounting his experience decades ago as a welfare worker who discovered that a doctor, a former Nazi, was forcefully sterilizing Indigenous women in a northern Saskatchewan hospital run by the Catholic church. Knowing of McHale and Vandermaas’ attempts to demonize the Canadian Union of Public Employees, he underlined that he called upon CUPE to help unionize the hospital staff, especially the nurses. After unionization the tides of power were turned and the forced sterilization of Indigenous women ended. During the conference, with the exception of Bourgeault, and a few other speakers, there was little mention of the atrocities of colonialism and colonialism itself was rendered as a legacy rather than an ongoing phenomenon. McHale and Vandermaas were not the only speakers to do this, but their erasure of the ongoing colonial reality was perhaps the most egregious.
McHale and Vandermaas’ presentations followed the historically shortsighted, racist and decontextualized rhetoric that they have become notorious for. McHale spoke while images, mostly taken from April 20th 2006, flashed across a screen without any attempt at context and little comment. Most prominently his slideshow began with this message “The people of Caledonia and Six Nations lived in peace for generations” and THEN, he underlines, Six Nations people used Caledonia to pressure the government and broke the peace. This beginning is interesting for several reasons, primarily because of what it erases. While certainly Caledonia and Six Nations have a long history living alongside each other, this rendering fails to acknowledge not only the history of colonialism but its ongoing nature. Summarily erasing the fact that much of the Haldimand tract was “settled’ through illegal means, and the reality of residential schools, McHale’s presentation varied little from his regular summoning of an ahistorical and miraculously ‘objective’ rule of law that seems to have fallen from the skies, rather than one forged in the annals of colonial atrocity.
This ahistorical fervor is perhaps best seen in his ability to compare himself and his work to Martin Luther King, often erroneously citing King’s letter from the Birmingham jail to justify his actions. McHale insists that Six Nations should address their claims through the courts, and ought obey the colonial Rule of Law as their land continues to be stolen. This logic is not so different from that seen in the letter “A Call for Unity” written by eight white clergyman criticizing King’s demonstrations in Birmingham—the very letter that inspired King to write what is now considered the single most important document of the civil rights era.
The white clergymen began their letter “We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an appeal for law and order and common sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.” These men’s assertion on the need to obey a rule of law that is inherently racist until such time that the courts find it unjust, is uncannily similar to McHale and Vandermaas’ message. In his response King had this to say about waiting for the oppressor to change the law and the importance of direct action:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
What was purposefully erased in McHale’s presentation is that Six Nations have for hundreds of years taken their claims to ‘court’, have attempted to solve these issues through good faith negotiations, and for hundreds of years these actions have been delayed, criminalized and ignored—whether through the state enforced exile of Chief Deskaheh who brought his people’s claims to the burgeoning League of Nations, whether through the eviction of the Confederacy at RCMP gunpoint in 1924 and 1959, whether by Canada making it illegal to hire a lawyer with respect to land claims until the 1950s, whether through “the Canadian government work(ing) on the assumption that Indigenous peoples don’t hold title to disputed land,” or whether through “the current federal claims process (which) is painfully slow and inherently unjust.”
In McHale’s account the reclamation seems to have fallen from the sky, much like his rule of law, without notice or warning. When the land was reclaimed indefinitely by Six Nations in February 2006 they had already notified Henco Industries on several occasions that the company was in fact building on contested land. While Canada claims that this land was ceded on January 18th, 1841, Six Nations dispute this. In fact, colonial records show that on February 4th and July 7th 1841 and then again in 1843 the Confederacy petitioned the Crown indicating that they had only agreed to lease the land. And yet with all of McHale’s critiques of the police and the government, he claims it was Six Nations who broke the peace and claim that the police and government are not fulfilling their “duty” to summarily evict Six Nations from the land. I suppose what McHale would like to see is another Ipperwash, where the OPP go in with guns a-blazing, McHale does after all organize with the former president of ONFIRE, a group who held rallies supporting the OPP officer who shot and killed Dudley George. Indeed McHale’s love for tough-no nonsense-rule of law-cowboys was seen in his excitement when Fantino was named OPP commissioner. His love quickly dwindled however when Fantino found McHale to be a “troublemaker”. It’s a fickle sort of love affair McHale has with the “rule of law,” he likes it when it comes down hard on Indigenous people but not him. The hypocrisy, double standards, and double speak that defines McHale’s work, was also highlighted in Vandermaas’ presentation.
