Idle No More movement picks up steam
Published Friday, December 21, 2012 4:50PM MST
Last Updated Friday, December 21, 2012 5:29PM MST
The national Idle No More movement gained momentum on Friday as activists and protesters from across Canada brought their call for protection of First Nations rights to the streets.
Peaceful gatherings took place in several cities across the country including Calgary.
Band members from the Tsuu T’ina Nation marched down 37 St. S.W. on Friday to show their support.
“Our people have been so peaceful this past 100 years of allowing our neighbors to settle on this land, to become wealthy from this land, it's about time they started looking at who are these people, the original inhabitants of Canada,” said Nicole Robertson.
“The reason for it is that Stephen Harper isn't acknowledging our treaty rights, our constitution rights, and our younger generations have taken a stance against that,” said Alison Heavenfire.
Treaty Seven First Nation members also protested along 16th Avenue and Edmonton Trail, singing songs and waving to motorists.
“We're also standing up for the water rights, considering that a lot of the water is now not protected under the various acts all working together, most of the water that isn't protected is on reserve land,” said Jessica McMann.
First Nations leaders say Ottawa’s policies toward First Nations are oppressive and they are concerned that the federal government is preparing to siphon power from band councils.
Particularly concerning, activists say, is the recently passed Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill that according to movement organizers will fast track the process for aboriginals to surrender their reserve lands.
Organizers also protest the new law because it includes clauses they say will slash the number of federally protected waterways and jeopardize lands they rely on. First Nations groups say they were not sufficiently consulted on the legislation.
At a panel discussion Friday, Nova Scotia aboriginal activist Shelley Young said the government is ignoring the plight of the First Nations. She said the Idle No More movement has “spread like wildfire.”
“We’re not just speaking up for ourselves, we’re speaking up for the rest of Canada,” she said. “We know that our treaty rights protect the waters and waterways. We want to do something about it.”
Few Canadians had heard about the Idle No More movement until Dec. 11, when Theresa Spence, the chief of the remote Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario began a hunger strike.
Spence wants a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the governor general to discuss the plight of the First Nations people, and she vows to die unless her demands are met.
She has indicated she will not settle for a meeting with Ottawa’s aboriginal affairs minister as has been offered.
(With files from the Canadian Press and ctvnews.ca)