third time's the charm (2017)

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third times the charm, 2017. Installation, sound and paper. Art and Media Lab, Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Katarokwi-Kingston ON. Photo by Chris Miner. 

third times a charm (2017) exhibited in the Art and Media Lab at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, aims to unpacks the ways that Anti-terror legislation in so called Canada remains purposely vague and unclear to manipulate the definition of terrorism to apply to “unpatriotic acts”. Unpatriotic acts are those that challenge and resist colonial and western ideologies. Acts of Indigenous resistance, dissent, and peaceful protests are too often classified as unpatriotic, and indeed considered acts of domestic terrorism.[1] Scholar Lindsay Balfour writes, “the presumed link between Indigenous resistance and extremism is highly problematic as it assumes a tendency towards terror on the part of Indigenous peoples and firmly locates them within the realm of terrorist rather than the more historically and socially accurate condition of being terrorized”.[2]

third times a charm challenges the ideological dualism that is produced through Anti-terror legislation, in two ways. First, it objectifies the language and physical text of Bill C-51. Secondly, it physically manipulates the text in incomprehensible language to produce an othered version of the act. third times a charm displays two piles of printed paper. On the right, a copy of Canada’s “Anti-terrorism Act, 2015” (Bill C-51) translated and printed in both English and French. On the left, a printed copy of Canada’s “Anti-terrorism Act, 2015” (Bill C-51) translated in binary code. Each of the piles represent a body: Canada’s official languages vs. an undistinguishable language; normal vs. abnormal. In this work, the “Anti-terrorism Act, 2015” literally becomes two bodies. It is left to the viewer to decide which body they better identify with. The function of the codes here are different than normally intended. It is impossible to read the codes unless they are scanned. Thus, their intent, to demonstrate a message, is missing without the proper technology. 

It is unclear in Canada’s Anti-terror legislation what constitutes as terrorism. Scholar Kent Roach writes, “Canada took a more restrained approach and did not include all serious property damage but only property damage that endangered life, health and safety. This minimized the chance of protesters being investigated or charged with terrorism”.[3]  Several scholars refute this claim.  Indeed, it is apparent that Indigenous activists and groups such as Idle No More, who protest land claims and environmental projects destructive to land, have been the subject of this form of legislative surveillance.[4] A recent example of this is from July 2017, when several Indigenous protestors and activists were charged with trespassing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa after erecting a teepee.[5]

As scholars Andrew Crosby and Jeffrey Monaghan write “social control agencies scrutinize indigenous movements that challenge the land-acquiring practices of settler colonialism as well as Canada’s post-colonial imaginary”.[6] Indigenous resistance that challenges colonial and western practices are labelled as unpatriotic, dangerous, criminal, and a national threat.[7] More importantly, it is the fear that Indigenous Peoples will become autonomous, independent, and able to defend the land which was stolen, that challenges settler colonial projects and “disrupts Canada’s political-economic dependence on the exploitation of indigenous lands and resources”.[8] As such, any form of resistance that challenges the state, whether morally right or wrong, is a threat, if practiced by a non-white body. 

 

[1] Ibid, 282. 

[2] Balfour, Lindsay (2014). “Framing Redress After 9/11: Protest, Reconciliation and Canada’s War on Terror Against Indigenous Peoples”, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 34 (1), 2. 

 

[3] Roach, Kent (2011). “Chapter 7: Canada Responds: Border and Human Security”, The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism, Cambridge University Press, 377. 

[4] Balfour, Lindsay (2014). “Framing Redress After 9/11: Protest, Reconciliation and Canada’s War on Terror Against Indigenous Peoples”, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 34 (1), pp. 25 – 41. Chan, Wendy and Dorothy Chunn (2014). Racialization, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Canada, University of Toronto Press. Crosby, Andrew and Jeffrey Monaghan (2016). “Settler Colonialism and the Policing of Idle No More”, Social Justice, 43 (2), pp. 37-57.  Maynard, Robyn (2017). Policing Black Lives: State Violence In Canada from Slavery to the Present, Fernwood Publishing. 

[5] Beaumont, Hilary (2017). “Canadian police spied on Indigenous protesters on Parliament Hill”, Vice News, retrieved online here: https://news.vice.com/en_ca/article/a3jjxa/canadian-police-spied-on-indigenous-protesters-on-parliament-hill.

[6] Crosby, Andrew and Jeffrey Monaghan (2016). “Settler Colonialism and the Policing of Idle No More”, Social Justice, 43 (2), 38. 

[7] Chan, Wendy and Dorothy Chunn (2014). Racialization, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Canada, University of Toronto Press. Crosby, Andrew and Jeffrey Monaghan (2016). “Settler Colonialism and the Policing of Idle No More”, Social Justice, 43 (2), pp. 37-57.  

[8] Crosby, Andrew and Jeffrey Monaghan (2016). “Settler Colonialism and the Policing of Idle No More”, Social Justice, 43 (2), 41.