Category Archives: News

Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chief Announces Opposition Against Environment Minister Pollution Permit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FIRST NATION CHIEF VOWS FIGHT TO PROTECT RESERVE LAND AS NS ENVIRONMENT MINISTER EXTENDS PULP MILL’S POLLUTION PERMIT

April 17, 2014

PICTOU LANDING, NS – Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul promised today to end the flow of pulp wastewater into nearby Boat Harbour by “any means necessary” as Nova Scotia Environment Minister, Randy Delorey, prepares to extend Northern Pulp’s permit to dump wastewater into the former tidal lagoon. The Chief says the Minister’s decision violates an agreement reached with the Band in 1995 and flies in the face of a recent Nova Scotia Liberal party resolution calling upon the government to take action on Boat Harbour.

“We will use any means necessary to protect our land and our People”, a defiant Chief Paul said. “What else can we do? Our own Provincial government is ignoring the law.”

Exposure to odours associated with pulp mills, like those emanating from Boat Harbour, has been linked to adverse health effects. In 1995 the Province agreed to close the Boat Harbour wastewater treatment facility by December 31, 2005. In exchange the First Nation agreed not to take legal or other action against the facility for 10 years. The 2005 deadline was pushed out to December 31, 2008 in the hope that closure of the facility could be avoided by modifying the system. No such modification took place. In a letter dated December 4, 2008 the Conservative government of the day reaffirmed the Province’s commitment to close the Boat Harbour treatment facility. However neither the NDP nor the Liberals have lived up to the agreement since. This is likely due to the $100 million price tag for a new facility which the Province agreed to absorb in 1995 as part of a separate deal struck with the mill owners.

The mill’s owner cannot discharge wastewater into Boat Harbour without approval of the Minister under the Environment Act. The previous NDP Environment Minister issued an approval in 2011 which was extended one year ago. That approval ends on April 19, 2014. The new Liberal Environment Minister has decided to extend the approval for now, allowing Northern Pulp to continue to pipe its wastewater into Boat Harbour.

But Chief Paul says extending the approval violates the 1995 agreement. “Under constitutional law the Province has a duty to consult with a First Nation before making any decision that could adversely impact its rights. Where adverse impacts are identified, the Province has a duty to accommodate those rights in making the decision. This process often leads to accommodation agreements setting out how the rights of the First Nation will be respected in the government’s plans. Accommodation agreements reached during the consultation process are part of the sacred trust between the Crown and Aboriginal people,” Chief Paul said. “If the Province won’t honour accommodation agreements why consult at all? If the Province does not recognize the Rule of Law why should we?” she warned.

In 2010 the First Nation sued the Province and the owners of the pulp mill seeking an injunction against the use of Boat Harbour as a wastewater treatment facility. The lawsuit is making its way through the courts. “We will of course continue with the lawsuit in an effort to stop the adverse impacts on our health,” Chief Paul said, “but we will now take other action that has proven effective in other parts of the country”. She did not elaborate on what that other action might be.

The Chief apparently has many allies among the grassroots membership of Premier Stephen McNeil’s own political party. At its recent annual convention the Nova Scotia Liberal Party passed a resolution calling upon the Liberal government to take immediate and effective action to clean up Boat Harbour. “Hopefully the Premier will listen to the members of his own Party”, said Chief Paul. “I look forward to meeting with him on this issue soon.”

Pictou Landing First Nation
RR#2 Box 65 
Pictou Landing, NS
BOK 1X0
902 752 4912

With files from Pictou Landing First Nation Community Newsletter

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Honor The Earth “Press Release” Lakota Ride

Columbus Day 2013…

IMG_9151 IMG_9171 IMG_9190 lakotarideamLakota and Ojibwe horse riders are on their second day of a 150 mile horse ride from the Pine Ridge reservation to the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota, near the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route. Riders, led by Percy White Plume, (a descendant of the survivors during the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre), are riding to oppose the “man labor camps” which will accompany the proposed pipeline, and  “to protect our water… we can drink bottled water, but our relatives in the horse nation, the buffalo nation and the animals cannot drink bottled water, our water is sacred…,” he said.