Vandermaas claimed he spoke ‘on behalf’ of the victims of Caledonia, and was almost brought to tears once again when he began to talk about “Dancer.” Having left CANACE recently Vandermaas has started the “Caledonia Victim’s Project”, a figure of a dancer is the project’s emblem. “Dancer” is a young woman who lives on the 6th line and who at fourteen wrote a pamphlet called a “road to hope” for a school project. http://voiceofcanada.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/11-dancer-road-of-hope.pdf Though Vandermaas no longer refers to her under the pseudonym he gave her and identifies her by name, in this write up she will be referred to through the pseudonym, as I do not think the way Vandermaas uses her story is ethical or helpful to this young woman. In his presentation Vandermaas read an excerpt from “Dancer’s” diary provided to him. In it she recounts the ‘horror’ of looking out and seeing deer hanging from a lamp pole on the reclamation site. Alongside the diary, Vandermaas provided a picture of this scene. What is disturbing about the way in which Vandermaas’ uses her narrative, is perhaps best seen in this example.
It is clear from the diary entry that “Dancer” is upset about what she sees, however no where is there an explanation to “Dancer” from the adults that surround her that the deer are being prepared to be eaten. While it might be a shocking event for young people who are far removed from the process through which meat based food find its way on to their plates, the ‘horror’ she experiences is nowhere contextualized for her. I remember my brother having a similar reaction when my father, raised in Newfoundland, a fisher from the age of 5 until 19 years old, baited hooks with frogs and gutted a fish in front of him. My brother seemed deeply horrified by the manner in which my father fished, though my brother never was and never became a vegetarian. It was then that my mother, raised in the beaches of Toronto far away from the farm life my maternal grandparents had, sat my brother down and talked to him about food—particularly where meat comes from and how it is derived. It was the same conversation my parents had with my sister, when upon visiting my Uncle and Aunt’s farm, not far from Brantford, my sister witnessed how it was that chicken came onto her plate—and was deeply disturbed by the actions of my uncle to secure super. While both my sister and my brother were ‘horrified’ by the actions of people they had come to trust and love, the adults around them contextualized the feelings they were having, and helped them to see that neither my uncle nor my father were ‘horrible’ people, they were just people who prepared meat for consumption.
The way in which Vandermaas used the example of the deer in his presentation worked to ascribe ‘savagery’ to Indigenous people who ‘horrify’ young white women. Indeed the deer were nowhere presented as food in his account, and were instead decontextualized and simply presented as a sample of the ‘horror’ of Indigenous land reclamations. Nowhere in this example did someone sit down with Dancer and explain that the deer, having led a life in the wild, were now being prepared to be eaten, a better fate one might contend than the cows, chickens and pigs that are kept locked away for most of their lives only then to face mass slaughter in corporate slaughter houses and factory farms. This example underlines the importance of context, and the role of adults to contextualize and discuss the fears and feelings of the young people around them. To continue to reify Dancer’s experience of the deer as ‘horror’ is not helpful to this young woman and indeed speaks to deeper dynamics of the promulgation of ‘horror’, the reification of racist and colonial understandings, and the role of decontextualization that drive both McHale and Vandermaas’ work.
