Canadian author Doug Bland recently released a new book called Time Bomb that warns Canada is at risk of reaching a “flashpoint” with indigenous relations. Bland has some impressive qualifications, he was a senior officer in the Canadian Forces and served as the chair of defence studies at Queens University. His 2012 book Uprising explored a chilling potential outcome if armed First Nations protests broke out across the country
Bland’s research explains how protesters could take advantage of weaknesses in Canada’s transportation infrastructure to freeze and/or have a significant impact on our economy. Basically, as a large country with a relatively small population, small groups of geographically distributed protesters could cause economic chaos by shutting down rail, bridges, and highways across the country.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it- but, is this really a possiblity? Well, if the organizers behind #ShutDownCanada are successful, the (faux) revolution will be televised on February 13th…
#ShutDownCanada: The “What”
#ShutDownCanada’s organizers have announced that the protest’s goal is to “significantly impact the Canadian economy for a day”. Direct actions recommended by the organizers include simple tasks of resistance like taking sick leave from work to blocking highways, rail lines and border crossings.
Readers who’ve followed Occupy, Idle No More, or the labour movement will probably recognize these tactics. In its most simplified form, the organizers are calling for a general strike. Radical elements of the labour community have been working towards this goal since the birth of the anti-globalization movement in the late 1990’s.
Like the Occupy movement, #ShutDownCanada’s organizers are engaging with protesters who support a wide variety of issues. But while Occupy was primarily focussed on the needs of everyone; this protest has a distinct focus on indigenous issues including the call for an investigation into missing/murdered indigenous women, treaty issues, and the environment.
Organizers support what’s called “diversity of tactics”, a doctrine that allows participants to do anything they want. This could mean hanging banners, holding round dances, or firebombing a branch of the RBC. DoT demands both that it’s not acceptable to criticise other people’s tactics, but that it’s requred to support them when/if they get caught.
#ShutDownCanada: Who’s Organizing It?
The protest’s event page was created by a Facebook account called “In Solidarity with all Land Defenders”. It’s unknown who’s running the account; the phrase “in solidarity with” is often used by non-native “allies” engaged in union/NGO/activist revolutionary circles. But regardless of who’s running it, native or Alinskyite warrior, #ShutDownCanada appears to be drawing the usual suspects from Occupy, Idle No More, May Day marches, #BurnabyMountain, and so on.
Take Dan Wallace for example, a Vancouver based revolutionary who saved me the effort of itemizing his protest rap sheet by posting it on the Facebook page. Wallace is everywhere people who genuinely desire peaceful protests don’t want to be.
One incident he doesn’t mention on his list is when he openly encouraged protesters to engage in “violence against the police” at Vancouver’s 2014 May Day parade. In August, Wallace jetted out to Ottawa for the the militant union sponsored (CUPW, CUPE, Unifor, etc) Peoples Social Forum (it’s unknown if he got Naomi Klein’s autograph, or one of Libby Davies’ dreaded free hugs).
When not organizing tent cities, locking his neck to gates with a deluded friend who compares herself to Gandhi, marching on #BurnabyMountain, colluding with unions, or praising Black Bloc anarcho-kiddies for their “great contributions” to social justice movements- Wallace is often seen promoting (and visiting) the Unist’ot’en action camp in northern BC.
The camp’s “peaceful” protesters (snuggled together behind the cosiness of their barbed wire barrier) regularly surround, harass, and threaten “unauthorized” blue collar workers- the RCMP have classified Unist’ot’en as an extremist group. Wallace describes himself as a close friend of David Suzuki’s grandson Tamo Campos- all three have travelled to Unist’ot’en.
It took less than half an hour after Wallace’s May Day call to violence for his fellow protesters to grant his wish. Protesters clashed the Vancouver PD, surrounding a city bus and pushing their way into police lines. A few people got arrested that day, but as Dan Wallace explained in his posting about dealing with the police, there’s little reason to fear using force against BC police, there’s only a small likelihood one will be faced with repercussions.
Like many of his comrades, Dan Wallace puts great effort into demonizing (and therefore weakening the potential response) of the security services whose job it is to make sure the public is safe from people who use violence. He’s gotten away for this for so long he now feels he can commit crimes with impunity.
Mike Roy is another interesting character who’s been active on the Facebook page. Mike first came to wide public attention when Ezra Levant showed-up to one of his Line 9 protests capturing on-film how uneducated they are about the subject they were protesting. In 2012 Roy filmed a YouTube video demonstrating to people how they could interrupt and sabotage train lines.
#ShutDownCanada: What Next ?
#ShutDownCanada is at its early stages so it’s difficult to judge their potential for success. That said, Wallace has been front-and-centre at every major Vancouver area protest this past year and appears to have significant support (remember, he’s besties with David Suzuki’s grandson). He’s already confirmed events in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Victoria, Thunder Bay, and San Francisco (coincidentally where much of the NGO money comes from).
It’s probably no coincidence we’re seeing a call for a general strike on an election year. When you dig into the protester’s backgrounds, they almost invariably link to more radical elements of the NDP, Greens, and (sometimes) Liberals (Hi Joyce Murray!). Expect 2015 to bring many attempts at similar high-profile protests- we live in interesting times.
Let’s hope Canadian law enforcement’s tendency to let people like Dan Wallace continue to promote violence is part of a (competent) plan…