The proposed KXL pipeline crosses Lakota territory, and there are no pipelines in this region, home of the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary source of water for most of the region.  The ride began the same day as the 800,000 gallon plus pipeline spill from a Tesoro six inch line near Tioga, ND was revealed to press, and amidst a federal shutdown, in which it is not clear that PHMSA (pipeline safety inspectors) are available.  The ride also follows a freak, climate change attributed, two foot blizzard which  killed over l00,000 cattle in the largely rural , ranching state.  Amidst the changing weather, and riding through fields still littered with the carcasses of dead cattle , overturned trees and flooded creeks, twenty-five riders and supporters continue north.

The ride has been organized by the Horse Spirit Society of Wounded Knee, sponsored by Honor the Earth, and supported by the Swift Family Foundation, US Climate Action Network and 350.org.

All photographs courtesy of Honor The Earth, taken by Suze Leon.

For more information about Honor The Earth, Ride For Mother Earth, The Lakota Ride Against Keystone XL Pipeline and much more, please visit the following online sites.

Honor The Earth @ http://www.honorearth.org/

“Like” Facebook Page @ https://www.facebook.com/WinonaLaDukeHonorTheEarth

Follow on Twitter @  honorearth

Subscribe on YouTube @  HonorTheEarth

For more about “Ride For Mother Earth” Campaign and how you can contribute to its success, click below to watch.

“Gitjimitj Harper,” Idle No More: Round Two

The following story was originally published here and is being republished under a new title.

Written by Winona LaDuke and Frank Jr Molley

Mi’kmaq and Maliseet reserves in Atlantic Canada are the sites of a new major battle between First Nation activists and the Canadian government that may represent the next stage of the Idle No More movement. The flash point came when the Conservative government threw down the gauntlet with what some call sign-or-starve consent agreements presented to First Nations right across the country.

Facing increasingly strong opposition to both its extractive industries and its federal policies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has adopted a hard-line strategy seemingly designed to eliminate First Nations’ negotiating power and rights. Harper’s cudgels are annual contribution agreements between the government and the First Nations that have new, questionable appendices, that are forcing some of the poorest communities to take it or leave it, or worse, face third-party management, which would essentially mean having the Canadian government manage their finances and governmental affairs.  At stake here is title over Indian lands and minerals, as well as a host of choices on the future direction of Canada.

The government seems to be focused on getting de facto termination of many constitutionally and treaty protected rights of First Nations. Its first thrust in this battle was this past fall’s Bill C-45, which gutted most of Canada’s environmental laws and was the spur for last year’s Idle No More movement. “It took away a lot of the treaty muscle First Nations have,” says Nina Wilson, one of Idle No More’s founders, of that bill.

Since the eruption of the Idle No More movement in early December, there have been many amendments to Canadian laws that threaten aboriginal peoples rights and their traditional lands, all of them enacted as part of what the government calls “Canada’s Economic Action Plan.” Although dubbed a long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy, the majority of the “actions” in this plan will curtail aboriginal peoples rights over their lands and resources. The government appeared to be undermining the traditional “derogation” provision, a clause that Chelsea Vowel, a Métis scholar and blogger for Apihtawikosisan.com, explains “is central to every agreement between First Nations and the Canadian government.”

A non-derogation clause in aboriginal law generally reads like this: Nothing in this agreement shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

In “Are you alarmed? You should be,” an article posted on Apihtawikosisan.com, Vowel explains that these new my-way-or-the-highway agreements include language that is, “typical legal doublespeak. Your rights are protected… unless we need to violate them to carry out this legislation that we did not create with adequate consultation with you and further, we will not consult with you as we carry out these legislative duties.”

The new consent agreements bearing these bits of subterfuge are the staple of financial support for First Nations, funding essential health care, education and housing. “Some new agreements with the bands are designed to force a land surrender,” says Wilson. “In other cases, basic rights, like the right to potable water—which is not available in a number of First Nations—are being linked to a diminishment of rights.”