For instance in Dancer’s pamphlet she describes “It’s very sad when the 14 and 15 year old are told that if ever a native came into OUR house and tried hurting us and we defended ourselves by fighting back, we would be the ones arrested! Not the native!” Indeed it is very sad when young people who are clearly scared by the events unfolding outside their homes are lied to by the grown ups around them. Such statements indicate that Native people have a desire to cause harm to children and their families, and that they can do so with impunity, instead of underlining the reality that Indigenous people on this land have been and continue to be oppressed, and are thus far more likely to be criminalized and victimized. As lawyer Sarah Dover indicates:
“An Aboriginal is ten times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginals. They are twice as likely to be victims of violence, but more likely to be arrested or charged. They are more likely to be denied bail…And more likely to be the victim of racist and violent experiences while in custody. They are more likely to be categorized in maximum security…less likely to be given parole and more likely to be found in breach of parole for non-criminal offences (like not being where they are supposed to be at a given time.” (quoted in the Tekawennake, Oct 14, 2009)
And while the reclamation was clearly a source of fear for Dancer, I imagine the mob rallies that emerged weekly from April to May 2006 in Caledonia where youth circled around fire barrels chanting “burn Natives burn,” where adults held signs reading “don’t feed the animals natives running rampant,” and hearing shouts from adult men that the OPP should hand over their guns to them so they could take care of the “natives” did nothing to alleviate those fears. Perhaps what would have been helpful for young Dancer, would have been for someone to contextualize what was happening right next door in a longer history. Underlining, as Six Nations has repeatedly, that the conflict was not with the people of Caledonia but with the government and had to do with the ongoing theft of Six Nations land by Canadians and the Canadian government. Perhaps Dancer might have better understood what was happening had someone talked to her about the fact that many of those who were at the reclamation site were parents and grandparents standing up for the futures of their children and grandchildren. Perhaps it would have helped this young woman to know that what was happening right outside her door involved families, parents, sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles saying no to a long pattern of theft—that indeed most of the Haldimand tract has been ‘settled’ through outright fraud and theft by both the government and white settlers and that what she was witnessing was an attempt to stop this ongoing pattern. While surely this would not have alleviated all of her fears, perhaps this would have helped to put them into context and for her to be able to better understand the realities of her home on native land and to find that ‘road of hope’ she so longed for.
Wes Elliott was the last presenter on the panel, and offered what might just be that ‘road of hope.’ Elliott offered his “Formula for Peace.” He began by underlining that Six Nations are sovereign allies who entered into treaties and agreements with the Crown. Highlighting the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, Elliott spoke about the need for recognition of Indigenous land rights and Treaty rights. He emphasized that Treaties had been broken in both Caledonia and Brantford. Along side a picture of the Tree of Peace, he outlined the components for his formula: Treaties, Respect, Healing, Education, Love and Friendship.
Elliott went so far as to give an example of love, by offering hugs to both Vandermaas and McHale, two men who have compared his people’s resistance to the KKK and described it as sociopathic. Though Vandermaas accepted the hug, he later indicated that Elliott had done so in front of “aboriginal news cameras” (APTN national news were there to record this panel), implying false intentions on Elliot’s part and that it was some kind of a publicity stunt. Elliott is a member of the Hoskanigetah (Men’s Fire), a group that had been described by Vandermaas as “organized crime.” Indeed in a post that Vandermaas claims is proof that he is not racist, he indicates that there are two types of Natives: “honourable Natives” and “sociopaths.” (a racial binary akin to what Mahmood Mamdani calls good muslim/ bad muslim). By equating Six Nations land reclaimers to sociopaths and ‘evildoers’ Vandermaas implies that negotiations cannot be had with the ‘sociopaths.’ This rendering is deeply rooted in the colonial logics. The notion of the “savage war” is a long held colonial rationality that has been used for centuries to justify violence that would otherwise be deemed excessive and unlawful. The doctrine of the “savage war” follows a logic through which the laws that govern “civilized war” cannot be applied to a “savage war” as the savages do not understand reason and only understand violence. Here it is clearly seen that Vandermaas continues to use deeply colonial ideas to justify his rationale, claiming that those involved in the reclamation are ‘sociopathic’ and cannot be reasoned with. Though perhaps a long shot, it is hoped that having had the opportunity to hear the vision for peace that Elliott offered that perhaps McHale and Vandermaas will recognize the humanity and wisdom of those they attempt to dehumanize and vilify.
While they claim that it is their critics who have a political agenda, it is Gary McHale who has ran for political office on a platform of anti-native fearmongering and he is now throwing his hat into the Haldimand municipal elections to do so again. It seemed to me anyways that McHale was at the conference to advance his own agenda and notoriety, and he certainly gave himself many pats on the back. He claimed it was he who had stemmed the tides of confrontations between Caledonia residents and Six Nations, because he taught Caledonia residents how to peacefully protest. And Vandermaas commented that there were residents who definitely wanted to fight back and retaliate but “we showed them another path.”
