The No-hawk Occupation of Occupy Toronto
Two Aboriginal men and one Scottish trouble-maker claiming to be Mohawk warriors really did it this time. Jayson Fleury, a Saulteaux-Cree from the O’Chiese reserve in Alberta who lived most of his life in Vancouver, told news reporters on the first day of Occupy Toronto that he was a “Mohawk from Alberta.” He claimed to be a “Mohawk warrior” and that as an Aboriginal he/his group did not need a fire permit from the City of Toronto for starting an open flame fire in St. James Park in the Occupy Toronto camp. Fleury said that he and his fellow “warriors”, Rick MacRae and John Fox were “planning to have a sacred fire, to keep everybody’s hearts warm.” Several anonymous donors already dropped off plenty of firewood. The gesture sounds nice on the surface and one can be easily swayed by Fleury’s good looks and magnetic charm, but there are several problems here.
Even though a small fortune for a permit and a myriad of bureaucratic forms are required by the city for all Aboriginals wishing to have a small sacred fire as a vital part of their ceremonies at their sacred sites, many which are located in Toronto’s High Park, have had to abide by these public park bylaws or else their sacred fires would be abruptly and unceremonially extinguished. Yet, Jayson Fleury incorrectly told news reporters that “Aboriginals don’t need permits for their sacred fires.”
According to a Facebook IM chat from Krystalline Kraus, the Aboriginal liaison facilitator for Occupy Toronto, Jayson Fleury lied to her by promising her he would not light any sacred fire without a legitimate Mohawk elder being present in keeping with territorial protocols and custom. But when Kraus had to leave the camp for a doctor appointment, Fleury lit the fire anyway — inside his tent/tarp structure, less than 6 feet away from bales of straw and other flammables. This was after he accepted an offering of tobacco from Kraus to honor her request that he not light the fire.
In most Aboriginal communities across North America, tobacco is regarded as a sacred medicine offering and if the recipient cannot grant what the giver of the tobacco is asking, they must refuse to accept the tobacco. Since Jayson accepted Krystalline’s offering of tobacco, he was obligated to grant her request by holding off on lighting any sacred fire. But this is not the only protocol that Jayson Fleury violated.
As a Saulteaux-Cree, he lied to reporters and everyone else at Occupy Toronto in claiming to be a “Mohawk from Alberta” and saying that he was a “Mohawk warrior” when he is neither. This sort of thing has caused residual problems for the real Mohawks and the rest of the Iroquois Confederacy nations as well. Jayson Fleury’s misrepresentation of himself splashed across the major news media outlets in Canada and the US — as did his claim that Aboriginals don’t need permits for sacred fires in public parks. Apparently, the City of Toronto does not enforce its own laws uniformly as other Aboriginal groups have had their sacred fires put out by the police and fire department if they could not produce proof of the requisite permit.
If Aboriginals don’t need a fire permit, then the City of Toronto owes several Aboriginal groups some huge refunds for all the permit fees over the years that they had to fork over for their religious ceremonies at their sacred sites and burial mounds in High Park for a tiny two-stick fire for offering up tobacco as part of their prayers. But the issue of selective enforcement and fire permits is not the only problem here.
Ezra Levant of Sun Media, the Canadian equivalent of America’s Fox News, fomented public panic and racially motivated hatred when he said that “Mohawk warriors took over Occupy Toronto and Torontonians should brace themselves for “an urban Oka” — referring to the famous dispute between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada which began on July 11, 1990 and lasted until September 26, 1990. At least one person died as a result. The Oka Crisis was the culmination of a dispute when the town of Oka proceeded to expand its municipal golf course onto Mohawk lands, known as “the Pines”, which contain a Mohawk cemetery.
Out of all the First Nations communities, the Mohawks are disproportionately singled out and targeted by police and for negative publicity in the press. Non-Indigenous reporters like Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun took it at face value when Jayson Fleury, sporting a Mohawk warrior flag, claimed to be a Mohawk warrior from Alberta and that Rick MacRae (who is Scottish) and John Fox (an Ojibwe and head of AIM Ontario) were also Mohawk warriors.
Had Joe Warmington done a cursory 2-second Google search on Jayson Fleury and John Fox, whose AIM flag was present at the camp, Warmington would have seen that Jayson Fleury is a Saulteaux-Cree whose younger sister, Mona Wilson, was the final victim of Port Coquitlam, BC serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton. He would have also seen that John Fox is the outspoken Ojibwe activist dedicated to pursuing justice for the 60’s Scoop survivors and other victims of cultural disruption courtesy of Canada’s Children’s Aid Society. Instead, Joe Warmington ran with the story that all three men were “Mohawk warriors” who took over the Occupy Toronto movement. This has already produced a backlash from many in the non-Native community who are still seething with resentment over the Oka crisis and the most recent incident in Caledonia.
