Indigenous people in Canada facing racism over Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockade action

Gabrielle Lindstrom says the last few weeks have made her sad.

The Calgary professor is an Indigenous woman and has been speaking with her students a lot about racism in recent weeks.

While she doesn’t believe the tensions surrounding the Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests and railway blockades have led to increased incidents of racism against Indigenous people in Canada, she does think it’s given people who already hold racist beliefs a sense that those views are justified.

“It sort of adds fuel to a fire that’s been burning for hundreds of years,” the Mount Royal University professor says.

“I think it’s just another excuse to target Indigenous people and this really is about an expression of hate and an attitude that is really widespread in Canada.”

READ MORE: Calgary college hockey player says apology not enough for on-ice racial slur

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Examples of racism against Indigenous people have been mounting in recent weeks.  A Calgary college hockey player, who is Indigenous, says she was called a racial slur during a recent game.

Davina McLeod says she was called a “dirty f—ing Indian.”

“I got tangled in this girl’s stick, we both went down, we started chirping each other. She was like, ‘Get off my stick.’ I’m like, ‘I can’t. You’re on my stick too,’” McLeod told Global News.

“Then she turns around and that’s when she said the racial slur towards me.”

Last week, a central Alberta high school was also locked down after videos containing racial slurs against Indigenous people began circulating online.

READ MORE: Charges coming after incidents resulting in Alberta school going in hold and secure over racial slurs, threats

Online and on social media, racist comments have become even more rampant.

On globalnews.ca and its Facebook pages, social media journalists have had to hide hundreds of racist comments since the blockades began.

“A lot of the comments were inciting violence, people had open profiles … they didn’t seem to be worried about what they were saying and who was looking at it,” said Nida Omar, a national social media journalist for Global News.

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“It was pretty awful.”

READ MORE: Racist comments on Indigenous stories prompts outlets to turn them off

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which monitors the activity of far-right and extremist groups, has also seen an increase in posts targeting Indigenous activists.

“It’s a lot on Facebook, it’s a lot on Twitter and it’s been escalating since [the blockades] began,” said Kurt Phillips, a Canadian Anti-Hate Network board member.  “My big concern right now is there are certain politicians and media outlets that are inflaming the issue.

“It doesn’t take much for some people to get to the point where they become so agitated, they take action.  [They feel] it’s justifiable based on some of the hatred they’ve seen online.”

Phillips points to a Feb. 19 incident in Edmonton in which a group of counter-protesters dismantled part of a protest that had been blockading a CN Rail line.  Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay tweeted his support,

“Glad to see a couple Albertans with a pickup truck can do more for our economy in an afternoon than Justin Trudeau could do in four years,” the tweet read.

MacKay later deleted the tweet, but Phillips believes messages like that can be dangerous.

“It seemed like encouragement for others to do the same thing.”

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