So there you have it Caledonia you owe your ability to peacefully protest to none other than your self acclaimed spokesperson Mr. Gary McHale, “National Voice of Caledonia”—as he is now calling himself. So nice that Gary McHale not only came to civilize the “savages” but also you! Having got to know many Caledonia residents who are working towards peace and reconciliation, it’s hard to stomach watching McHale and Vandermaas speak on “behalf of you” or to claim that it is they who taught you what peace is. Even those who do support them were not well represented at this conference. Perhaps the few dozen Caledonia residents who support McHale should start to ask themselves whether they have better uses for their money besides bank rolling McHale’s attempt at self-aggrandizement. The use of Caledonia resident’s pain and experiences as means through which Vandermaas and McHale attempt to give meaning to their lives is disquieting. As one audience member said to me “Is this really helping anybody?”
McHale and Vandermaas certainly felt the heat when their presentations were not very well received during question period, though given the content of the conference they not surprisingly found some like minded friends in the crowd that day. Many in the audience scoffed and squirmed in their seats each time they compared themselves and their activities to Martin Luther King. Some audience members audibly gasped at offensive comments made by Vandermaas and McHale. This was particularly true when Vandermaas had the audacity to compare what Caledonia people have experienced to the systematic and genocidal violence of residential schools, whereby he indicated that if the federal government can offer an apology for residential schools, Six Nations can offer an apology to Caledonia residents. One professor from Mount Royal University stood and said “…I guess what really concerns me is when issues of or protests of white victimhood subsume or erase a history. When I hear a phrase “wrong has been done”, there’s no object or subject, buried in particulars, I just think it’s dangerous.”
Frances Widdowson asked Vandermaas and McHale about their tactics and attempts of raising the Canadian flag close to or on the reclamation site. Asking whether “marching through a colonized area with the symbol of the colonizer could increase tensions or make things more difficult…” McHale replied that he thought it was an extremely successful strategy as he “had to come up with a way to get media attention…” to evidence two-tiered justice. Echoing concerns of their dangerous tactics Ron Bourgeault commented “this can get out of hand…you can walk in the ghetto of Atlanta Georgia with the confederate flag, and that’s free expression, but there are limitations.”
While Vandermaas reported that the conference was a success, its poor attendance speaks otherwise. I have seen better-attended graduate conferences with much less of a budget, and a much higher quality of scholarship. At the end of the day an Indigenous student stood and spoke. Complimenting Dr. David Newhouse’s, chair of Indigenous studies at Trent University, presentation, she went on to say that overwhelming the day had been filled with negative commentary on Indigenous people, governments and issues. She indicated it did not reflect well on Mount Royal University. The moderator of the panel addressed her concern, and stated that Frances Widdowson does not represent the views of Mount Royal University. In fact many of her colleagues had refused to come to the conference because of its content. Widdowson went on to lament that she had a hard time creating “balanced” panels as so few people were willing to speak alongside many of those who participated. Even given this fact, Vandermaas and McHale were actively criticized, and professors, including intimation from Dr. Widdowson herself, underlined that their tactics and their ideas were dangerous.
Videos of the presentations can be seen at:
The Academic Community and Concerned Citizens Respond to the attempted legitimization of Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas’ Anti-Native Activities in a University Setting
By Kate Milley
On April 28th, 2010 “An Open Letter Protesting the Presence of Anti-Native “Militia” Leaders at the May 5th Aboriginal Policy Forum” was posted on the GoPetition site. With over 300 hundred signatories, the letter, written by non-native academics, protested Frances Widdowson’s personal invitation of Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas to the New Directions in Aboriginal Policy Forum. As the letter accounted, scholars, students and citizens’ were concerned that Widdowson was lending legitimacy to anti-Native agitators and their activities.
