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Idle No More — Hundreds Gather in Saskatoon

by Rob Brown

Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland
Photo credit: Johnny Marceland

SASKATOON—Hundreds of people gathered at noon, in Saskatoon’s Kiwanis Memorial Park, to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the current federal government. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike braved the -22°C temperatures and wind, primarily to protest Ottawa's Bill C-45. This was one of dozens of similar event held, not only in Canada, but around the world.

Colby Tootoosis of the Poundmaker Cree Nation reminded the people this was not the end of the world, as some had predicted. Instead, he said, it is "the rising of Aboriginal awareness." He said Treaties are not just external documents but "laws which connect inside us," and that people are the embodiment of the Treaties "until the Creator decides."

Emil Bell of the Canoe Lake First Nation noted that Idle No More is the work of Aboriginal women, and "You better get used to it!" The crowd roared its support.

Omnibus Bill C-45 had a dramatic impact on the Rights and livelihoods of First Nations people, as have other pieces of legislation. Some of those include:
• Bill C-27 – First Nation Financial Transparency Act;
• Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act;
• Bill S-2 – Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights  Act;
• Bill S-6 – First Nations Elections Act;
• Bill S-8 – First Nations Safe Drinking Water Act;
• Bill S-207 – An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act;
•  Bill S-212 – First Nations Self Government Recognition Act; and
•  Bill S-10 - Navigable Waters Protection Act, which replaces the older Navigable Waterways Act.

The largest concern was with the impacts on water of Bills S-8 and S-10. Many worry that there will be a rise in water pollution, already a problem for many First Nations, and unsustainable non-Aboriginal development of waterways.

In addition, this was an opportunity for people to stand in solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence, of the Attawapiskat First Nation. She is in the eleventh day of a hunger strike in Ottawa. She wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with First Nations Leaders, for  transparent discussions on a variety of First Nations issues, primarily the status of the Treaties.

University of Saskatchewan professor Priscilla Settee told the gathered group that Bill C-45 had "woken up a sleeping giant." She also said now is time to deal with high unemployment on First Nations, which is often around 80 per cent; to re-build poor infrastructure services; to end development in aboriginal areas which does not respect aboriginal values. She also said it is time for building alliances with those who share the concerns of First Nation and Metis people.

One of the important issues noted was that were were many non-Aboriginal people participating in the gathering — people of "all cultures and all colours." Or as Treaty Commissioner George Lafond puts it, "We are all Treaty People." Canadian, British, Saskatchewan, Metis, US, and First Nations flags were all held during the activity, as a sign of the diversity of interests in these issues.

The gathering, which began with drumming, singing, and prayers, ended with a huge Round Dance, which effectively demonstrated the size of the crowd.

Friday's was the second of two Idle No More events in Saskatoon in two days. Thursday night, roughly 2,000 people participated in a flash gathering in Saskatoon's Midtown Plaza, that featured drumming, singing, and a round dance. As one individual put it, Thursday's activity was "bringing some spirituality to a hub of consumerism."

Clearly, the demonstrations in several dozen communities across Canada, and more elsewhere — Britain, the Ukraine, Egypt, the US and New Zealand — indicate a growing awareness of the aboriginal situation in Canada. Organizers have suggested more activity will come in the new year, but offered no definite plans.
 


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celtic-rob (Rob Brown)
Saskatoon, SK
Member since January 2011

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Rob is a retired career journalist, who has worked in both electronic and print news. He is also so a Minister of the United Church of Canada, and has post-graduate University training in ethics.

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