Warmington made inferences to Ipperwash and Caledonia in his October 26th article in the Toronto Sun, and implied that Aboriginals get too many special privileges at the expense of other Canadians — like having an open fire in a public park without a permit, which not only costs a lot of money but is also a real bureaucratic hassle to get. This has raised a lot of resentment from non-Aboriginals who often take out their frustrations on Aboriginal people, escalating racial tensions between communities where the Aboriginal community usually gets the worst of it.
The Toronto Sun article insinuated that Aboriginal culture and spiritual practices and beliefs are all just a ruse to pull one over on the public, saying, “a First Nations sacred fire that no one will have the guts to extinguish” means that the public won’t have access to the park and that the park will be destroyed — and all that will be the fault of the “Mohawk warriors” of course, who “declared St. James Park to be sacred ground” with signage, and that “the next Ipperwash or Caledonia could happen right in downtown Toronto.”
Many readers weighed in with their comments to Warmington’s article online. They called for police repression on Aboriginals, calling them “militants” who think they can do whatever they like and claiming that Aboriginals get everything handed to them on a silver spoon. YouTube posters responding to Ezra Levant’s televised rant oozed with toxic vitriol, calling for “cowboys to saddle up” and “scalp” the Indians. This is the kind of heat and negative public opinion that is coming down on the real Mohawks and by extension, other Iroquoian nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and against all Aboriginals in general — all because of three socially imbecilic miscreants who aren’t Mohawks but who are claiming to be.
As a result, selective enforcement by the police can be counted on to target Iroquois-operated smoke shops while turning a blind eye to renegade unlicensed archeologists who traffic Indigenous cultural property across Canadian borders to various universities and museums, and who submit fraudulent reports to the Ministry of Culture to aid greedy land developers and mining interests in grabbing more Aboriginal lands from all Aboriginal communities for profit-making ventures that have had a deleterious effect on the environment and on the whole of society.
It’s bad enough that the Mohawks get bum-rapped for their own justifiable resistances against land theft and other injustices. They shouldn’t have to suffer more because of No-hawks who misrepresent themselves as Mohawks. So now that every major news media outlet across North America has picked this story up and ran with it, everyone who is not “in the know” regarding Jayson Fleury and Rick MacRae has it all wrong about Aboriginals and Occupy Toronto participants.
The Three Stooges — Aboriginal Style
Rick MacRae, the self-proclaimed “Mohawk elder” is not recognized as a Mohawk under Mohawk tradition and custom. Like Jewish tradition, one’s Mohawkness is determined matrilineally. Rick MacRae’s mother was a Scottish war bride. He made no secret about feeling resentful that he was not recognized as a Mohawk, and had previously told others that he was an Iroquois elder and a “backwards medicine man.” He had been gently corrected several times over the past year or so by elders and Clanmothers in the Iroquois community. But he is stubborn. This is not the first time that MacRae has caused problems for the Haudenosaunee, the Mohawks in particular. Rick MacRae has clashed with other Aboriginal activists because he always wants to be the boss, and life just does not always work out that way.
Nor was this current brouhaha over a sacred fire the first for MacRae. This past May in the High Park peace and restoration camp, he refused to listen to the Haudenosaunee community regarding another sacred fire incident. The peace camp was temporarily set up in High Park at the Snake Mounds — an ancient Iroquoian burial mound — to dismantle illegal BMX dirt jumps and keep vigilance and restore the site until the Parks and Forestry Dept. put up a fence to safeguard the area. Rick MacRae started a sacred fire, but did not follow instructions from Haudenosaunee elders and repeatedly argued with their persons of authority over such matters and they had no choice but to eventually call the cops to escort him out of the peace camp because he was disruptive. They also forbade him from conducting any more sacred fires or ceremonies on Haudenosaunee sacred sites — a directive that Rick MacRae disregarded when he conducted an unauthorized ceremony at Tabor Hill on October 16th, using an expired fire permit from 2010 that had previously been issued to the Taiaiako’n Historical Preservation Society.
Now, MacRae is embroiled in another sacred fire mishap in a tiny park at the Occupy Toronto camp. Since Toronto sits within Haudenosaunee territory, which spans from southern Ontario to upstate New York, most of Pennsylvania, part of the Ohio Valley, and reaching as far south as Mingo County, West Virginia, there are protocols that must be followed regarding sacred fires that are lit by someone claiming to speak for the Iroquois peoples. Some people apparently think that the rules don’t apply to them.