Within a period of two days, signatures amounted to nearly two hundred. Upon learning about the letter Frances Widdowson posted “Here we go again” on her blog “Offended by Offence.” The letter she indicated was noteworthy for three reasons: 1- it included ‘misinformation’, 2- a “constant accusation of racism without one shred of evidence being presented.” Including “spurious linkage of McHale and Vandermaas to white supremacists”, 3- “the petition is an outrageous attack on freedom of inquiry within the university.” http://blogs.mtroyal.ca/fwiddowson/2010/04/24/here-we-go-again/
In response to accusations of a “libelous smear campaign” the authors of the letter on the GoPettion site subsequently posted a series of links that outlined evidence of claims made in the open letter. Though Frances Widdowson stated quite clearly on her blog that neither Vandermaas nor McHale were members of any “militia,” a number of links to articles were posted that provided clear evidence that McHale and Vandermaas were intimately involved in the formation and activities of the “Caledonia Militia” a group which after public protest of its founding meeting later renamed itself the “Caledonia Peacekeepers.” While McHale, acting as the media relations for the group, claimed that the initial name was simply a publicity stunt, this switch in name came only after a great deal of negative press and a 200 person strong counter protest outside the founding meeting of the militia.
Nevertheless, given McHale’s knowledge that leading neo-Nazis have attended his rallies, whatever the reason for the name it was IRRESPONSIBLE and the name itself conjured the racist violence of the frontier. Whether “militia” or “Peacekeeper”, what is at issue is the suggestion that a group of white residents should organize themselves to effect citizens arrests of Indigenous people. Whether “within the law” or not McHale has focused his efforts on laying charges through private prosecutions, and has attempted to organize a body of persons to effect arrests all the while heavily critiquing the OPP and laying charges against officers himself. The following is a definition of ‘vigilante’ from the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:
Main Entry: vig·i·lan·te Pronunciation: \ˌvi-jə-ˈlan-tē\
Etymology: Spanish, watchman, guard, from vigilante vigilant, from Latin vigilant-, vigilansDate: 1856
: a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate); broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice
While McHale claims there is two-tier justice against him, as a white man, one can only imagine what the police response would be if a group of Black men started organizing to effect citizens arrests of white people, posted wanted signs of individual OPP officers on their website, and then began laying charges against white people and the police force itself. At the first “militia” meeting, McHale spoke for over an hour instructing those in the audience about how to effect citizens arrest of Indigenous people. While Doug Fleming, the man who announced the formation of the ‘militia’, indicated that the group was not racially motivated it was clearly organized with respect to people at Six Nations asserting their land rights.
Frances Widdowson forcefully decried the letter as an attack on academic freedom, and indicated the letter itself was taken down from the GoPetition site because of “slander.” In fact the letter was removed when go petition advised that they had “received a legal opinion from Mr McHale arguing that contents of the petition constitute defamation in Canada. GoPetition does not offer any opinion as to whether these assertions are legally accurate. However, in these circumstances, we cannot continue to host your petition. Our actions are in no way a commentary on the validity or utility of the contents of your petition, but rather reflect our own internal policies.” Mark Vandermaas soon celebrated this “victory of free speech” and wrote on his blog that “Mr. McHale has captured screen images of the names and comments for ‘future use.’” Though she decried the letter as an attack on academic freedom, there was no response when the voices of over two-hundred academics, scholars and citizens, including Caledonia residents, were silenced in the face of their protest nor threatened with the “future use” of their names by McHale. Despite their attempts to silence, the letter gained over 300 signatories, ten times the amount of people that actually attended the conference. And indeed apparently signatures are still coming in!
On April 25th Mark Vandermaas posted “Native militants & CUPE try to intimidate Mount Royal University into silence re: Caledonia;” alongside the text a picture of the Nuremburg laws were provided. As per usual any protest of McHale and Vandermaas was spun by them into a rampant conspiracy of ‘native terrorists’ and non-native ‘terrorist’ supporters to smear their ‘good name.’ While simply outlining the documented evidence that neo-Nazi and leading white supremacists have attended and advertised their rallies is apparently a smear campaign orchestrated by ‘violent prone Natives’ and their supporters, comparing Six Nations resistance to the KKK or Nazi ideology is according to these men perfectly reasonable—they after all take their inspiration from Dr. King.