All this comes at a time when many First Nations are in dire financial straits. “We have been receiving very minimal support for services in our communities,” Wilson explains. “[Federal appropriations are] based on prices that date back to the last millennium. For instance, one community gets $4,000 a year for snow removal, and in fact is spending $36,000 a year. That money has to come from somewhere. [This annual shortfall] has snowballed into a debt, and bands have no way of taking care of it. Bands now are being faced with new financial negotiations, and many bands are in the red because of the low-ball appropriations.”

The Omnibus Budget Bill enacted in January 2013 has been criticized by opposition MPs as an attempt to subvert the democratic process. The bill was rushed through Parliament, along with many supplementary bills, eight of which directly affect aboriginal peoples and their lands. Of concern to First Nations are changes to legislation on water rights, matrimonial law, the Indian Act, education, health, privatization of Indian lands, taxation on reserves and on the matter of financial transparency and accountability.

Cree Lawyer Sharon Venne is an international human rights attorney and watchdog on federal aboriginal policy. Her experience in dealing with the feds is extensive, most notably as chief negotiator for First Nations for ten years in Canada’s Northwest Territories.  In October 2012, she held a special presentation in Kahnawake, Mohawk territory in which she suggests that the Federal plan is to absolve federal fiduciary obligations, which are essential elements of both treaties and federal Indian policy, based on a notorious set of policy recommendations dating back to the 1960s called the white paper. “What they are doing [now] is ‘frustrating’ the application of S.91(24) in the British North American Act, ‘Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians,’ by transferring this stuff to the Provinces and they are doing it through all kinds of mechanisms. It’s not only through legislation, but it’s through the [annual] contribution agreements.”

The desired shift would diminish the nation-to-nation relationships between Canada and all the First Nations—in particular their legal jurisdiction and responsibilities—by putting them under the control of local Provincial departments.

Bold moves by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church) is a Mi’gmaq First Nation community that has an unenviable claim to fame: it is reported to be the poorest postal code in all of Canada. In mid-March 2013, it was sent their annual contribution agreement. This time the agreement was different—it didn’t contain the standard non-derogation clause, which would erodes treaty rights protection in return for funding. Treaty and aboriginal rights are no longer explicitly acknowledged, which means they are, implicitly, imperiled. Councilor Mr. Curtis Bartibogue is outraged by this change in tactics by the government. “It’s blackmail, and it’s the most illegal thing ever done.… We told the [Aboriginal Affairs] Minister it’s like you’re putting a gun to our head and telling us to sign.”

What happened next surprised many, perhaps the Canadian government most of all. Despite the dire conditions of the community—80 per cent unemployment, and essentially full dependency on the promised multi-million-dollar funding allocation—Burnt Church refused to sign. “The outcome of our meeting was that we can’t sign,” Bartibogue says. “We asked the public and informed them of the situation and they stand behind us not to sign. To accept the social reform, the omitting clauses of the treaties and the case before the courts, is something we can’t do to our community.”

“The government, through its contribution agreements, is trying to get First Nations to sign onto [their policies] or else be cut from their funding,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta told a HillTimes.com reporter. He said his nation refused to sign its contribution agreement, worth more than one-million-dollars, because it doesn’t agree with the federal government’s omnibus budget implementation legislation.  In Saskatchewan, Cree First Nations similarly decided to say ‘No.’ “One of the council members took the whole appendix home and read it all. There were a lot of conditions never seen before. Some signed and some didn’t,” Christine Dieter, a First Nations woman in southern Saskatchewan, told a reporter for Ipolitics.ca, an electronic newsmagazine. The appendix allegedly requires the bands to support federal omnibus legislation and proposed resource developments as a condition of receiving  their funding. Some bands have already signed their contribution agreements out of necessity, noting that they have done so under duress.

The harsh reality behind this power play is that 146 years of Canadian development has left First Nation economies underfunded. Canadian mining and forestry have essentially stripped their resources for a paltry sum. Today, many of Canada’s 633 First Nations live in third-world conditions. Negotiations are too often uneven. As prominent Native scholar Russell Diabo wrote, “It seems the negotiating First Nations are so compromised by their federal loans, and dependent on the negotiations funding stream that they are unable or unwilling to withdraw from the tables en masse and make real on the demand that the Harper government reform its comprehensive claims and self-government policies to be consistent with the articles of the [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples].”

