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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.