Tuesday July 22, 2014





Idle No More protests Bill C-45

'We're not here to be angry and be mad. We have a purpose'
Murray Mitchell

Tamara Napoleon of Lillooet beats a drum while marching with others along Victoria Street Friday. Behind her, Lacey Tallio carries 15-month-old Cruz Seymour on her shoulders.

Saying it's a threat to the environment and First Nations way of life, more than 100 people marched on Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod's office in protest of the Conservatives' Bill C-45.

Once there, people banged drums and sang traditional aboriginal songs while Skeetchestn Chief Ron Ignace delivered a letter to McLeod's assistant.

The letter is intended for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and says deals made by First Nations' ancestors and the Queen of England are not being upheld, said Ignace.

"Canada has no jurisdiction here," he said, and vowed to fight the bill to the bitter end. "We're here to send that message."

McLeod was in Ottawa when the protesters arrived Friday morning, which prompted some in the crowd to boo loudly. Organizer Lenora Starr said she spoke with McLeod prior and the MP told her the group was welcome to express its views at her office.

The march began with a rally outside of the downtown Coopers grocery store on Lansdowne Street. It was organized as part of a movement dubbed Idle No More, which opposes the Harper government's recently passed omnibus legislation, Bill C-45.

People held signs reading Idle No More and Unite the Nation. A one-year-old boy wore an outfit asking Harper to Kill Bill C-45.

Maureen Tallio said the boy, Cruz Seymour, is her grandson. She protests the bill because it strips legislation that protects the environment and tramples treaty rights, she said. She's worried about the future Cruz will inherit.

"I'm here to stand up for my grandson's right," she said. "They (the government) are talking behind closed doors and not communicating with us."

Starr said Bill C-45 affects aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike. But, from a First Nations' perspective, it's the lack of consultation when it comes to changes to the Indian Act that upsets them.

"The hope is to really strength and improve the relationship with the government. We're not here to be angry and be mad. We have a purpose," she said.

Charlotte Manuel of the Tk'emlups Indian Band asked everyone to pray for Theresa Spence, the chief of northern Ontario's troubled Attawapiskat First Nation, who is on a hunger strike to protest the bill.

Spence, who began her strike on Dec. 11, issued an open letter Thursday to Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston, urging them to start a national discussion about poverty in First Nations communities.

Spence said many communities face impoverished conditions despite assurances from the government that progress is being made.

She's been growing weaker after living mainly on water and fish broth. Manuel asked everyone to send her strength to continue her cause.

Author Richard Wagamese said First Nations have a sacred mission to uphold the land, and the Idle No More campaign is representative of that.

"We're looking for the protection of everybody's life," he said.

 


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