Indigenous journalist says OPP charges cripple his ability t

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Indigenous journalist says OPP charges cripple his ability t

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:53 pm

Indigenous journalist says OPP charges cripple his ability to cover Six Nations land struggle

Karl Dockstader said his heart broke Wednesday evening when he sat his two daughters down to explain that the Ontario Provincial Police had arrested and charged him for doing his job — journalism.

Dockstader, a journalist from Oneida Nation of the Thames, was charged Tuesday with mischief and failure to comply with a court order — an injunction.

"I never thought I was going to have to sit my 10- and 12-year-old daughters down in our living room … and talk to them about how their dad was arrested," he said.

"That's a cycle of violence that I am trying to break as an Indigenous man and I thought that an honourable career like journalism would give me an opportunity to break the cycle of violence, not to bring it into my own house ... It was just earth-shattering."

Dockstader was charged after spending half the summer reporting on the ongoing reclamation movement focused on a parcel of land in Caledonia, Ont. It was part of the Haldimand Tract, which was granted to the Haudenosaunee of Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American revolution, and is now slated for a housing development called McKenzie Meadows.

The site was christened "1492 Land Back Lane" and Six Nations members have held the land since July, halting construction.

Caledonia sits about 20 kilometres south of Hamilton and next to the Six Nations reserve, which has the largest population of any First Nation in the country with over 27,200 members.

Reporting from the ground

A raid in early August by the OPP to clear the reclamation camp triggered road blockades and tire fires — echoing the events of 2006 over a different housing developing that was also on a contested portion of the Haldimand Tract.

In late August, an Ontario court judge extended an injunction evicting Six Nation members occupying the site. The OPP has arrested about 17 individuals.

Dockstader started reporting from the ground on the movement in mid-July for a Sunday radio show on 610 CKTB, One Dish One Mic, which he co-hosts with Sean Vanderkliss from Curve Lake First Nation.

Dockstader is a co-recipient of the 2020 Canadian Journalism Foundation-CBC Indigenous fellowship along with Vanderkliss. They have not yet begun the fellowship.

Dockstader's last dispatch from the site was a video posted on social media on Aug. 29.

Then on Tuesday at about 2:30 p.m. ET he received an email on his work account from an OPP constable who said she needed to speak to him about McKenzie Meadows. Dockstader said he phoned the officer who told him that she intended to charge him with mischief and disobeying a court order.

"I immediately told her I was a member of the media, that I was there chronicling what was happening at the site," said Dockstader.

The officer responded by saying he was free to bring forward that evidence in a meeting with the OPP.

Dockstader said he ended the conversation and reached out to a lawyer.

"I think she made up her mind to press charges and it didn't matter I was a member of the media," he said.

Dockstader said he believes there is a connection between his posted video and the charge because the information sheet for the charges notes Aug. 29 as the start date of the infraction.

Dockstader turned himself in the next day at the OPP detachment in Cayuga, Ont., where he was formally charged.

His first court date is scheduled for Nov. 24.

Charges undermine coverage

Dockstader said the charges have crippled his ability to continue reporting on the story. One of his conditions prevents him from stepping back onto the site and the other forbids him from contacting Foxgate Developments, which is behind the housing project.

"The journalism is targeted ... they are ignoring that I am a journalist and still proceeding with charges," said Dockstader.

The charges have done little to quench Dockstader's commitment to journalism. He used his own funds to finance much of his reporting work at the reclamation site.

"I am more motivated than ever to be a storyteller after having been arrested," said Dockstader.

"It highlights why we need journalism and why we need journalists who are educated [in Indigenous issues]."

The OPP said in a statement that it was "committed to the freedom of the press" and "respects the important role" media plays.

"Engaging in activities outside of their reporting purpose could subject media personnel to charges in relation to violation of a court order and other applicable offences," said the statement.

Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), said it's not up to police to determine what constitutes reporting activities.

"I think that's a freedom of the press issue … I think it's not up to the OPP, or the government … to make that determination in a country and a democracy like Canada," said Jolly.

The CAJ and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression issued a statement Friday condemning the arrest and calling for the OPP to drop the charges.

In June, criminal charges against journalist Justin Brake were dismissed by a Newfoundland and Labrador judge over a four year-long case involving his coverage of a protest over a hydroelectric project called Muskrat Falls.

Brake, now a producer with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, faced both civil and criminal charges after spending several days on the Muskrat Falls site which had been occupied by Indigenous opponents to the development.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal had issued a decision in 2019 dismissing the civil charges, ruling that special consideration should be given to journalists reporting in good faith on matters of public interest. The judge said that "to achieve the goal of reconciliation, better understanding of Aboriginal peoples and Aboriginal issues is needed."

