Smoke Shop gone but Bias in Justice System Remains

by Gary McHale - The Regional

January 19, 2011

Last week Six Nations moved against one of the illegal smoke shops on Hwy #6 by physically destroying the building. Six Nations was well within its authority to take such action as the owner of the shop had NO LEGAL right to set it up.

This is true for all the smoke shops that have been built off the reserve but Haldimand Council, the OPP, the McGuinty and Harper governments all refuse to enforce the law. What is ironic is that it is Six Nations that enforced the law while those claiming to believe in law enforcement and equality under the law continue to refuse to enforce the law based solely upon the race of the person involved.

Will we see Haldimand Council follow Six Nations' example and enforce their own building by-laws etc. and shut down the remaining illegal smoke shops?

It is true that the issue of illegal cigarettes falls primarily on the Federal government for enforcement via the RCMP. However, the RCMP and the OPP have created an agreement whereby the OPP aid in the enforcement of these laws - except not in Haldimand County. In Haldimand County, unlike near Cornwall, the OPP will not enforce the federal laws upon Native owners of illegal smoke shops.

Diane Finley, who claims to be getting results for Haldimand, is silent on why her government continues to allow billions of taxpayer's dollars be lost due to this illegal trade. She is also silent on why tobacco farmers continue to suffer because of the failures of her government to enforce the laws which is why these farmers have launched a Class Action Lawsuit against both the Provincial and Federal governments.

The problem in Canada is that we now have institutionalized racism within the political parties and thus within the government system. Over the past 30 years this racism has filtered its way down through the political parties into the police, crown lawyers and has even altered the thinking of judges.

The racist policies of previous generations, which created such things as residential schools, have created such guilt that counter racism policies against non-natives and in favour of natives have become the norm.

The evidence is overwhelming for everyone to see but few are willing to talk about it. Imagine how society treated people in the Southern States or in Nazi Germany if individuals attempted to speak out against racism there.

In all truthfulness the OPP policed Caledonia in a way they knew their political masters would accept. They also knew the media in Canada would demonize the OPP if they dared to enforce the law. Finally, the OPP knew the Canadian people, by-and-large, automatically accept that all Natives are victims and therefore any violence must be the government's fault.

Institutional racism doesn't spring up over night. Slowly societies have to be transformed to accept changes to the laws which ingrains racism within the system. All such institutional racism starts by attempting to address a believed problem within society.

In Germany it was the hardship imposed on Germany due to the ending of the First World War. Over a few decades Hitler came along and promised to restore Germany's pride and economy and convinced people that part of the problem was that Jews controlled the banks etc... thus racism found fertile ground to grow in.

In Canada we look at the hardship of Native people, which has occurred, and conclude that the problem is the evil white man and thus racism finds fertile soil to grow within our society.

Everything that occurs regarding Natives in Canada is now defined by how the government fails them. The media automatically blames non-natives for all problems. The media, the government and the political parties never ask whether any particular problem is a result of decisions made by Native people.

It is amazing to listen to Crown lawyers and even Judges at the Cayuga Courthouse who for the past three years have bent over backwards to ensure they NEVER say anything that would suggest these smoke shops are illegal. Everyone knows they are illegal but judges and Crown lawyers just will not say the words.

Even when Steve Powless was convicted of setting up his illegal smoke shop on Ernest Palmer's property neither the judge nor the Crown said it was an illegal smoke shop. The Judge, with the consent of the Crown, changed Powless' bail conditions so he could operate another illegal smoke shop right beside Palmer's property.

What is most offensive is that neither the Crown nor the Judge even questioned the logic of the court consenting to the breaking of the law. What Mr. Powless did was simply move his illegal smoke shop from one person's property to someone else's property with the consent of the Judge.

Do you think a non-Native could walk into court and ask to have his bail conditions changed in order that he could carry out an illegal activity and then have both the Crown and Judge consent?

There is now a culture within the Justice System that once the accused is a Native person then both the Crown lawyers and Judges act a particular way. If you search the criminal code for the word Black, Asian, White, Baptist, Muslim, Jew etc, you will not get a single example of these words. However, if you search Aboriginal you will find that the courts are to give particular "attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders". This means that in Canada if you are Native and commit the same crime as a non-natives the court MUST look at your race before passing sentence.

According to our political leaders it is okay to write the criminal code in such a way as to favour one race over others and to force judges to consider the race of the person.

All this is the reason why many in Haldimand have not understood why the battle to expose two tier justice would take so long. The problem has never been just within the OPP - the problem has been ingrained within the political parties which has filtered down to the Crown lawyers and to  the Judges.

While we are lead to believe Justice is blind to race, in Canada, this is simply not true.