The Manufacturing of Aboriginal Consent

What is at stake for Canada is an estimated $650-billion-dollar extraction industry worth of minerals, oil, gas and trade-route access for pipeline companies. Canada’s domination of a world minerals market is at risk because First Nations are saying ‘No’ and are making demands.  For the first time in six years, Canada failed to top the mining industry’s list of the best mining jurisdictions in the world. Indigenous rights are a challenge to that economy. “I would say one of the big things that is weighing on mining investment in Canada right now is First Nations issues,” Ewan Downie, told Reuters. Downie is chief executive officer of Premier Gold Mines, which owns numerous projects in northern Ontario. Half a million Canadians and their livelihoods are tied in the 120-billion-a-year industry within the fields of natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil, oil sands bitumen and other mineral extractions, according to a 2013 Statistical Handbook issued by Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. (Many argue that all of those resources originate on First Nation territories.)

Free, prior and informed consent is a part of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and most international protocols. This becomes an international legal standard of how business is done, after hundreds of years of theft and genocide, in order to secure lands from Indigenous peoples. Hence, international accords today enable fair agreements with Indigenous peoples over their lands and resources. Now, with an increasingly educated, and empowered Indigenous community, evidenced by the Idle No More movement, that standard of consent is not looking so easy to secure. This is particularly true as communities themselves challenge, what has become, essentially entrenched power.

As Professor Pamela Palmater of Toronto’s Ryerson University explains, “[The Idle No More] movement was about educating First Nations to say no.… ” And saying “no” has already slowed or derailed at least a half-dozen energy and mining projects in British Columbia. “It’s the project-killer, the investment killer,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Cree organizer with the Indigenous Tar Sands campaign.

This March, Mathias Colomb Cree Nation blocked access for HudBay Minerals Inc. to its Lalor Lake mine project in Manitoba. Protesters blockaded access to the gold-copper-zinc mine for several hours, demanding talks with the company on an ownership stake in the $773.84 million project. Blockades have increased dramatically over this winter, spurred on by the federal government’s failure to consult, along with their green light nods toward new aggressive mining interests, many of which are in more remote and pristine areas than ever before. The companies are also facing a more politicized and mobilized grassroots movement that is determined to defend the constitutionally protected rights of First Nations.

Last September former cabinet minister Jim Prentice slammed both the government and the oil industry for not addressing First Nation concerns. Yet Canada’s Bill C-45 paved the way across aboriginal territory without much adherence to consultation or accommodation let alone the environment, opening new resource extraction opportunities with Suncor Energy, Enbridge, TransCanada and a sleuth of junior mining and natural gas companies effectively giving their activities the green light.

Last year, Trans Canada Corp. reportedly floated the idea of a pipeline to the East. New Brunswick’s Premier, David Alward, “has been traveling the country peddling the virtues of a West-East oil pipeline that would see Alberta and Saskatchewan crude flow to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick,” reported the Financial Post. The pipeline might go through territory of the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq peoples, and one source says that the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick were not consulted about the plans. This is disturbing in many respects, including the fact that Alward is, thanks to a consolidation of power in the Maritime provinces, also responsible for aboriginal affairs in the province.

Can the Harper government be thwarted in this attempt to subjugate and exploit the First Nations? U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, who is completing a report for the United Nations on extractive industries and Indigenous Peoples, has been requesting to formally enter Canada since early 2012. He was finally given formal approval in April and expected to vist during Fall 2013.

In the meantime, the Idle No More movement that began late last year has bloomed this Spring with new force, an Indigenous Spring, so to speak, that is spreading from eastern Canada’s Burnt Church to northern Saskatchewan. Native people are declaring that consent cannot be manufactured by federal threats.

Harper Government Pressures Poorest Community To Sign Agreement Despite Court Injunction

By Frank Jr Molley

Burnt Church First Nation, New Brunswick, Canada

It was just another day at the band office on Tuesday when Burnt Church First Nation councillor Mr. Curtis Bartibogue first noticed the files on his desk.

