Okay, so last week I pointed out the NPA’s business dealings with drug smugglers could potentially backfire. Especially if discovered by members of the Movement who’d experienced or witnessed the horrors of drug addiction? Personally I would have thought that this might have been a serious plot hole, but right after that we get this little gem that should have grated on every military nerve in Douglas Bland’s body:
“The third major source of funding may surprise you. We obtain substantial contributions from online operations. Sort of like political parties, seal lovers, and religious groups, we generate money from well-intentioned Canadians and from hundreds of people in other countries who are eager to support ‘oppressed Canadian aboriginal people.’ And since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have also received large donations from ‘sources’ in those regions.”
This third revenue stream is just baffling. Islamic terrorists? Really? I’m not sure what to make of this. Is just some Cold War hold over from when the Soviets gave weapons to every crazy person who embraced an even vaguely Marxist ideology (ranging from Latin America, to South-East Asia, to ethnically Muslim1 organizations in Palestine)? Is Bland just trying to tick every box in the right wing boogeyman chart (the Indians got violence gangs, drugs, and Muslims!)? The only thing I’m going to add is that, if it’s dangerous to build your base on a reserve that’s watched by half a dozen police forces, it’s even more dangerous to accept money from international jihadists who might be under surveillance by a dozen or more NATO countries.
But never mind that. The thing that blows my mind about this scene is Alex Gabriel’s reaction to the suggestion that the Movement is receiving money from the Taliban.
“Why would they send you money, Bill? I doubt, from my experiences in the region, that anyone, even the educated elites, cares a rat’s ass about our problems.”
“Perhaps not, Alex. But I think some people in the region who oppose your ‘educated elites’ would rather have our soldiers occupied in Canada and not wandering around opposing them in theirs.
It’s already been established that Gabriel is a veteran. Even prior to the resurgence of the Taliban in 2004-5, Afghanistan had proven to be a deadly theatre of operations for Canadians. Yet, here he simply expresses disbelief that even the ‘educated elites’ would know or care about Canada’s internal problems2? Just so we’re clear here, because I had to read this part a few times to make sure. Alex Gabriel is a veteran, and has seen his fellow soldiers die at the hands of the Taliban. He has just been told that the NPA is taking money from international jihadist movements, including the Taliban. And his response…is to muse incredulously about their ‘educated elites?’3
A few words here on my own military experience. I deployed to Afghanistan over the winter of 2008-9. Officially I was part of the Battle Group, but I spent most of my time on base loading crates and driving trucks. I also saw over two dozen flag draped caskets carried past me at ramp ceremonies. I was lucky in that no one I personally knew was killed on my tour, but a bunch of guys I knew got hurt.4 While the base got rocketed on a fairly regular basis, no one shot at me directly and the Afghans I worked with in person were mostly the construction workers and day labourers who came onto the base to fix things.
In short I had about as safe and quiet a tour as any man is likely to get, and during that time over twenty of my brothers in arms went home in a box. Fuck you Douglas Bland. You sanctimonious Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. You create a protagonist who’s an Afghan Vet and you dare portray him as someone who doesn’t care that his newly adopted rebel movement is in bed with the Taliban?
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, Alex. The Movement is large, active, and ambitious, and its funding base is considerable as well. We can turn on the tap, so to speak, whenever we need to by making ‘requests’ from politicians, large and small, and from officials, judges, police, customs agents and criminals on both sides of the Canada/U.S. Border. Once touched by occasional payoffs and bribes or girl or boyfriends, we own them. They provide influence and information on demand as well. They’re what we call ‘the insurance.’
I’m only mentioning this part for the fact that, in Bland’s world, bribery and corruption throughout the judicial and police forces is so widespread as to be unremarkable (and so unremarkable that nobody even bothers to notice it). The other point hints darkly about ‘girl or boyfriends.’ I’m going to hold off on doing a deep dive here (since it gets fleshed out more in later chapters), but one of the tactics used by the Movement is to pimp out Native men and women in order to compromise politicians and other authority figures. A later chapter will confirm what this passage implies, namely that some of the people being pimped out are underaged.
This is vile. Sex trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes out there, and the trafficking of minors is doubly so. And this is a charge that Bland levels against his fictional Movement. He puts white guilt in quotation marks, but the idea of deliberately selling young girls and boys off for the purposes of blackmail drops like an afterthought into the middle of a paragraph.
