Press Release: Obstruction and criminalization of free press by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) violates our fundamental rights

PRESS RELEASE
(DOWNLOAD PDF VERSION HERE)

OHSWEKEN  – Since July 19, 2020 a peaceful group of Haudenosaunee land defenders and Six Nations community members began the reclamation of a part of their territory, renaming it 1492 Land Back Lane.

Azaadi Now released a feature episode on 1492 Land Back Lane on Aug. 27.  We are an independent media outlet that is dedicated to creating space for Indigenous voices, and reporting on Indigenous issues by Indigenous people. Our independent media focuses on educating our community about the conditions of Indigenous relatives and kin globally. 

On early Saturday Sept. 5th, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) visited the home of one of our core production team members (who was not there at the time), without any prior communication or notice. We acquired legal counsel, and learnt through our counsel that an arrest warrant has been issued for this team member. On Wednesday Sept. 9 morning, our team member turned themselves in, was arrested, charged, and released at OPP’s Cayuga Police detachment. Since Aug. 5th, 26 individuals have been charged in relation to the 1492 Land Back Lane reclamation, 15 of these have been within the last week, including our team member.

The OPP has issued a criminal charge of ‘mischief’ and failure to comply with the court injunction order (which prohibits anyone from visiting the land back camp) against our team member. This charge and the order has the effect of preventing our team member from reporting on developments at 1492 Land Back Lane.

Criminalization of free press is a dangerous route to go for any democracy. Unfortunately, this is the direction Canada has chosen. Canada has a pattern of policing-units (RCMP, OPP) preventing journalists from covering Indigenous land defense stories. This pattern is similar to many settler-colonial fascist states across the globe, like India in relation to Kashmir. The trend continues here in Canada with the recent arrests of One Dish, One Mic’s Haudenosaunee co-host Karl Dockstader and recently, Azaadi Now’s production team member. This pattern of obstruction and criminalization of free press violates Canada’s constitutional commitments to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The criminalization and genocidal removal of Indigenous land defenders from their own territories by settler colonial states is another pattern we see globally. Such actions violate Indigenous peoples rights, as set out under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, to which Canada is a signatory. 

We ask our friends and supporters to challenge these rights violations. Please contact your elected representatives and ask them to denounce the criminalization of media and Indigenous land defenders, and to drop the charges.

Media Contact: Binish Ahmed, ContactUs@KashmirGulposh.com, 416-830-7362

Kashmir Gulposh is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice, and prosperity in Kashmir region. Azaadi Now is Kashmir Gulposh’s independent media platform that covers current affairs in Kashmir and Indigenous resurgence globally.
http://www.KashmirGulposh.com

Kashmiri Art Exhibit

TORONTO – Kashmiris living in the Greater Toronto showcased their artwork on Sept 21. Their work was displayed at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm. Called ‘Kashmiri Resistance Art,’ this exhibit displays Kashmiri peoples’ responses to the siege by the Indian government. It is a response to colonial aggressions, military occupation and widespread atrocities against the Indigenous people of the valley. 

At the time, it was 48 days, or 7 weeks as of Sept 21 since India imposed a communications blockade [no internet or phones] and unilaterally ended its constitutional relationship with Kashmir, while simultaneously imposing direct colonial authority. Since then, International rights monitoring bodies have criticized India for collectively punishing millions of innocent Indigenous Kashmiris. Kashmiris in Kashmir have been silenced, they are unable to communicate with each other or the rest of the world. The free press has been threatened, attacked, and repressed from reporting what is happening there. Meanwhile, Kashmiris economy has collapsed due to the lockdown and restrictions, and the healthcare crisis is worsening each day.

This Exhibit is a place where some Kashmiri Canadians are choosing to tell their stories. “Art voice allows our community members to share what’s on their mind, be heard, during a moment of an unprecedented crisis. This is their way of communicating how they’re grappling with not having access to their loved ones under a lock-down and blanket blockade for 7 weeks…” said Binish Ahmed, a Kashmiri artist, academic and Director of Kashmir Gulposh.

Over 15 Kashmiri artists of all ages have registered to exhibit their work. Their works speak to the impact of 70+ years of militarized occupation and colonization, attempted land grab, demographic change, and genocidal violence. They are looking forward to displaying their work. We invite the Toronto community at-large to come spend time with us.