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Criminalization of Indigenous journalism contradicts reconci

Postby Thomas » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:16 pm

Criminalization of Indigenous journalism contradicts reconciliation

What does it take to get arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)? Well, if we go by recent events around 1492 Land Back Lane, it looks like the arrest criteria include being Indigenous, an award-winning journalist and covering First Nation land defence stories. Because that is exactly what happened to Karl Dockstader, an Oneida journalist and radio host embedded with Haudenosaunee land defenders and providing daily updates via social media and video. What’s worse is that the OPP refuses to tell Dockstader what he has done wrong.

If this doesn’t make sense to you — it shouldn’t. Canada’s Constitution protects freedom of the press, the right to protest and Indigenous land rights. So what’s the problem here?

The problem is a little thing called racism; something which is widespread in the OPP — at least according to the Ipperwash Inquiry. This week marks 25 years since the OPP shot and killed unarmed land defender Dudley George in 1995. George had been peacefully occupying lands that rightfully belong to people of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. They had long tried to get the government to return those lands as originally promised, but their calls went unheeded for decades. As a result, several families relocated back on to their lands and hoped to push government into action. Instead, they were met with a hostile premier who pushed to get “the fucking Indians out of the park” and a hostile OPP who wanted to “amass a fucking army. A real fucking army and do this. Do these fuckers bigtime.” It should be no surprise that a land defender was killed.

The resulting 2007 Ipperwash Inquiry, headed by Justice Allen Linden, looked into the OPP killing of George, dispelled the myth that the OPP suffered from only a “few bad apples” and instead found racism against Indigenous peoples to be “widespread.” There were numerous recommendations for the OPP to address racism within its ranks and work on better relationships with Indigenous peoples — especially in the context of Indigenous land occupations and protests.

The OPP was also urged to do better vis-à-vis the media and ensure only verified information is reported. Justice Linden noted that most Canadians only learn about Indigenous land occupations and protests through the media and that too often they defer to official police accounts of happenings.

One of the expert findings of the inquiry was that there was no independent media account of the police killing of George. In other words, there were no media on the scene embedded with the land defenders or reporting on events. In fact, of the 92 opinion pieces written about the events, only three of the authors had ever even visited the site.

It’s no wonder most media accounts portrayed the land defenders in a negative light. Don’t forget, during the Gustafsen Lake land occupation, RCMP officials bragged about “misinformation or smear campaign” being their “specialty” against the Indigenous land defenders. That is why having independent journalists on the site of land occupations and protests is so important. Indigenous voices have long been excluded from mainstream coverage and decades of relying on police statements skews both the facts and public opinion.

So why the recent criminalization of journalists covering Indigenous land occupations?

Here we are 25 years later and what has changed since Ipperwash? We have yet another Indigenous nation, the Haudenosaunee at Six Nations, who have been seeking the return of their lands in the Haldimand Tract for many decades without success. It was only 14 years ago that the proposed Douglas Creek Estates subdivision in Caledonia on Six Nations’ land resulted in Six Nations members reoccupying their lands.

Their calls to the government to address this long-standing land claim resulted in counter protests by local residents which lasted for months. While governments subsequently made commitments to negotiate, the right of Six Nations to own, use, occupy and govern their own lands in the Haldimand Tract has not been fully resolved. It should be no surprise then that when another developer proposed to build another community known as McKenzie Meadows in Caledonia; Six Nations peoples occupied their lands and peacefully camped there to remind all levels of government that this is Six Nations lands.

One of the journalists, Dockstader, had been providing updates on social media and through his radio show for the last week until he was arrested by the OPP. Dockstader is a radio show co-host of One Dish One Mic and family man. He holds the prestigious Canadian Journalism Foundation CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship for 2020 with his co-host Sean Vanderklis from Curve Lake First Nation. According to Dockstader, he was not committing any crimes, posing a danger to anyone or making threats — nor was he engaged in facilitating a protest.

He was simply doing his job as a journalist by going into Haudenosaunee territory, embedding himself within the camp over a matter of days and reporting about what was happening on the ground at 1492 Land Back Lane. That is exactly the kind of relationship building and in-depth contextual reporting that media should be engaged in when it comes to better understanding Indigenous land occupations and better representing Indigenous voices.