What is of interest in both Vandermaas’ and Widdowson’s responses is the fixation on two facts within the letter 1- that McHale and Vandermaas were very involved in the formation of the Caledonia Militia, 2- that neo-Nazis have attended and advertised their events. Their reactions speak to a superficial understanding of racism, wherein racism is understood as belonging solely to KKK style militias and neo-Nazis. Nowhere for example in Widdowson’s post does she make mention of the fact that Vandermaas and McHale readily describe Six Nations people resisting the ongoing theft of their land as “sociopathic,” “evildoers,” “terroristic” or as “organized crime.” And neither McHale nor Vandermaas understood this factual outlining as racist, indeed in Vandermaas’ response he continued to use this language.
According to their logic, to call the Six Nations Men’s Fire an “organized crime group” or to suggest that the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which is the union of most academics in Ontario, support terrorism is not slanderous, or a smear campaign. And even more glaring is that to compare Indigenous people resisting colonialism to the KKK, to go so far as to superimpose a KKK hood on a picture of a Six Nations man—an extremely symbolic act of racist violence, particularly as Indigenous people were lynched by the KKK—is according to McHale and Vandermaas apt and reasonable, whereas the comparison of a group of people organized in a white-backlash movement mobilizing themselves under the banner ‘militia’ to the KKK is a media/left wing/native militant conspiracy.
For further reading on anti-Native movements and white backlash please see:
It seems still neither Vandermaas nor McHale are able to break out of the racial binaries that so haunt their work. The letter was automatically accorded to “Native militants”, despite the fact that the letter was written by non-Native academics. A similar reaction was also seen on March 21st, 2010, when in an attempt to appropriate “ant-racism” and The International Day for the Elimination of Racism in the name of ‘white victimhood,’ 60 non-Native protestors came out to protest his rally. On that day McHale claimed he and his group were threatened by the presence of ‘Native Militants,’ though there were only a handful of Indigenous people present, most of whom were standing back from the main group of protestors. The use of racial binaries is glaring in McHale and Vandermaas’ analysis and rhetoric. It seems so inconceivable to these men that non-Natives would support Indigenous resistance against the ongoing theft of their land, that they are unable to process the reality that those who came to oppose them were non-Native.
To See video and write ups of these events please see:
According to Vandermaas the letter was as an attempt to silence the victims of Caledonia. What is becoming increasingly clear and alarming in their rhetoric is that McHale and Vandermaas have a funny way of conflating themselves with Caledonia. The letter was not written to protest any Caledonian resident, the letter was written to protest the presence of anti-Native activists at an academic forum, neither of whom are from Caledonia. The letter stated in reference to McHale and Vandermaas that “Many Caledonia residents are fed up with their antics, especially those who are working to heal the tensions between Caledonia and Six Nations……We stand for peace and justice in Caledonia and Six Nations, and decry those who attempt to increase violence and tension through inflammatory actions and speech.” It is to be noted that out of those from Caledonia who signed the letter, many made sure that their names were not visible to the public, in order to protect themselves. As one Caledonia resident wrote: “As a resident of Caledonia I can assure you that these people are NOT Caledonia’s National Voice. Out of concern for my family from the intimidation and retaliation these people and their followers wage, I sign “Anonymous”. I encourage ALL peoples of Caledonia and Six Nations to continue to build friendships and understanding. Together through communication we will find the key and “lasting peace” will be our answer.”
Though the letter was taken down because McHale and Vandermaas made a claim that it was defamatory, even after the conference signatures continue to flow in. The conference held on May 5th, 2010 in Calgary was minimally attended (no more than 40 participants, including speakers) and as stated by a Mount Royal professor, many of Widdowson’s colleagues refused to attend the conference because of its content. Several Mount Royal professors and former students added their names to the Letter. Leading scholars from across the north half of Turtle Island added their voices to protest the promulgation of anti-Native colonial logics in an academic setting. More professors added their name to the letter than attended Widdowson’s conference. It was extremely important that the academic community be informed of Frances Widdowson’s personal invitation of these anti-Native leaders to her conference. Most importantly over three hundred people became aware of the anti-Native activities of these men, and it can be assumed that Gary McHale can no longer circulate in national news sources uncritically as a ‘civil rights activist’ without loud and informed dissent.