“It’s that time of the year when Aboriginal Affairs Funding Agreements come in, I looked at them briefly and set them aside for thursday’s meeting,” he said during a telephone interview.

Councillor Curtis Bartibogue, Burnt Church First Nation.

Councillor Curtis Bartibogue, Burnt Church First Nation.

It was that same day that he noticed a similar agreement being discussed online which caused him some concern, so he went back to take a closer look at the agreement. Aboriginal Funding agreements are issued across Canada prior to each fiscal year, a process that has the usual outlines on funding dollars.  Particulars involving Burnt Church First Nation include; Education (Elementary, Secondary, Post Secondary), Economic Development, Indian Government Support, Land and Trust Services, Community Infrastructure, Housing, Social Support Services, Social Assistance, and Headstart & Day Camp.

“Certain terminology contained in the prior funding agreements years before were no longer there,” he said as he compared last year’s agreement to this years.  “For example, Section 16 would normally have a non-derogation clause, but that was omitted.  These normally state that signing this agreement does not derogate from any aboriginal or treaty right, this was replaced and I thought that was strange,” he stated. “What I also found was that it said by signing onto this funding agreement our band would agree to the federal guidelines on social programs, which meant we would have to abide by the provincial social rates,” Bartibogue said.

Last year Ottawa planned to impose changes to welfare programs on First Nation communities that would harmonize rates throughout Atlantic Canada with Provincial rates.  But fell short of implementation due to a Federal Court Judge’s decision that effectively placed an injunction until heard in court.  A decision many First Nation leaders of the Maritimes were pleased with.  Despite the existing injunction Chief and Council of Burnt Church were concerned how this current agreement would affect the case currently before the courts.  Calls were made to the Regional Office requesting a meeting with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to discuss the matter.

“We met with the Minister and his staff last night [Wednesday] in Miramichi,” he said.  The Minister was in the province conducting Federal announcements in both Eel Ground and Buctouche First Nation respectively. “We asked Minister Valcourt why he didn’t recognize the injunction and he assured us the reason why they are putting the clause into the agreement is just in case the court votes in favour of the government,” Bartibogue said during the interview conducted with Wabanaki Press on Thursday evening.

“We were told that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing, it was just in case they win that they would be able to enforce those changes,” Bartibogue said.  Bartibogue believes that if Burnt Church First Nation signs the funding agreement, prior to the courts decision on social assistance reform in the Atlantic that is expected in June 2013, it may have major implications.  “So we asked if we did not sign the agreement would we still be able to get the essential funding outside of social assistance.  The Regional Director, Ian Gray, told us we would not get it because any new agreement must go through a process with the Treasury Board’s approval.  He also said that without signing they cannot release any funding to the community for April 1, 2013,” Bartibogue said.

Burnt Church First Nation, also known as Esgenoopetitj, is a Mi’gmaq community comprised of approximately 1,800 band members,  with an 80 per cent unemployment rate.   In February of 2010, CBC news reported that seven of the ten poorest postal codes in Canada were First Nation communities and all of them were within the province of New Brunswick.  Burnt Church First Nation was reported to be the poorest postal code in the country, poorer than Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, according to median income data by Statistics Canada.

“It’s blackmail and it’s the most illegal thing ever done,” says Bartibogue. “We told the Minister it’s like you’re putting a gun to our head and telling us to sign.  He just said if we sign there will be no funding problems,” said Bartibogue.  The meeting took place at Rodds Inn in Miramichi, NB on Wednesday.  Present at the meeting was the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Bernard Valcourt and his staff, including AANDC Regional Director General Ian Gray, Miramichi MP Tilly O’Neill Gordon, along with Chief Alvery Paul and eight of twelve Council members from Burnt Church First Nation.

Chief and Council of the Mi’gmaq community were told they have until noon Friday, March 15, 2013 local time to sign the agreement.  Coupled with pressing economic issues and an annual dependency of Federal Funding averaging $16 million dollars, the Chief and Council have decided not to sign the agreement.