This should have been one of the lessons learned from the Ipperwash Inquiry. Yet, there have been no less than three arrests of journalists trying to cover Indigenous land occupation stories on the ground. Melissa Cox was covering Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions in B.C. when she was arrested and charged by the police. Thankfully, a court later threw out those charges.

Similarly, Justin Brake was another journalist who also embedded himself with Indigenous land defenders protesting Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland and was charged criminally and civilly by police. The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal ultimately reaffirmed the right of journalists to report on matters of public interest — especially when it involves Indigenous issues and the media’s role in reconciliation. We all watched as heavily armed RCMP removed journalists from the scene when they moved in and removed peaceful Wet’suwet’en peoples from their lands. Similarly, the OPP pushed back journalists when they were about to arrest those engaged in Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions at Tyendinaga.

Given that freedom of the press is not only constitutionally protected but has been upheld by courts for decades; these moves by law enforcement appear to be abuses of power that undermine Canada’s so-called “rule of law” rather than enforce it. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has announced that it will support Dockstader if the matter proceeds to court. The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have also strongly condemned the OPP’s arrest of Dockstader.

CAJ president Brent Jolly stated: “The OPP are well aware that journalists have an established constitutional right to be present and cover matters of public interest. Attempting to prevent a journalist from documenting a moment of contentious action is impermissible in a country like Canada. Journalism can never be silenced.”

Similarly, the president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Phil Tunley said: “It is particularly disappointing at this time to see another police force not only exceeding its powers, but undermining the efforts of Canadians and their governments to pursue reconciliation with our First Peoples.”

Even St. Catherines, Ont., Mayor Walter Sendzik took to Twitter expressing serious concerns over the OPP arresting Dockstader.

In addition to not providing Dockstader details on what he is alleged to have done wrong, the OPP has imposed conditions on him that prevent him from going back to 1492 Land Back Lane and also from contacting the site’s proposed developer Foxgate Developments. This means that as a journalist he cannot do his job. This is literally the opposite of what the Ipperwash Inquiry and other inquiries and commissions have recommended since then. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a specific call to action to ensure dedicated news coverage and online public information on issues that concern Indigenous peoples and Canadians.

The more recent National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls also called on Canada to ensure Indigenous representation in the media and for the media to ensure Indigenous perspectives are included in their coverage.

The OPP’s actions run counter not only to well-established constitutional law protecting freedom of the press but serve to frustrate reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Arresting and charging an Indigenous journalist for reporting on Indigenous land occupations through Indigenous voices feels very much like systemic racism.

Further, the land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane have stated that they feel this is an escalation of violence by the OPP designed to intimidate their supporters. The conditions which serve to keep Indigenous journalists like Dockstader, researchers like Courtney Skye and other Indigenous allies away from the site serve to stack the deck against the Haudenosaunee and prejudge their land claims before getting their day in court. It also serves to criminalize journalists and land defenders alike in protecting their constitutionally protected rights.

It’s long past time that the OPP stopped criminalizing Indigenous peoples and the media covering Indigenous stories and got its own house in order. Calls to defund the police continue to get louder and the OPP’s most recent actions show why.

Dr. Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of Eel River Bar First Nation. She has been a practising lawyer for 18 years specializing in Indigenous and human rights law and currently holds the position of associate professor and chair in Indigenous governance at Ryerson University. She maintains her own political blog at www.pampalmater.com.

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NDP statement regarding OPP arresting and laying charges aga

Postby Thomas » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:03 am

NDP statement regarding OPP arresting and laying charges against First Nations journalist Karl Dockstader

QUEEN’S PARK – Official Opposition NDP MPPs Sol Mamakwa, critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Kevin Yarde, critic for Community Safety and Correctional Services, released the following statement regarding reports that the Ontario Provincial Police have pressed charges against Karl Dockstader, a journalist covering a developing story in Caledonia who is also a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames:

“Reports of the OPP’s arrest of and laying charges against Karl Dockstader – a journalist with 610 CKTB and a co-recipient of the 2020 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship – are deeply disturbing. Dockstader is an award-winning Indigenous journalist, who was covering an ongoing land dispute between members of Six Nations, the band council, and a development company over the Haldimand Tract.

The arrest and charges speak to two broader, unacceptable patterns. The first is a longstanding colonial pattern of criminalizing Indigenous people. The second is a more recent pattern of police laying charges against journalists for covering land disputes between the Crown and Indigenous people. These charges, which ban Mr. Dockstader from the site in question, effectively undermine his established constitutional right as a member of the media to be present to cover matters of public interest. Unchecked, these charges could put a disturbing chill on journalism and freedom of expression.