Open Letter Protesting the Presence of Anti-Native “Militia” Leaders at the May 5th Aboriginal Policy Forum
Please add your signature and circulate widely.
An Open Letter Protesting the Presence of Anti-Native “Militia” Leaders at the May 5th Aboriginal Policy Forum at Mount Royal University
As scholars, students and concerned citizens we are deeply troubled by the invitation of grass roots anti-Native organizers and leaders of the “Caledonia Militia” to the New Directions on Aboriginal Policy Forum to be held on May 5th, 2010 at Mount Royal University. Dr. Frances Widdowson personally invited Mark Vandermaas and Gary McHale to be discussants on a panel entitled “Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Rule of Law.” McHale and Vandermaas are leading figures in grassroots anti-Native organizing against the Six Nations people of the Grand River Territory in south-western Ontario; they have played key roles in the formation of a non-native “militia” aimed at repressing Indigenous land protests and they have also organized a variety of anti-Native protests, a number of which have attracted the support of neo-Nazis and far right racists. While Vandermaas and McHale claim to speak for Caledonians, their activities have consistently increased tensions in this community facing a well documented land claims dispute.
The groups that McHale and Vandermaas are involved with falsely describe Indigenous people resisting the ongoing theft of their land and the abrogation of treaty rights as “organized criminals”, “terrorists”, “lawless” and continually refer to Six Nations people protesting as “Native thugs.” McHale and Vandermaas describe themselves as ‘non-violent’ ‘human rights activists’ inspired by the vision of Martin Luther King, working to dismantle a “two-tiered justice system” that benefits Indigenous people. On March 21st 2010, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, McHale organized an ‘anti-racist’ rally claiming that white people in the area are oppressed by ‘race-based policing’ and “Canadian Apartheid.” These alarming appropriations are an insult to the histories of anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles and to all who uphold anti-racism. The re-naming of anti-Native organizing as anti-racist struggle is an affront to the struggles of Indigenous peoples and peoples of color across the globe who have survived and continue to struggle against genocide, apartheid, and colonialism. As scholars, students and people of conscience we need to expose the violence of this appropriation by McHale and Vandermaas, not legitimize it.
While McHale loves to sue people for defamation of his character, his inflammatory campaigns have smeared Six Nations grandmothers and mothers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Auto Workers, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the provincial and Canadian governments and the OPP as either being “terrorists” or aiding and abetting “terrorism”. McHale and Vandermaas consistently portray assertions of Indigenous sovereignty as lawless, terrorist, racist and evidence of what they term a “Native Supremacy Movement.” These understandings are not far removed from the perspectives of conference organizer, Dr. Frances Widdowson, who claims that “current demands for ‘aboriginal nationalism’ and ‘sovereignty’, because they connect land to ancestry, have more in common with the ideology of Nazi Germany than left-wing ideas.” Not surprisingly, while movements for Indigenous sovereignty gain little support from neo-Nazis, Gary McHale and his anti-Native activities certainly do. Paul Fromm, a high profile white supremacist leader, best known for his support of holocaust denier Ernest Zundel, has actively publicized McHale and his events on the neo-nazi website Stormfront. Fromm has been photographed at McHale led events, as have other members of neo-Nazi organizations such as the London, Ontario “Northern Alliance” group.
While McHale claims he is the “National voice of Caledonia”, neither he nor Vandermaas reside in Caledonia and they do not speak on behalf of all Caledonians. Indeed Mr. McHale was from 2007 to 2010 banned from entering Caledonia due to bail conditions stemming from the eruption of violence at one of his protests. The Commissioner of the OPP has described McHale et al.’s actions as a ‘lightning rod’ for confrontation and violence. Many Caledonia residents are fed up with their antics, especially those who are working to heal the tensions between Caledonia and Six Nations.
We the undersigned condemn the “New Directions on Aboriginal Policy Forum’s” decision to give these anti-Native agitators an academic stage to parade their false allegations and half-truths. Anti-Native activism and militias are not a “New Direction”, in Aboriginal policy, — in fact they represent a very old pattern of colonial activity that seeks to increase and justify violence and injustice against Indigenous peoples. We believe that the inclusion of McHale and Vandermaas in a discussion on Aboriginal Policy will serve to normalize racism, aggression, appropriation, and citizen-led militias as tools to solve localized conflicts over Indigenous lands, whereas what is needed is a recognition of Indigenous land rights, nation to nation negotiations and the peaceful settlement of land claims. We stand for peace and justice in Caledonia and Six Nations, and decry those who attempt to increase violence and tension through inflammatory actions and speech.
