The Idle No More movement arrived in Moose Jaw Friday in the form of a peaceful march from MP Ray Boughen’s constituency office to a rally outside city hall.
“We came together not only as one nation, but as Canadians,” said Jeff Cappo of the Lone Creek Drum Group, who spoke at the rally. “It was said that we could never come together as two nations, but we have, and we’re seeing it right here and across Canada.”
The movement launched when Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario, started a hunger strike on Dec. 11 in a teepee on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill.
Spence’s demand: a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the First Nations people and their situation.
Since she began her hunger strike, aboriginal activists across the country have taken up the call on social media, using the Twitter hashtag #idlenomore and organizing local rallies and protests.
Several dozen Moose Javians came out to march and participate in the Friendly City’s rendition of the movement, carting signs addressing Stephen Harper and specifically protesting the Omnibus Bill C-45, playing ceremonial drums, and holding the flags of the First Nations groups involved in the march.
“We will sound our drums and let our voices be heard that we are not in agreement with Stephen Harper’s legislation or the manner in which he legislates,” said Isabelle Hanson, president of the Wakamow Aboriginal Communities Association and the rally’s organizer.
“Idle No More is not just for First Nations aboriginal people, it is for all of us — all Canadians.”
At issue for the Moose Jaw protesters is the lack of environmental protections under C-45, with a particular focus on the lack of protections for the waterways that First Nations groups say are guaranteed by their treaties.
“Idle No More is about protecting our environment ... under Bill C-45, we will have only one protected waterway, which is Lake Athabasca. Idle No More is about protecting our treaties, which were signed by the British Crown,” said Hanson. “It’s about having our government consult with the First Nations about policies that affect us.”
Moose Jaw city councillor Don Mitchell also spoke at the rally, expressing empathy with the cause of the protesters and concern for the long-term under Bill C-45.
“There’s clearly a plan here to open up the land to the resource companies that are penetrating the basis of the economy, in order to move things more quickly (for them) with less restrictions, less overview and less protections,” said Mitchell. “We have to build this movement.”