I said I wasn’t going to get into a heavy analysis here, but the basic numbers are this: Take the statistics on assault, abuse, and exploitation that we already know are massively underreported for ‘white’ people, and multiply those numbers by three. That’s the base line that we’re starting with when it comes to sexual violence in the world of Indigenous people. Multiply by three. Just for starters.
For every one of those numbers, there’s not only a victim who is suffering, but a perpetrator doing the victimization. But to hear Bland dismiss it-at least when it comes to powerful men caught in bed with underage boys and girls-it is the powerful men who are really innocent victims! Those evil, grasping, ‘savages’ are so beyond the pale of decent society that they will sell you their own children just to find some kind of leverage.
This is a slur on the level of blood libel.
And it’s on this casual note, Bill Whitefish concludes his presentation. Bland seems to realize that maybe he’s made Bill Whitefish into too much of a badass, particularly in comparison to his intended hero. Time for Gabriel to remind him who’s the real man here:
The picture Bill Whitefish gave Alex left the soldier impressed, but at the same time uneasy. Even he had his prejudices. These guys obviously understood the theory, but could their followers manage an operation of this scale, sophistication, and seriousness. They were after all, just reserve Indians.
It’s gratifying that Alex Gabriel finally clues in that he might have hitched his cart to the wrong team, although it’s disturbing that Bland thinks it’s acceptable for his Native rebel hero to refer to NPA warriors (like, you know, the ones he trained for the Petawawa raid) as ‘just reserve indians.’ Hey Alex, these ‘reserve indians’ were still good enough to cover your sorry ass barely two days ago when you committed high treason against your country and your service. I guess all that angry posturing with Mystery Man really was just a chest-pounding routine.
This provides the Bland the opportunity to reverse their roles, having Bill Whitefish praising Gabriel profusely and enthusiastically pumping him up in preparation for his handoff to Molly Grace.
“Once things start, of course, it’s crucial that the NPA doesn’t melt away in the face of trouble. You know, Alex, how overstretched the Canadian army is, but you know it’s a professional force. When and where its soldiers manage to get into action, they will perform effectively, and our guys have to be ready for that. That’s why we knew we had to find sufficient competent, experienced combat leaders to train the kids and hold them together when the shooting starts-“
Alex looked at him sharply and Whitefish quickly corrected himself. “I mean, if the shooting starts. Again, we looked to the federal government for unsuspecting assistance. First, we quietly encouraged young people who were beginning to see how things really were to keep their mouths shut and enlist, especially in officer training programs. Their job, as deep moles, wasn’t just to learn the ways of warfare but to build their own connections to natives otherwise enrolled in the armed forces. As a bonus, as they progressed in rank and responsibility, they gained knowledge and access to government secrets and establishments, very useful during the raids this week
“This strategy worked splendidly. The Canadian Forces, including the reserves, the militia, provided a steady stream of leaders to meet the Committee’s needs. The government was eager to enrol native people in the armed forces, not just because they had long been a sources of good soldiers, but to satisfy the demand for racial integration, multiculturalism, and diversity. We took full advantage of that. The leadership problem in the NPA has slowly sorted itself out as patriots arrived from the regular Canadian Forces and as native enrolment in the militia increased.
Curse those politically correct lefties! They forced us to accept Indigenous Peoples into the army and actually treat them like…like…people! Why? Now they know all our moves! And they can shoot our guns! All our best tricks are going to be used against us!
Okay, slight exaggeration, but only slightly. I’ve talked about this problem before, and the only thing I’m going to do right now is mention the story of Francis Pegahmagabow, a First World War Anishnaabe/Ojibwe sniper who served heroically with the Canadian Expeditionary Force for the entire duration of the War. He later returned home to become chief of the Wasauksing First Nation. Learn more here. It’s worth noting that, for all his service and heroism ‘Peggy’-as he was known-died in 1952, around eight years before he would have had the right to vote in a Canadian election.5
Even when writing characters who are the enemy of the Canadian Forces, Bland can’t stop praising the Canadian Forces. They’re just so cool! We’ll see this over and over again in Uprising; some aspects of Canadian society, some Canadian citizens, are deserving of survival. The rest are utterly reprehensible and deserve nothing but death. Bland offers some belated praise for the fledgeling NPA. True, they may need a real manly man to lead them, but with Gabriel the Chosen One at their head, victory is within their grasp.
