7th District Mi’gmaq Territory
After a cold evening of manning the blockade over highway 132 near Maria, Qc., supporters and their families of Gesgapegiag First Nation gathered for a meeting at the Galgoasiet Centre on Wednesday. Over one hundred people gathered within, away from the cold biting winds. As members sat to discuss the blockade and express their concerns, a small contingent remained outside ensuring the highway was blocked.
The Idle No More (INM) movement swept across the Canadian landscape during the Christmas holidays like a sudden winter storm. It’s influence stretched across the globe with the help of online social media. In its wake stood Canada’s aboriginal grassroots response to Ottawa’s Jobs and Growth Act, also known as Bill C-45. Gesgapegiag is known for being a grassroots community and their recent actions have come to illustrate this.
Wednesday’s meeting would be one of several already held in Gesgapegiag concerning their show of solidarity with the INM movement. At the forefront sat the Chief of Gesgapegiag, Mr. Guy Condo who was flanked on either side by five out of eight elected council members in attendance. Leading the meeting was councillor Mr. Quentin Condo as he read aloud over a microphone an information pamphlet in review of Idle No More principles and purpose.
Aboriginal peoples across Canada have kept a close eye on following the message and direction of the movement which continues to be of peaceful solidarity and unity. The community had decided that on Tuesday, January 1st, they would organize an event along Rte 132 that runs through the community with a slowing down of traffic to hand out information about the Harper Government’s Bills C-45 and C-38. Councillor Mr. Quentin Condo said during a Facebook status update that the recent event had positive results,
“Today was a good day in Gesgapegiag with the traffic slowdown and info handouts. It was the first time that I have ever witnessed our Non-Native neighbours delivering our protesters hot coffee to keep us warm. This happened more than a dozen times!”
Later that evening at midnight of January 2nd, a decision was made to go ahead with completely blocking Rte 132 as previously agreed. Since then and up to Wednesdays meeting inside the Galgoasiet Centre community members especially their youth manned the blockade throughout the night, despite the frigid -27 wind chill.
During the meeting community members listened as they each respectfully spoke about their concerns of how these Bills will affect their lives and the lives of their future generations. Another aspect of concern was their need to show continued solidarity and unity for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. At this time it had been Ms. Spence’s 23rd day of a hunger strike. She has called upon the Crown’s representative and the Prime Minister of Canada to meet on a Nation to Nation basis with Indian, Metis and Inuit Chiefs to discuss their shared Treaty relationship. In an interview with Shane Belcourt conducted on December 21st, she explained this position in more detail.
“It is time that both levels of government to treat us equal. To build up our community infrastructure and let us be, like, it is the leadership’s responsibility to plan for their children’s future not the Prime Minister, not even the Crown. We have our ways, we had our ways, we had our own laws, we had our own laws for the land, we had our own laws for Justice, we even have our own ways for teaching our children. We need to maintain our cultural way to survive, so that was the purpose of that treaty, to be partners. But the way it is right now we feel like we are more like a slave to the Minister, not a partner. When I see my leaders doing their best, it’s the government not just the Prime Minister but the Crown in both levels of government they’re all part of that treaty. It’s time for everybody to work together that means the government too.”
The meeting took just over one hour before reaching a consensus on a number of issues. Councillor Quentin Condo of Gesgapegiag said during an interview following the meeting,
“Today’s meeting was a success. People had a chance to express themselves about their concerns and as a community we were able to come to an agreement on how we would conduct our actions against the Harper Government. There were many emotions because of the concerns for Chief Spence’s health, the Idle No More movement and Bill C45,” he said.
“We understand the people’s frustrations and feelings of urgency on how they would like to protect our Treaty Rights. The Chief and Council took the position to support the on going 24 hour blockade that will finish at 10 pm tonight [January 2]. Then we will, as a community, slow traffic for the next two days to inform and invite the non-Native population to participate in a Unity March on Saturday, January 5th.”
An official Press Release has been issued to all News Media outlets by the Chief and Council of Gesgapegiag First Nation. With the notation to include:
“Please direct all questions and interviews that pertain to these activities to Mr. Quentin Condo, Councilor (418-392-1473) or Ms. Catherine Johnson, spokesperson (418-391-2539). These are the official designated contact people for the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag Band.”
To view a copy of the Press Release please visit the following links:
To view a copy of the Unity March scheduled for Saturday, January 5th see below: