Tragic news came this week when Loretta Saunders’ body was found dumped outside in the woods. Saunders is a Inuk woman who was writing her thesis on missing and murdered indigenous women at St Mary’s University in Halifax. Police have charged Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette with her murder- both sublet Saunder’s apartment after she moved in with her boyfriend. Saunders was reported to have been both pregnant, and on methadone.
Whenever there’s a tragedy to be exploited, there’ll inevitably be a steeple chase of politicians, ambulance chasers and militant unions fighting over who gets to catch the ball. Of course, today’s story is no different, Saunder’s family haven’t had time to bury their daughter and Canada’s newest militant union unifor has already issued a press release and calling for an investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women.
There’s nothing wrong with unifor writing a presser, if it’s genuine of course- but, to use the tragic death of a young woman for political purposes would be distasteful, to say the least…
The first thing one notices about unifor’s press release is that neither of the people quoted in it appears to be of indigenous background- unifor President Jerry Dias, and the aptly named Julie White, the Director of unifor’s Women’s Department. That’s rather uncomfortable.
But, more important than that is to try and understand unifor’s intentions- are they doing this for good, or are they sucking off of the marrow of indigenous tragedy? Their history indicates it could very well be the latter.
unifor is a new union formed out of a merger between the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union (CEP) and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)- both are militant unions who’ve played important parts in the re-emergence of Canadian political violence. They’ve also dabbled a lot in indigenous affairs- an area where the people at the CAW have helped cause a lot of damage in the past.
A macabre example is the story of Kevin Annett- a con-artist who faked the discovery of a mass grave of residential school survivors in Brantford, Ontario in 2011. Annett was eventually turfed-out by the people of the Six Nations, but not after causing an enormous amount of pain and damage to the community. Annett is a defrocked United Church minister who was thrown out after refusing to take a psychological exam (after some pretty insane behaviour).
Soon after he was defrocked Annett was next hired by the CAW to help recruit United Church clergy into the union (this was a long project that was only recently accomplished under the unifor banner). A member of the CAW’s aboriginal group was on the scene as Annett pretended to dig for bones, many others were promoting his ‘work’. Annett was glowingly promoted by Ryerson professor and CAW Sam Gindin Chair Winnie Ng (despite widespread knowledge he was a nutbar). CAW funded Rabble.ca and Media Co-Op websites promoted Annett like he was the saviour of all indigenous people.
When anarchists and indigenous radicals partnered during the Caledonia occupation, CAW activists were front-and-centre on the scene promoting the violence, destruction, and lawlessness. One of the town’s residents was assaulted and received permanent brain damage– this is what democracy looks like?
It’s also important to take note how the CAW was one of the sponsors of Defenders of the Land- the organization responsible for hijacking the money flow at Idle No More, and refusing to report the books to the movement’s founders. Is this what unifor calls being a “settler ally”?
Sounds more like colonial activity to me…
One can hope that unifor is stepping into this with genuine intentions, the thought anyone would be otherwise in this situation is so repugnant that it’s hard to even think about. But we’ve not heard anyone at unifor standing-up and atoning for their past indulgences. Nobody’s made any promises unifor won’t participate in future violent (militant) provocations. How far are they willing to take their militancy? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.
Why Is This Important Right Now?
Shawn Brant is an indigenous professional protester whose roots go back to the notorious Ontario Coalition Against Poverty- an organization that was originally funded by the (you guessed it!) CAW. Brant has been involved in most every major militant indigenous protest from Oka onwards (as was the CAW), he’s currently threatening the “Harper government” he’ll start transportation blockades between Toronto and Montreal if there isn’t an immediate inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
Oh, and Shawn Brant is the kind of confused puppy who promotes violence by spinning Ghandi into Rambo. (The video is by notable Toronto idiot Zach Ruiter)
Canada’s system of dealing with missing and murdered people (of all races and genders) is so badly broken that it hurts to watch the inaction. The government can’t even account who was missing and who returned- there’s no integrated system to do this. Mass murderers are caught and let go to find more victims. People who decapitate others are being let out to wander the streets while everyone prays they’ll take their own medication. Something’s wrong, the system must be fixed.
But, just as wrong as the system is, using any part of the tragedies of missing and murdered people for political gain is (at best) the height of distaste. People who tread in this area need to tread lightly- we saw what happened after the unions got a hold of Sammy Yatim’s family. This must never be allowed to happen again.
unifor, the ball is in your court, please assure us you have no intention to continue this ugly history. Stand up and show us what you’re made of…