Over 2,000 demonstrators in Canada, part of a growing grassroots First Nations movement called “Idle No More,” marched on Dec. 21 through the streets of Ottawa to Parliament Hill to defend treaty rights that protect their lands and waterways.
By Craig Brown
The “Idle No More” movement, a campaign of grassroots First Nations protests, has spread like wildfire over the past week in response to bills passed by the conservative Canadian government.
The protests are against the passage of the C-45, omnibus budget bill, which includes changes to the Canadian Indian Act regarding how reserve lands are managed, making them easier to develop and be taken away from the First Nation people.
The bill also removes thousands of lakes and streams from the list of federally protected bodies of water. “This is unacceptable. They have made a unilateral decision remove the protection of waterways… 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,” stated Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
Atiwapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11, resolved to starve herself to death unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets to discuss treaty rights, and Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples. She is currently living in a teepee on Victoria Island, in Ottawa, just a kilometer away from the Parliament buildings.
So far, Harper has rejected calls to meet with Spence.