Jayson Fleury comes from a long proud lineage of Saulteaux-Cree medicine people. His mother, Linda Bigjohn, was very well-respected among the Cree, Saulteaux, and Blackfoot as a medicine woman. Jayson inherited strong medicine from her. His Cree medicine was apparently strong enough to charm the pants off the Toronto cops: He convinced them into letting him have a “sacred fire” as a “Mohawk warrior” at the Occupy encampment without a permit — even though there are bales of straw all around and huddles of tents and blankets in close proximity to one another, which makes St. James Park a big tinderbox that could easily ignite, resulting in utter catastrophe. If such a disaster happens, it will probably be unjustly blamed on the real Mohawks because Jayson Fleury told news reporters that he was a “Mohawk from Alberta” and a “Mohawk warrior” even though he is neither. He’s a Saulteaux-Cree storyteller. And this time, he told one hell of a whopper.
But Jayson Fleury has a history of telling whoppers. After his younger sister, Mona Wilson, was found in pieces at serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton’s pig farm, many said he used the tragedy as a platform to get money and sympathy and sucker many unsuspecting women into financing his cross-continent partying lifestyle. It was through his prominence in the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women campaign that he reportedly conned women into driving him across North America, only to leave them high and dry after bleeding them for their last nickel.
One woman whom he conned into opening her home to him was Jennifer Tourand, a Red River Valley Métis living in London, Ontario who had just completed a grueling bout of chemo treatment for ovarian cancer. He not only took over her house while he was there, he even forced the dying woman to give him her bed while she was made to sleep on an uncomfortable couch. When he had long over-stayed his welcome, the only way she was able to finally get rid of him was to pay for a first class Amtrak ticket for him to get back to Vancouver. Jennifer Tourand is now at death’s door. She says could desperately use the $2,000 that Jayson mooched off of her in food and party money, and the first class train ticket. Tourand now struggles to afford transportation from London to Toronto for the last cancer treatment option available to her since the cancer has returned. It is doubtful that Jayson Fleury will repay her for everything she’s out, now that she really needs it. It’s doubtful that he even cares.
He certainly didn’t care about an utterly impoverished long-term unemployed 43 year-old woman with glaucoma from the states with no income whatsoever and no access to medical care whom he took to the cleaners for the only money she had left when he abducted her under false promises of friendship and love, only to leave her stranded and abandoned in the middle of downtown Toronto with no money, no gas, no food, no way to get home, and no way to financially recoup. Being without remorse for the irreparable harm inflicted on others is the hallmark of a sociopath. So is being a habitual liar. And this time, the lie was that he’s a “Mohawk warrior.”
Since most of the Occupy Toronto participants are middle class white college kids and well-heeled union leaders, they don’t know who’s who in the Aboriginal community. Most of them don’t even know how it is to live as a marginalized poor white person from the dominant society, let alone grasp what it means to be a marginalized Aboriginal person. And they don’t know about all the different protocols that can be involved in situations like this. It’s pretty easy to pull the wool over their eyes. These well-meaning middle class liberal activists wanted the Aboriginal community to feel welcome and included as part of a social justice movement. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It looks like Jayson Fleury and Rick MacRae used the well-meaning and very welcoming Occupy Toronto facilitators for their own agenda under the guise of Aboriginal rights. John Fox, the leader of AIM Ontario who is looked upon as the leader for their group, never denied that their claim of being Mohawk warriors, even though he knows better because he knows Jayson and Rick. Fox also abused the goodwill of Occupy Toronto participants when he grew belligerent on the first day because he felt they had slighted him by cutting him off when he ran over the microphone time limit per speaker that event organizers had already predetermined. He lambasted the group for his perceived disrespect on their part, threatening to ban them from Native lands. “When you march, you’re gonna run into me!” Fox screamed at Occupy Toronto organizers. Being an Ojibwe, Fox had no right to threaten to ban the others from Haudenosaunee territory because under the protocols, this would be up to the Haudenosaunee community to do. But the non-Native Occupy activists don’t know this. And they genuinely did not want to offend the Indians. They wanted them to be present and have a voice just like everybody else.
Unfortunately, the antics of the two self-proclaimed Mohawks and AIM Ontario’s John Fox made front page news all across Canada and the US. As a result, supporters of neo-Nazi Gary McHale came out of the woodwork in droves, fueling the fire of racism and rekindling the dying embers of Caledonia, Oka and Ipperwash.