We will be monitoring Mr. Dockstader’s case and the surrounding land dispute closely. We call on the Solicitor General – whose role also includes overseeing anti-racism strategies in the province – and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs to monitor this situation closely as well. We urge the Ford government to take this seriously.”

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“It’s Either A Terrible Mistake Or Something More Sinister”

Postby Thomas » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:06 am

Karl Dockstader on being charged in connection with his reporting on 1492 Land Back Lane

Karl Dockstader doesn’t know why he was arrested, either in a specific sense or a more general one.

In the specific: Dockstader says the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have yet to explain the basis for criminal charges laid against him on Thursday for mischief and failing to obey a court order, other than that they are somehow connected to his presence at 1492 Land Back Lane. The Six Nations encampment and blockade in Caledonia is subject to an injunction, but he doesn’t know exactly what the police are accusing him of having done.

In the general: Dockstader — the co-host of One Dish, One Mic on Niagara’s Newstalk 610 and a contributor to CANADALAND — is a journalist. And while it’s not unheard of for journalists in Canada to be arrested in the course of reporting on protest actions, Dockstader had hoped that a recent court decision had clarified things somewhat.

Last year, in a closely watched case concerning reporter Justin Brake, the Court of Appeal for Newfoundland and Labrador affirmed a certain degree of protection for journalists who merely observe and report on (i.e., don’t actively assist in) a potentially illegal action. The judges approvingly cited an affidavit from Karyn Pugliese, then the head of news at APTN: “A court decision that does not recognize journalists as independent observers and reporters of events, but instead places them on the same footing as participants, imperils journalists’ required independence and will inhibit them from embedding with protesters during conflicts.”

Dockstader, one of this year’s CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism fellows, had the Brake decision in mind while he was reporting from McKenzie Meadows, where land defenders have been blocking the site of a proposed housing development.

It’s less clear if the OPP did.

Asked if the force took into account Dockstader’s status as a journalist when deciding to charge him, a media relations officer for the Haldimand County detachment did not answer directly.

“The OPP is committed to the freedom of the press and respects the important role the media has in the community,” Const. Rod LeClair says in an email. “We value and strive to have collaborative relationships with our media partners.”

But, he adds, “Engaging in activities outside of their reporting purpose could subject media personnel to charges in relation to violation of a court order and other applicable offences.”

LeClair declined to outline what led to the charges in this case, as the matter is now “before the courts.”

On Friday, the Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression put out a statement condemning Dockstader’s arrest “in the strongest possible terms.” On Saturday, they were joined by Bell Media, which owns Newstalk 610, and by Walter Sendzik, the mayor of St. Catharines, the largest city in Niagara Region.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has pledged legal support for Dockstader as well as for Courtney Skye, a researcher at the Ryerson University-based Yellowhead Institute who was arrested after leaving the site on Thursday. Last fall, Yellowhead published a study examining the weaponization of injunctions against First Nations, compared to First Nations’ own limited success in obtaining such orders.

Canadaland spoke to Dockstader on Friday to learn about how this unfolded from his perspective. The following interview has been edited and slightly condensed.

What was the last day you were at 1492 Land Back Lane?

Saturday, August 29.

Then the OPP contacted you on September 1st to indicate that they wanted to arrest you?

Yeah, they told me they were going to charge me, that’s right, on Tuesday, September 1st. They actually emailed me. That’s a first. Another reporter actually pointed out that they emailed my media account. So it’s not like it was a Hotmail. Like, they knowingly found my email address, perhaps when I gave it to OPP officers earlier in the week.

When you gave them your email address for reporting purposes?

Yeah. So I had encountered two officers earlier in the week, when I went to take a video of the OPP detachment that they had set up at a community centre in Haldimand. And when I did that, I was approached by two officers. They questioned me. I said I’m a member of the media. I gave them a card. They went away pretty quickly. They gave me the card of their boss. And then they just observed.

What did they specifically say in the email to you?

They didn’t say much. All they said in the email was that Det. Const. Bergeron needed to speak to me in regards to McKenzie Meadows, and she left her phone number at the OPP Haldimand Cayuga detachment.

I didn’t think much of it. I called her up just thinking, maybe it was about clarifying a detail or maybe because I was there earlier. Sometimes when I’ve made a mistake around the police, they like to have that cleared up right away. So I called her back. And she told me at that time that they intended to charge me with mischief and failure to obey the court order.

Was the “mischief” anything in particular or just your presence at the site?

