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Idle No More Rally on Carden

Monday, January 21, 2013

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By Garry Go

“It’s about time we showed such a sign of solidarity among the people in Guelph and how we feel about the issues that are facing not only our first nations but every single one of us.” – Frank Valeriote.

10 Carden Street in downtown Guelph saw a protest that was one of many across Canada. These series of protests has now become a part of what is now known as the Idle No More movement. Idle No More began in early October among four women who were against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s omnibus Bill C-45, a bill that many have claimed would be detrimental to Canada’s environmental protection laws-more specifically waterways that are a part of reserves would be unprotected under the bill. Idle No More also brings light to other bills not limited to Bill C-45 that have an affect on the aboriginal community. Since October the movement had developed and evolved over time. On the movements official website the Executive Summary states their plan of action as follows:

  • Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada.
  • Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the UN to raise awareness to the conditions Indigenous people have been subjected to and assert our sovereignty in the international arena
  • Acknowledge and honor the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work towards these goals 

In addition, their website states:

Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.”

The rally in Guelph was composed of a fairly large crowd with police monitoring the activity of the protest blocking off both entrances of Carden Street. The mild climate complimented the feeling of solidarity and unity offered a welcoming and peaceful environment. The protest included some remarks by a few speakers. Among those speakers was MP Frank Valeriote. “We’ve all heard so much for years, for many years, the tragedy that’s being suffered.” says Valeriote. “We know of the poverty, we know of the lack of food security, and housing security… we have an incarceration rate greater and higher than our graduation rate and it’s just not acceptable.” Valeriote goes on to state that the bills do not have an exclusive affect on the first nations communities. “It goes beyond the issues affecting first nations it goes on to issues affecting all of us and when it affects the first nations it affects all of us.” He explains “How difficult it was to sit in parliament fifty feet away from the person who has the most empty words I have ever heard spoken…legislation that guts our environmental policies and legislations…tens of thousands of lakes and rivers that were protected in our country have been reduced to 63 rivers, 97 lakes, and 3 oceans.” “This is just terrible what s happening in those omnibus budgets and yes the Indian Act was dramatically affected without consultation at all with our aboriginal brothers and sisters.” Valeriote explains what may possibly happen as a result of these bills saying “Let me tell you what will happen if we continue to remain idle. Having sat 50 feet away and listened to the empty words I can tell you that we have a prime minister that has turned a parliamentary democracy into what we affectionately call dictatorial federalism… we have a prime minister who considers environmentalists who speak up radicals… he said before he became prime minister it was his intention to change the face of Canada but from my vantage point he his disfiguring the face of Canada.” After Valeriote gave his speech other words were shared by other members of the community who took part in the protest and shared their support on the issue further explaining the situation and the importance of it.

Others expressed their gratitude to those who came out and supported the cause. Anne Clayton, a resident of Guelph for 20 years offered a great statement that summarized her gratitude to the cause  “Thank you very much for the people of Guelph who keep building up these democratic dialogues for the way in which have made Guelph a crossroads between international and national affairs and I wanted to express my support and my thanks to the people around me who have taught me about what Canada is and the ways in which Canada keeps returning to the voices of first nations, to their advice, to their wisdom, to their rituals and to their consultations… I’m very impressed with how this grassroots movement has grown up and developed around us and among the people around us… my hope is that Canada will be cooperative and in that way there might be some kind of change on the ground to the laws that currently restrict people and make their lives difficult.”

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