“The outcome of our meeting today [Thursday] was that we can’t sign.  We asked the public and informed them of the situation and they stand behind us not to sign.  To accept the social reform, the omitting clauses of the treaties and the case before the courts, is something we can’t do to our community,”  says Councillor Curtis Bartibogue.

For the poorest postal code in Canada one would have to believe this to be an area of great concern given the Country’s approach to economic stability and strong Canadian values involving First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities across the land.  However, despite the sudden turn of events for the Mi’gmaq of Burnt Church First Nation, Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs office announced yesterday the designing and construction of a new school in Eel Ground First Nation.  A similar announcement was later made regarding funding for a new water treatment facility at Buctouche First Nation, both communities are located in New Brunswick and both are also Mi’gmaq nations.  Two out of three announcements that prove positive results for the future of these ancient peoples is cause for applause indeed.  The question remains, how many other Mi’gmaq and Maliseet communities were subjected to signing these kinds of funding arrangements?  Wabanaki Press will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Wela’lioq

“The Harper Government remains focused on four priorities, as outlined by the Prime Minister, that Canadians care most about: their families, the safety of our streets and communities, their pride in being a citizen of this country, and their personal financial security.”  Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website, March 14, 2013, News Release and Statements. Ref. #2-3768

With files from CBC, Windspeaker and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

LaDuke to give lecture in Wolastoqiyik territory.

Wolastoqiyik territory, New Brunswick.

Winona LaDuke at White Earth Reservation.

Winona LaDuke at White Earth Reservation.

Winona LaDuke hails from White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, she’s Bear Clan.  The Harvard graduate admits she’s really a Rural Development Economist but one that applies indigenous multi-generational thinking.  She’s held two lectures already, the first at UNB’s Marshall D’Avery.  The second at St. Mary’s First Nation.

During her lecture at UNB LaDuke said that indigenous values are not valued, even in a Harvard economics classroom.  Indigenous people are cyclical thinkers who share teachings of sustainability, she added “and [that] the world is animate.  Canada doesn’t think like that.”

But the idea of progress reveals dullness.  As she put it, we could cap emissions, irrigate water, change regulations and such however it’s an economy based on mining and waste.  She arrived in Wolastoqiyik territory to give a number of lectures, her next public lecture scheduled this Thursday at St. Thomas University.

Her lecture entitled, “Idle No More, Harper’s Big Oil Economy, and All our Relations,” will take place in McCain Hall Auditorium.  For more info click here.

One thing is certain…

One thing is certain, tomorrow’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, the Governor General and Aboriginal leaders will take place; or it won’t.

Streaming through the media coverage, Twitter feeds and Facebook status’s surrounding a special strategy meeting with aboriginal leaders is overwhelming.

The majority of media concerns being expressed on behalf, or in light of, Idle No More take shape for and against the concept of liberation being proposed.  However, the mainstream media tonight has been absent with any grass roots voice, especially from the women of Canada’s aboriginal nations.

In light of this absence here is one such voice coming out tonight from The Delta in Ottawa.  A voice of an aboriginal woman with a message so important that it may galvanize and set the tone for all to follow as negotiations run late into the night.

For those of you around the world, share this within your online social circles.  For it, just by itself, speaks of the power in all aboriginal women worldwide.

Perhaps it will change the way Canadians perceive the Idle No More movement.  It has realigned this editor back to where the focus of all of this remains, take a listen:

24 Hour Blockade Ends, More Peaceful Protests Planned

7th District Mi’gmaq Territory

Supporters stand united and brave the cold temperatures in support of Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence. (Gesgapegiag First Nation, Qc)

Supporters stand united and brave the cold temperatures in support of Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence. (Gesgapegiag First Nation, Qc)

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.

Community support rally together in response to Bill C-45. (Gesgapegiag, Qc.)

Community support rally together in response to Bill C-45. (Gesgapegiag, Qc.)

“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:

ENGLISH VERSION

EN FRANCAIS VERSION

To view a copy of the Unity March scheduled for Saturday, January 5th see below:

UNITY MARCH ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 5, 2013

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