Idle No More comes to Guelph Campus
Sunday, January 13, 20130 Comments
Sarah Scanlon from OPIRG speaks at a rally supporting OPIRG
Idle No More is an Indigenous led movement across Canada calling for the Federal Government to respect First Nations Treaty Rights and Indigenous sovereignty. The movement’s second Canada-wide day of action occurred on Friday January 11 as First Nations leaders met with Prime Minister Harper in Ottawa. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, has been on hunger strike for over a month in order to meet with the Prime Minister and the Governor General in order to discuss Fist Nation Treaty rights on a Nation to Nation basis. The Governor General did not attend the meeting last Friday, and the meeting had no mention of the two groups meeting on a Nation to Nation basis. As a result, Chief Spence and other First Nation Leaders boycotted the meeting.
At noon campus and community members met in Branion Plaza to hear from speakers and collectively support Idle No More and Theresa Spence. The event was organized by OPIRG for the campus to be able to take part in the day of action. After the rally of around 30 people, another rally occurred at St. George’s Square in Downtown Guelph at 1:30 pm.
The event started with a recognition that the rally was occurring on Indigenous land. The first speaker, Sarah Scanlon told participants to ask serious questions about what they have done to have setter accountability, educate themselves to be knowledgeable about Canada’s oppression of Indigenous Peoples, and show solidarity with Idle No More.
Greg Shupak gave a background of the Idle No More movement and told protesters reasons why settlers should show solidarity with the call for First Nation Sovereignty. He emphasized that it is the role of settlers to educate others about why the racist views that they hold are wrong.
Shupak spoke about how Idle No More is in part a response against Omnibus Budget bill C-45. The bill that recently passed has many amendments to policy that affects First Nation Communities. Shupak stated that Bill C-45 was against International Law and Canadian law because of the entire lack of consultation with Indigenous communities when this was an obligation.
Bill C-45 removes environmental protections on thousands of lakes, rivers and streams that are on native land. The bill also makes it easier for Indian Reserve lands to be surrendered.
Idle No More also is a reaction to high rates of poverty, unemployment and incarceration that aboriginal people in Canada suffer under. In Attawapiskat and other reserves, many live in horrible housing conditions and over 100 Indigenous communities lack clean drinking water.
Shupak spoke about how the Idle No More movement is about much deeper issues than just Bill C-45. He spoke about residential schools, the last of which was closed down in 1996. These schools resulted in thousands of aboriginal children being forced from their homes in order to assimilate in institutions where they were not allowed to speak their native language, and saw high rates of physical and sexual abuse. Other acts of genocide occurred when the Canadian Government forced aboriginal Children from their homes in order to live with white families. He spoke about the Alberta Tar sands that has had adverse health effects for indigenous communities living downstream. He also spoke about how the Federal Government has ignored demands from the Assembly of First Nations for an inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered native women in Canada.
Shupak also refuted allegations about economic mismanagement that occurred at Attawapiskat. The reserve did everything it could with inadequate funding from the Federal Government, and has not received nearly enough funding to take care of its housing crisis. He cited facts about how the average Canadian receives more funding from the municipal, provincial, and federal government than Aboriginal people.
Shupak told protestors to counter the myths that are portrayed in mainstream media about Idle No More. He told participants about the billions of dollars in resource revenues that are extracted from First Nation Territory without benefiting Aboriginal people. He called on protesters to “support [Aboriginals’] larger historical claims to self-management and sovereignty.”
Protesters on Guelph Campus collectively called on the Canadian Government to respect Treaty Rights and meet with First Nations communities on a Nation to Nation basis. The same call rang throughout Canada on the day of action and should continue to grow as Idle No More gathers strength.