It’s also somewhat charming that Bland portrays his hero as being drawn against his will into a violent rebellion by unscrupulous leaders of the Movement. “If the shooting starts?” The shooting has started, sir. Regardless of whether or not he pulled the trigger on Cpl Newman, Alex Gabriel has betrayed his country and committed an act of open terrorism. While he may not know about the death in Halifax,5 it is inconceivable that he honestly believes it might be possible to walk away from the Movement now.
This is also one of the only places where they mention the idea that a people’s revolution should actually…you know…benefit the people? It’s the barest of lip service, but it confirms that Bland is aware of the concept, making his failure to acknowledge this in later passages unforgivable. Apparently the NPA has been doing things to gain credibility in native communities. What these things are is never made clear, which is a pretty definite failure of imagination.
Does he really think there is no suffering in Canada’s First Nations communities? Does he truly believe that Indigenous People face no injustice whatsoever?
In the film ‘Battle of Algiers’ there’s a brief scene where Ali La Pointe hunts down Hassan el-Blidi, the local pimp. It barely lasts two minutes, but Ali visits brothel after brothel, trying to find Hassan and finding only drug addicts and destitute women who seem too fearful to even meet his eye. Hassan gets wind of Ali’s inquiry and decides to seek the young man out himself, confronting him in an alley with a couple of heavies along as back up.
Ali is undaunted, however, and angrily accuses Hassan of being a parasite and an exploiter, and demands that he repents and join the FLN. Hassan is contemptuous and dismisses Ali as little more than a random punk.
But before his muscle can step in, Ali reveals that he is concealing a submachine gun under his coat, and guns Hassan down in the street. As the two bruisers flee, leaving their boss to bleed out, Ali declares loudly for all to hear that the casbah is under the protection of the FLN and their women will never again suffer such outrages by such men.
A simple throwaway scene like this would go a long way towards explaining why the Movement has such unwavering support within all of Canada’s First Nations. It would also help inject some much needed action into an otherwise dull and dreary novel. Of course, a side scene like this one would also imply that maybe there really were legitimate problems on Reserves and in the First Nations communities. And if the NPA were going around solving these problems, that might lend the entire movement a certain level of legitimacy. Can’t have that.
“Thanks, Bill, the briefing was helpful. In fact, the simple force you described also describes the Taliban that I-we-fought and the Canadian Forces continues to fight in Afghanistan. And we all know how much trouble they were and still are.” [Alex said.]
‘How much trouble they were and still are.’ What with all that killing your fellow Canadian Soldiers and all. Yeah, I could see how that might be troublesome. Maybe even irksome. Self important putz. It’s also adorable the way Alex Gabriel thank Bill Whitefish for his briefing. Almost as if he believes he’s an equal or something. It’s looking more and more like Molly Grace chose well with this one.
***Featured image of Highway of Heroes found here, and the image from the body of the article found here. Image of Cpl Pegahmagabow from indigenouswarhero.org here. Still images taken from The Battle of Algiers Criterion Collection DVD.***
1 One of the funnier criticisms of Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film ‘Munich’ was by a conservative pundit who felt that Spielberg was unfairly harsh on the Israeli assassins when he should have directed his ire against the real evil, ‘Radical Islamic Terror.’ The critic dismissively claimed Spielberg wanted to create a fantasy world where the Israelis are assassinating people but Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Quaeda somehow don’t exist! Never mind that none of these organizations actually did exist at the time of the post-Munich assassination program.
2 It’s not clear, but Bland also seems to be implying that the War on Terror is ongoing, and with Canadian involvement. This is where having a solid timeline and some clearly defined facts makes all the difference in world building.
3 Yet another right wing buzzword. You could make a really unhealthy drinking game out of the audiobook version of Uprising.
4 I’m not going into details because that’s getting into other peoples’ stories as well as my own. But several of the guys I knew had close calls, and walked away from attacks that could have killed them. One guy was badly hurt, and should have died if it hadn’t been for the efforts of some really heroic medical personnel. Couple of other guys came back with issues that took months or years to sort out. But they all made it back. I am very blessed in that the people I personally knew and loved, on my tour and all the others, all came back in one piece and stayed that way. Not everybody is that lucky.
5 Peggy and other First Nations soldiers had the right to vote during the Great War itself under the Military Voters Act of 1917. That right was rescinded upon demobilization.
6Fred McTavish. We will never forget you!