Burn the Archives 02: Marusia Bociurkiw

FUSE intern Julia Borowicz is currently an Urban Studies, Human Geography and Political Science student at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include citizenship, national belonging, rights to urban space, immigration, the feminization of global migration and gendered labour practices. In her contribution to FUSE‘s Burn the Archives blog series, Julia presents her responses to four articles from our archives, drawing connections between them, her own research and the current issue of FUSE, 35-3/Abolition.

Marusia Bociurkiw,Police: Terroristes,” FUSE Magazine 14.1+2 (Fall 1990). Download the original article here.

In Christopher Curtis’ Montreal Gazette article, Protest rally against logging on Algonquins’ reserve to be held in Montreal on Wednesday (18 July 2012), the term solidarity was evoked to describe a rally being held that same day against logging on traditional moose habitat near the northern community of Barriere Lake, Quebec. [1] Curtisreported that activists were to hold a casseroles demo at the site of Resolute Forest Products (the logging company active at Barriere Lake) headquarters in Montreal, symbolically linking the student-led anti-austerity movement and the ongoing battle of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. For me, this brings to mind Marusia Bociurkiw’s article Police: Terroristes,” in FUSE 14.1+2 (Summer 1990), in which she describes a similar instance of solidarity between Indigenous and queer activists. In each case, the writer uses the term “solidarity” to describe a limited, largely symbolic statement of intent between two different groups. Reading these two articles together, I find myself wondering about the use of the word solidarity. What working definition of solidarity best serves long-term and holistic social change? Do the instances described by Curtis and Bociurkiw demonstrate this kind of alliance?

In her article, Marusia Bociurkiw reports that the summer of 1990 marked the convergence of a spike in police brutality towards the queer community in Montreal and a police raid on the Mohawks of Kanehsatake, Quebec. On 11 July, police raided a blockade set up by the Mohawk community near Oka protesting proposed plans for a golf course on traditional Mohawk burial lands, instigating the infamous Oka Crisis. A surge in police attacks on Montreal queers began in the early morning of 15 July with a police raid on a private party. That night, 250 queers marched through the streets to reclaim space and draw attention to police brutality and homophobia. Soon after, a new group was formed, LGV (Lesbiennes et Gais Contre la Violence/Lesbians and Gays Against Violence), which expressed its solidarity with the Kanehsatake Mohawks. They marched in a Montreal demo in support of the Mohawks, perhaps with the growing realization that continuing their respective struggles in isolation will continue to see rampant homophobia and racism in the form of both police violence and broader societal systemic discrimination. Bociurkiw doesn’t include the response of the Mohawks to the solidarity of urban queers, or to the “heartening show of solidarity” when supporters converged on Oka on 29 July to demonstrate in support of the Mohawks’ defense of their land.

Bociurkiw talks about solidarity without equating the way these two very different communities experience police violence, and how they organize against their oppression. She draws an important distinction between the two forms of oppression and struggle: “white gay and lesbians can choose which side of the closet door they want to be on; for Native peoples, there is no going back, no stayin in.” [2] Notwithstanding the fact that not everyone in the queer community can “pass” as straight, this insight does suggest one important element of successful solidarity work, which is acknowledging elements of shared oppression without obscuring crucial differences and power differentials between groups and sub-groups.

Bociurkiw’s piece argues that the state violence faced by both Indigenous and queer people—in light of ongoing struggles over identity, autonomy, sovereignty, persistent marginalization, hostility and fear—necessitates united action. Instances of police brutality shouldn’t be read as unique phenomena, but understood (as Bociurkiw, Curtis, and the groups they discuss do) as part of broader societal issues. In my reading, police brutality is an exercise of securitization, a mode of governing that is essential to the state’s maintenance. [3] This is precisely what was felt in the summer of 1990 by the Montreal queer community and the Mohawks of Kanehsatake. Securitization is a form of corporal management that pervades the social. It is never felt in isolation, nor can we anticipate substantial change to the current regime without more comprehensive pursuit of solidarity. Time will tell whether the action last month in Montreal was evidence of such solidarity; for now, the ongoing resistance of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake has forced Resolute and the Quebec government to accept significant concessions, and actions are ongoing.

— Julia Borowicz, 2 August 2012

NOTES:

[1] Christopher Curtis, “Protest rally against logging on Algonquins’ reserve to be held in Montreal on Wednesday,” in The Gazette (18 July 2012), online.

[2] Marusia Bociurkiw, FUSE Magazine 14.1+2 (Fall 1990).

[3] Deborah Cowen and Amy Siciliano, “Surplus Masculinities and Security” in Antipode 43:5, June 2011.

LINKS:

Sarita Ahooja, Fred Burrill, and Cleve Higgins, “Twenty Years of Struggle: A Retrospective on the ‘Oka Crisis,’” in Upping the Anti 11 (November 2010), online.

Barriere Lake Solidarity website.

Alanis Obomsawin, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, 1993. Watch the full film here.

 

 

 

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