For more information and background on these issues, please go to https://6nsolidarity.wordpress.com/
TO SIGN THE LETTER:
The gopetition site has disabled the site because “GoPetition has received a legal opinion from Mr McHale arguing that contents of the petition constitute defamation in Canada. GoPetition does not offer any opinion as to whether these assertions are legally accurate. However, in these circumstances, we cannot continue to host your petition. Our actions are in no way a commentary on the validity or utility of the contents of your petition, but rather reflect our own internal policies.” It is of course interesting that the letter of protest above simply condemns the invitation of these anti-Native leaders to an academic forum on Aboriginal Policy, and that these anti-Native leaders have tried to assure that your voices will not be heard, all the while claiming that the letter is an attempt to silence them and Caledonia residents. As the letter asserts “We stand for peace and justice in Caledonia and Six Nations, and decry those who attempt to increase violence and tension through inflammatory actions and speech.” If the petition were still up, you would be able to see that the majority of Caledonia residents ensured that their names remained anonymous to the public out of concern. As one Caledonia resident wrote: ” As a resident of Caledonia I can assure you that these people are NOT Caledonia’s National Voice. Out of concern for my family from the intimidation and retaliation these people and their followers wage, I sign “Anonymous”. I encourage ALL peoples of Caledonia and Six Nations to continue to build friendships and understanding. Together through communication we will find the key and “lasting peace” will be our answer. ”
To add your signature to this open letter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add your name along with 286 names that have signed so far. Please include: your full name, email address, province, country, university or other affiliation and any comment you would like added to the petition. It is also encouraged that you send a letter of concern yourself directly to the Mount Royal Dean and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts:
Manuel Mertin, PhD Dean, Faculty of Arts
Sabrina Reed, PhD, Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts
Frances Widdowson and Mark Vandermaas have posted responses to this letter of Protest on their respective blogs. In both posts the authors claim that Vandermaas and McHale were never a part of the Caledonia “Militia.” Vandermaas was in attendance at the first meeting of the “Militia” in June of 2009, claimed on his blog that he fully supported it, and in a Brantford Expositor news article is described as a leader. McHale is the media spokesperson for this group. McHale also spoke at the first meeting for an hour, a clip of the speech given that day can be seen on the youtube link below. The clip is from CHCH news, and shows McHale telling the first meeting of the Caledonia “Militia” that citizens can pressure the OPP ‘into doing their jobs,’ by saying either you arrest that person “or I will.” After much negative media coverage McHale, the spokesperson for the group, announced that the group would be renamed the “Caledonia Peacekeepers” and claimed that naming the group “militia” was designed to create press for the group. Whatever the reasoning the group planned to effect citizens arrests of people engaging in what McHale has termed “native lawlessness.” While Flemming, a close associate of both Vandermaas and McHale, claimed that the group would arrest anyone breaking the law, the group was clearly organized with respect to Six Nations resistance to the ongoing theft of their land.
For further information on Gary McHale’s protests, police responses and former bail conditions please go to:
To see evidence of Neo-Nazi attendance and advertisement of McHale led events please go to:
To Read Widdowson’s and Vandermaas’ responses:
Vandermaas’ response is entitled “Native militants & CUPE try to intimidate university into silence re Caledonia victims.” Once again any organizing against McHale and Vandermaas gets accorded to “Native Militants”. This letter was written by non-Native academics concerned by the invitation of two men to an academic forum who continuously cast Six Nations people protesting the continued theft of their land as “terrorists”, “militants”, “thugs,” “criminals”, “sociopaths” and as a part of a “Native Supremacy Movement.” They have gone so far as to post a picture of a Six Nations man with a KKK hood superimposed. Here is a link to a page posted on Caledonia Wake Up Call where author Gary McHale continuously refers to “the Natives,” and “their” shared ideology with the KKK.