So we’re just about done this I got thoughts about this last paragraph here:

Molly Grace and her staff had anticipated a violent reaction from les Quebecois once trouble started, and as soon as it did, their agents contacted various native leaders, most of whom were as shocked and opposed tot he uprising as any other citizen, advising them to block access into their communities and organize armed forces to protect themselves from “retaliation by the French.” Such attacks were not long in coming. By late in the day, there were reports of violence, burnings, and sieges at dozens of native villages across the province.

What Bland is describing here is the start of an ethnic war in Canada.  He’s describing ‘white’ people responding to attacks from the NPA by targeting any First Nations people within reach regardless of whether they support the Movement or not.  The idea here is an ugly one, and part of me resents Bland for even suggesting it might be possible.  But I can’t, really.  At least, I can’t really argue with the fact that, sooner or later there would be some kind of backlash. 

The significance of this happening is another thing that Bland underestimates.  The reality of armed mobs attacking random communities across the Province is going to instantly change the strategic picture, and add a whole new set of problems for the police and military to deal with. 

The “logic” of an ethnic war is pretty simple.  Let’s say you got two ethnic groups in your country: The X’s and O’s.  You’re an X and proud of it, and you got no particular animosity towards the O’s.  You’re aware that there was violence between your two peoples in the past, but that’s in the past.  Horrible relics of an ugly history.  The kind of thing no one in your generation has had to deal with outside of the occasional embarrassing comment from a racist grandfather.

Then one day you hear news about a bunch of O’s ranting about the violence of the past.  They’re talking about historical grievances, but they’re insisting that there must be ‘a reckoning‘ here and today.  You shrug your shoulders and carry on.  Some of your X friends warn you that the O’s are starting to arm themselves.  That they’re drawing up lists and making plans.  “Bullshit,” you say.  “That’s a bunch of crap our grandfathers fought over.  No one’s going to care about that today!

An O friend[1] approaches you one day with a similar warning.  “They’re going to come for you one day,” your friend tells you.  “You and all the other X’s in this town.  I won’t be able to protect you either!”  You try to reason with them.  “This is ridiculous.  We’re not enemies!  Our peoples haven’t fought each other in more than sixty years.  No one’s going to start killing people today over something in the past!”  Your O friend never brings up the subject again.

Then one day you show up for work and you notice your O friend is absent.  You vaguely remember hearing some news reports on the radio about an explosion of some kind.  Maybe an accident, but there’s Os angrily stating that it was X treachery.  Someone calling into the station was saying that groups of Os were out in the streets, carrying guns and blocking streets.  You vaguely worry that your friend might be in trouble, and you lament the fact that some people just can’t stop living in the past.  Then one of your co-workers rushes in, announcing that a convoy of people just pulled up outside your workplace.  They all got guns and they all look like O’s…

And that’s the point where you realize that your O friend isn’t the only one who’s absent from work that day.  None of your O co-workers have shown up today, meaning that everybody in this building that’s about to be invaded are all X’s…

Now you can read some variation of this scenario in the personal testimony of refugees from around the world.  Time scales and triggering events vary.  Sometimes the “historical” grievance is more recent, sometimes both sides are equally eager to tear at each others’ throats.  I’ve personally heard a version of this story from people who fled the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda[2] and Somalia.  You personally might not be thinking in terms of “Us vs Them,” but someone else might be.  And if that person has a gun it’s going to be you that needs to adjust their thinking, not them.

A bunch of O’s showed up at your workplace to kill you and your fellow X’s. They didn’t know you personally, but they came out to kill you and your X co-workers.  Meanwhile, your O co-workers (whatever the warnings they may have given) stayed away so that you and your X co-workers would be isolated and alone.

This is how things get dangerous. When you got Os out in the street hunting down Xs, where are you going to run? You’re going to run to the X neighbourhood and shelter with other Xs. You personally may not have any animosity towards O people, but that didn’t stop a bunch of them from trying to kill you.  So clearly you can’t risk hiding out with any Os.  You might be longing for the old days to return, when Xs & Os got along with each other, but if some Os show up and insist they mean you no harm…can you risk letting them in?

And if one of the X people you’re sheltering with comes to you and says they’re planning on hitting back? Taking the fight to the people who drove you out of your home and workplace.  And they want you to join them. What are you going to do?

Now hopefully there would be a counter-balance to the “Us vs Them” narrative. And hopefully this counter-narrative is bringing more firepower to the table than the Os are.[3] An example of this can be seen in Iraq where for more than a decade the American-supported government struggled to maintain the idea of an united Iraq rather than a war of Shi’a vs Sunni vs Kurds (and the many other sub-groups within).  This is one of the reasons why, if they can’t utterly dominate the region, the militants trying to force the ethnic war will target what are often called ‘grey zones’: Places where people can gather peacefully regardless of identity.  Market places, shopping malls, government buildings that serve the population as a whole.  It is vital to destroy anything that might detract from the idea of eternal conflict.

If the government can provide security, if they can keep the Os from getting at the Xs with impunity, then there’s hope for recovery.  It may be possible to isolate and crush the O militants without having to fight the Os in general, and concurrently prevent the Xs from taking revenge.  But if the government can’t provide that security, then the Xs will have to try and provide it for themselves, and a formerly united country becomes little more than a battle field.

In the case of real life Canada, it’s an open question as to whether an Indigenous uprising could push the country (or part of it) to this point.  But it’s important to recognize that the potential is there, and if the government can’t provide security then the population will fall back to their default settings.  In Bland’s Canada, it has.  But oddly enough Bland seems to be pretending it hasn’t.

