Idle No More Rallies come to Guelph Campus

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • Peter Kent came out to speak to protestors briefly at the rally.

    Peter Kent came out to speak to protestors briefly at the rally.

Written by Peter Miller

Idle No More is an Indigenous led movement across Canada calling for the Federal Government to respect First Nations Treaty Rights and Indigenous sovereignty.

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.

At a rally on Guelph Campus on January 18 organized by OPIRG Guelph, Greg Shupak, a sessional professor on Guelph campus, 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.

The Idle No More movement is about much deeper issues than just Bill C-45. Shupak 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 colonization 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.”

On Friday January 25 another Idle No More Rally organized by OPIRG Guelph happened at Guelph. At this rally, community members came together once again to collectively show their solidarity with Idle no More, and throw an “unwelcoming party” for Peter Kent, the Minister of the Environment in Canada, who came for a luncheon to the Cutten Club to speak on matters of economic development and Great Lakes Conservation.

Around 75  protesters held signs, and banged pots and pans in front of Cutten Club entrance. Signs included “respect and recognize the treaty rights,” and “stop the muzzling of scientists.”

The sign referring to the muzzling of scientists is about when in 2007 the Harper Government implemented rules forcing Environment Canada Scientists to get prior consent before speaking to media. The Conservatives have also cut funding to independent climate scientists. Last year there were $ 117 million in cuts to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science. The Conservatives also eliminated the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy that challenged the government when it came to its policies on climate change.

Peter Kent has been the Minister of Environment since 2011. This means he has represented Canada at International Climate Talks where Canada has received the Colossal Fossil Award for the last 5 years running. In his latest book “The Ugly Canadian” Eves Engler discusses how Canada has received the Colossal Fossil Award because our country has taken the opportunity during international climate negotiations to block “progress on minimally serious targets for reducing CO2 emissions or providing aid to poor countries to implement similar measures.” Canada was also the first country to deratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Peter Kent came out to speak with protestors for a brief moment. He was questioned about the lack of regulation for the Petro-Chemicals industry in Sarnia Ontario and by the Native reserve of Aamjiwnaang. On the reserve children are much more likely to have asthma, twice as many females are born than males, and there are higher risks of cancer because of the toxins released into the air by the industry.

As Peter Kent left protestors yelled “shame” and began chanting “people before profits, water before oil.” Chanting water before oil refers to changes to the navigable waters act discussed above, as well as the tar sands. The oil industry in Canada receives 2.84 billion in subsidies from the federal and provincial governments each year. Engler reports on unprecedented pro-tar sands lobbying efforts by officials from the Federal Government. These efforts often work to pressure governments around the world to not implement progressive measures against using fuel from the tar sands.

The protest was an uplifting experience. The chant “people before profits, water before oil” was a powerful message to Peter Kent, the federal government, as well as media that attended the event.

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