Bar None recently expanded the land acknowledgment on our About page to state that we are “based out of Treaty 1 territory, on the land of Anishinaabeg (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation” and that “we view our commitment to prison abolition as related to the dismantling of the ongoing occupation and theft of these lands.”
The new acknowledgment strives to recognize the many nations and peoples who have used the lands and waterways now known as Winnipeg, Manitoba, over centuries and millennia. Indigenous knowledge, resistance and self-determination not only make it possible for all of us to share this land today, but also mark the path forward out of colonization and dispossession.
Prisons and policing on these lands are a product of the colonial project that is Canada. Canada’s first prison, Kingston Penitentiary, was established by settlers more than 3 decades before Canada even existed. It was designed to subject each of its prisoners to an environment “so irksome and so terrible that during his afterlife he may dread nothing so much as a repetition of the punishment.” Ensuring that prisoners experience terror and dread until and beyond the grave: this was the intended treatment for all those who did not conform to English law, mandated by the Consolidation Acts following Confederation in 1867.
Imprisonment has always gone against the spirit of non-interference, consent, and reciprocity that Treaty 1 is all about. Anishinaabe negotiators insisted on this when they refused to discuss Treaty 1 until Canada released people imprisoned at Lower Fort Garry. Two years later, Canada created a mounted police force to impose colonial order across the West, through violent suppression of Indigenous resistance, sovereignty and laws.
Alongside the genocidal projects of Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop, policing and legal systems have been complicit in the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women and girls. Yet Indigenous persons are also imprisoned in Canada at rates seven times that of the general population, and those rates are increasing. Manitoba, where ¾ of prisoners are Indigenous, has the second-highest rate of incarceration of Indigenous peoples among all provinces. There is absolutely no carceral solution to this gross travesty of justice. No prisons on stolen land!