Idle No More rallies held across Canada as movement grows
Published Friday, December 21, 2012 4:38PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 21, 2012 9:30PM EST
The national Idle No More movement showed no signs of slowing Friday as activists and protesters across Canada brought their call for protection of First Nations rights to the streets.
Peaceful gatherings took place in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa, Saskatoon,Toronto and Nova Scotia.
Manitoba First Nations groups rallied Friday morning at the Winnipeg International Airport, circling in cars, honking their horns and hoisting placards, one reading “Shame on you Canada.”
The group planned to join an Idle No More rally at the legislative building.
A demonstration along Highway 102 in Truro, N.S. caused delays for about eight kilometres but was otherwise peaceful.
Hundreds also braved a snowstorm to march through the streets of Ottawa to denounce what they say is the systematic destruction of indigenous rights.
First Nations leaders say Ottawa’s policies toward First Nations are oppressive and they are concerned that 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 fasttrack 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 to urge him to hold a national discussion on aboriginal poverty, and she vows to die unless her demands are met.
Spence, who has been living in a Teepee near Parliament Hill for almost two weeks, was apparently too weak to speak at the Ottawa rally on Friday.
Spence has indicated she will not settle for a meeting with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs as has been offered.
The protests Friday spread overseas to London, where a small group gathered outside Buckingham Palace called on the Queen to stand in solidarity with Canadian First Nations.
Greg Rickford, parliamentary secretary to the minister of aboriginal affairs defended the prime minister’s record and promised to address issues of poverty, water sanitation and other outstanding concerns.
“What I’m hearing them say is ‘we’re willing partners’ and the good news is we’re willing partners as well. We’re ready to move forward,” he said.
With files from the Canadian Press and CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife
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