They didn’t give me any details. She just said “in connection with McKenzie Meadows.” So she didn’t give me a specific date or any kind of information along those lines. So I told her, well, actually, I’m a member of the media, I’m a journalist, and I was documenting what was happening. I spent the week at McKenzie Meadows doing an immersive story, and that’s when she said, “Well, when we meet, you can give me your evidence.”

And as soon as she said “evidence,” that’s when it signalled, “Okay, the tone of this has changed.” Originally I thought, maybe I could just explain my situation to her, and I could go in and have a meeting, and she would sort of understand. But as soon as she said “evidence,” I realized that’s not what she was looking for. I contacted counsel, got some advice from colleagues in the media, and they all basically said, “Don’t go alone.”

So I was able to contact a lawyer, who sent an email clarifying if I was going to be charged or if there was some evidence that I could produce that could cause me not to be charged. And Const. Bergeron did indicate to them that I was going to be charged no matter what. She did apparently disclose to my counsel that it was in connection to something that had happened on August 29 but didn’t specify what.

Did they come and arrest you, or did you take yourself in?

I turned myself in. I went down to the OPP Haldimand office. My lawyer arranged it. She wasn’t actually there. So I went in and, on the advice of my lawyer, didn’t answer any questions. They didn’t really ask any questions, either.

I think once I had a lawyer, the tone sort of changed. They went from “friendly opportunity to have a discussion about my charges” to just going through the formality of arresting me. So they met me at the door. They processed me. Three officers were involved in processing. It was unusually nice. I’ve seen arrests go the way we sort of think they go, from watching Cops or whatever, and this was the opposite of that.

You think that that’s largely because you had a lawyer?

I think so.

And did the the charge itself, the Information sheet or whatever they give you, explain specifically what was being alleged?

No, it’s awful. They gave me an undertaking, a Promise to Appear form, and it has almost no details on it. It simply lists the two charges of disobeying a court order and mischief. And then it just gives me the the conditions that they laid out and my next court date, which isn’t until November 24th.

And the conditions, are they mostly about keeping away from the camp? Or are there other ones?

Yeah, there’s two that are really quite problematic. Number one is not to go to 1535 McKenzie Road at all, which means I can’t cover the story, according to this.

And the other one is that I can’t contact the owners or employees of Foxgate Developments, directly or indirectly. So if they had a press conference, for example, and I wanted to go as One Dish, One Mic, then apparently I can’t do that. And even though I’d be covering that in my capacity as press, I’m technically prohibited from being in contact with their employees, which again, is a little ridiculous.

Did the Promise to Appear specify on what date or dates they allege the crimes were committed?

No, it doesn’t actually say that. And that’s a bummer. The only question I asked was when I could get my screening, so I could know how much of a penalty the Crown was going to ask for. And I asked for my disclosure, the details that the police keep on my file. And they said that they would not be able to give me my disclosure before the court date.

You were present at the camp, but you seemed to be conscious of the decision in the Justin Brake case last year, in terms of what the court in Newfoundland set out as what might distinguish a journalist from a protester. How would you characterize your presence or coverage in terms of the degree of your participation?

I 100% believed that because of the Justin Brake case, that as long as I kept my involvement to simply covering the story that I was at no risk of charges. That’s why when I clarified that I was a journalist to the police — who may have already known that at that point — that’s why I was really surprised that they proceeded with the charges.

Did they seem at all interested in or aware of the fact that you’re a journalist and/or that precedent?

It never got that far. Once they started to talk about evidence, that’s when I shut down. My experience with the police is they just want you to talk about anything, so that hypothetically they can get something to use.

But I don’t think there’s anything incriminating. The standard is assisting the protesters or changing the outcome of a story. And meeting with people and singing social songs with people and camping and things that you do while camping, like playing lacrosse, I mean, those aren’t things that are assisting the protesters.

Last week, APTN News misidentified you as as one of the organizers. Do you think that may have figured in this?

I don’t think it’s an element. I mean, APTN cleared it up pretty quickly.

Is there anything else you think people should know?

Not having access to my disclosure, being restricted from going to the site and from talking about it with Foxgate — I see all of those as direct tools of press suppression. And I’m not saying I’m so special that they actively said, “Let’s stop Karl.” I don’t think that I’m that known in OPP circles or anything like that.

But the idea that any reporter or any media person would be told “Don’t go to the story and don’t talk to any of the participants in the story” and that that’s perfectly legal… I mean, that’s baffling. It’s either a terrible mistake, or it’s something more sinister than that. And I actually hope it’s a mistake.

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