Whiskey Trench-Mullet
Oddly enough, the fashion has changed, but I swear there’s a bunch of characters at the bar near where I live who have that exact same hair.

Remember this guy?  He’s one of the people at ‘Whisky Trench‘ where a mob of local Québecois who, on 28 August 1990, attacked a convoy of Mohawks evacuating the Kahnawake Reserve during the Oka Crisis. The convoy was comprised of women, children and the elderly and was ostensibly under the protection of the police, but as the cars crossed the Mercier Bridge and entered the ‘Whisky Trench’ (a highway underpass next to the Seagram’s distillery) the mob hurled rocks, leading to over half a dozen injuries and one death. 

In the Uprising world, this asshole would likely be in his late 40s or early 50s, but it’s a fair bet that his kids will be able-bodied and in their late 20s (and probably also assholes).  There’s guys like him across Canada.  Some are Anglo, others French.  Some are urban, others rural.  Education levels will vary as will access to firearms.  Whatever their background all are united by a common feature.  Anger.

Right now – in the real Canada – that anger seems to largely be focused on Muslims and immigration, but it’s a surprisingly open minded in terms of its targets.  The guys in my Facebook timeline who are ranting about replacement theory in Europe can flip over to hating Natives on a dime.

The key factor which Bland seems to be missing is organization.  At Whisky Trench, the people who formed the mob had been egged on by agitators for weeks leading up to the attack, and they had an easily identified gathering point: The Mohawk barricades on the Mercier Bridge.[4]  The mob didn’t just surge into existence one day in response to the appearance of an easy target.  It had been nurtured into existence by inflammatory language and enabled by convenient geography and police negligence.[5]

So who’s organizing the people in the paragraph quoted above?  Earlier in the same section, Bland describes the people of Quebec so stunned by the appearance of NPA Warriors on the streets that they literally curl up into fetal positions in panic.  Despite a summer’s worth of escalation and violence.  So who’s been urging on the attackers who hit back at random Reserves?  Conservative talk radio is a classic vector on a local level[6], with Facebook, Twitter and whatever social media platforms the alt-right are using these days.  But it take time to get people good and mad, so presumably these forces would have been at work for a while. 

So why is everyone acting so shocked at the idea of natives invading Montreal if popular media has been hyping the idea for a while now? 

There was an earlier reference in the novel about Québec Premiere Madeline Commeau making a bunch of inflammatory speeches about the Province’s Indigenous people.  But if she was pushing for a confrontation, then wouldn’t the cops have been better prepared (especially given all the recent rioting)?

The actions vaguely described in the paragraph include “violence, burnings and sieges at dozens of native villages across the province.”  I’m guessing Bland meant Reserves, but regardless this is quite a scale of violence for something that took place later in the same day.  There’s a bunch of First Nations Reserves across Quebec, and most of them are within easy reach of some ‘white’ community, but very few are conveniently located.[7]  Other than Kahnawake and Kanesatake, you typically have to go out of your way to find some of these places.  So people would need to get together, agree on a plan, get together some weapons and head out to attack a place they seldom go near.  

Not only is this an improbably fast response time, but Bland seems to treat the beginning of ethnic warfare in Canada to be a footnote.  Just another thing that happens in between briefings at NDHQ and the Compound. 

***Images from this post taken as screenshots from Alanis Obomsawin’s 2000 documentary “Rocks at Whisky Trench” from the National Film Board archives.  Link.***


[1] Of course you have O friends.  You’re progressive after all!

[2] In the case of the Rwandan individual, he’d been a young teenager in 1993 and had his mother not grabbed him and run for the border, he would have been one of the killers, not one of the victims. 

[3] In the case of the Yugoslav refugee, the woman in question absolutely despised Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Albanians, and refused to identify as any of them. She was a Yugoslav, and God damn the people who destroyed her country in the name of ethnic nationalism.

[4] And prior to this there had been numerous riots targeting food shipments to Kanesatake and Kahnawake (which would eventually leave a dozen police officers in the hospital and precipitate the army’s takeover of operations).  In these cases again, there were clear and easily accessible targets: The food trucks and the police guarding them. 

[5] It bears repeating again that, during the mob’s attack, police were filmed standing by and doing nothing as cars full of women, children and the elderly were pelted with stones.

[6] The documentary “Rocks at Whisky Trench” shows numerous headlines from local newspapers, and at around the 29-minute mark there’s mention (on the day of the attack) of local radio stations encouraging people to come out and confront the convoy. 

[7] A lot of times the Band will have a “Trading Post” store by the highway where produce and handicrafts from the Reserve can be sold, and I could totally see these getting targeted.  For a lot of Canadian their only contact with First Nations is buying a bag of cheap cigarettes at one of these stores.  Getting to the Reserve itself would involve leaving the highway, and that’s where your typical goon might get a bit reluctant. 



One thought on “59-The Fighting Begins (4) – Beneath the surface

  1. One of the big maxims of warfare is to divide one’s enemy so as to defeat them in detail.

    Enemies look at multi-ethnic societies and see lots of potential divisions that can be exploited to reduce the effectiveness of that state. Grievances based on the apportionment of power within a society can be played upon to either make the less powerful feel that they have no other way to get a better deal than to seize more from those on top, or to make the people with the advantages see a more equitable society as being now tilted against them. Multi-ethnic societies really only can deal with this by being open and inclusive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s