Tomorrow there is an international call to action to support First Nations in Canada whose indigenous rights are being trampled by the Harper government’s budget Bill C-45, which was passed by on 14 December.
“The reason we’re gathering as one nation is because the Government of Canada, Stephen Harper, has put through an omnibus bill that will affect the treaties and the ability for the people on the treaty territories to make decisions in regards to land, resources and minerals,” says Elder Taz Bouchier.
First Nations are even appealing to the Queen as Canada’s formal head of state to rescind the bill which has to now go through royal assent before it formally becomes law.
“The Canadian government have made a unilateral decision to remove the protection of waterways without adequate consultation with First Nations and communities that rely on river systems for navigation and cultural practices protected under treaty,”says Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
She adds: “Shell Canada has proposed to mine out 21km of the Muskeg River, a river of cultural and biological significance. This ultimately gives the tar sands industry a green light to destroy vital waterways still used by our people.”
Under the banner of Idle No More (on Twitter follow #IdleNoMore), there will be demonstrations across Canada and internationally tomorrow. Over 70 busloads of First Nations supporters from throughout Canada are heading to Ottawa to take part in a noon ceremony tomorrow. A solidarity action will take place in London at 8:30 am this Friday.
The protest movement has been spreading like wildfire via social media. On Tuesday night some 600 First Nations activists and their supporters took part in a peaceful demonstration in Edmonton in Canada.
Conway Kootenay, one of the organizers for Edmonton Idle No More said: “There’s a big assault happening right now with our First Nations people with this Bill C-45 and that’s what we’re doing here, we’re addressing that, we’re addressing these concerns that we have. It’s a movement, it’s a movement of solidarity, it’s a movement for nationhood and it’s a movement to address and protect our treaty rights as First Nations people.”
Meanwhile Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation is currently on her tenth day of a hunger strike, living inside a teepee on Victoria Island on the Ottawa River, near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Spence is said to be “not well and is weak” from the hunger strike.
She has promised to starve herself to death unless the Conservative government starts showing more respect to First Nations concerns and aboriginal treaties. “I am willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it’s time for the government to realize what it’s doing to us,” she says. “I am not afraid to die. If that’s the journey for me to go, then I will go.”
The First Nations are particularly angry with what they see as double standards over pollution from the tar sands.
“A few Canadians get E.coli sickness and Harper shuts down XL Foods,” argues one post on a social networking site, referring to the recent closure of an Alberta meat processing plant over a contamination scare. “But Cree are dying in (Fort Chipewyan, Alta.) from toxins in their water, yet Harper keeps the tar sands open.”
In a cynical move it is being reported in the Canadian press that there have been closings at borders so that American Indians attempting to enter Canada to attend rallies cannot do so.