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

OPINION: #IdleNoMore

As I stare past my own reflection through the second storey window pane to get a glimpse of the bright Christmas lights in the neighbourhood of Listuguj, I wonder what to write or how to write about Idle No More. Our family put together a Christmas dinner and as I sat there about to get into it I stopped to remember Attawapiskat’s Chief,Theresa Spence. She’s into her fifteenth day of her hunger strike. There is something dangerous about it when aboriginal women begin to stand up across the country. I say that because when a woman stands and talks she also “does,”so there’s no way of getting in the way of that. Aboriginal women are strong, caring, nurturing and humble. But they are just as powerful.

So for a moment I savoured the taste, scents and creamy smooth mashed potatoes. In doing so I appreciated what I had and at the same time tried to imagine the hardship Chief Spence is facing. Even more important are the incredible situations aboriginal peoples, their children and families find themselves day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year.

There are many story angles to choose from with the #IdleNoMore movement. Everywhere I turn within social media outlets there’s constant flow of relative information. Social media is the new smoke signals, the new locomotive entering aboriginal communities. It makes me feel really good when I witness the growing and inspiring acts of peaceful protests. And I think what I perceive to be a truth surrounding the energy that is waking up aboriginal people it’s that enough is enough.

What our country has witnessed is a revival of the people of the land. You see it in their character, in the colours of their regalia as they dance, you hear in their voice and one might even feel a slight tingle as an observer to all of that. I believe this is an awakening. One that seems to be introducing a new kind of stewardship over the land, rivers and lakes. It’s taking on the form of an ancient response to unrelenting aggression: resistance.

Ever hear someone say, “you take and take and keep taking until I have nothing left for you to take.” I’m sure we’ve heard something similar, well this is how I view the collective voice of that movement. The relationship, it seems to have been born that way, was destined for imbalance, abuse and bad dealings. Let’s be clear about that historic fact and this isn’t with your everyday Canadian citizen, the struggle is with the Federal Government. People tend to take it personal and reject the very notion of liberation even for aboriginal people. I too need to keep in mind also that the call for change is mostly based on principles of the Treaty relationship signed so many years ago. But it’s quite a drastic story today as Canada aims at unlocking a 600 billion-dollar potential in Canada’s Oil, Gas and Mining industries. Just like in it’s last days the German war machine had depleted oil and gas resources and were left burning pure rocket fuel to keep the beast alive, but it didn’t work out. And so, the approaching threat of legislation by way of Bill C-45 illustrates to the environmental and scientific communities that this mode of operation by the Harper government is an act of desperation to override the Indian legal test associated with economic and natural resource development. Bill C-45 literally paves the way to a brighter economic future for Canada, minus a few big changes to the Indian Act everything should be running on schedule, as planned.

What a lot of people seem to misunderstand is that aboriginal people are THE only peoples that can do what they do and have a solid ground to stand upon when doing so. More than ever and pressing is the environmental impacts that will come about from this massive omnibus bill. If it weren’t for aboriginal peoples igniting the fires of the movement where and what would our barometer be? Surely aboriginal peoples are the last line of defence when it comes to protecting the land, they have historically reiterated this message throughout our shared history. It’s noticeable in the language of the Treaties, it’s reminded in the many wars that were fought over Canada. A time in our history where no foreign invader defeated the aboriginal military equivalent of their time. The notion of defending the land is paramount for aboriginal peoples, the omnibus bill attempts to circumvent a number of scrutinies. Idle No More is a reflection of their inherent ability to know when enough is enough.

In summary, Canada has a bad track record of fulfilling their contractual obligation with aboriginal peoples. Had the omnibus bill been given the time and space it would have required for all to review and consider, including aboriginal peoples themselves, perhaps this movement may have never happened. Being ignored is no secret in the political and legal history between Canada and its co-founders, the aboriginal peoples. So it’s no surprise to many but I’m of the opinion that it’s more than simple appeasement. This two sided issue has the environmental and personal factors and then again the immense growth and development investment opportunities. It has, in my opinion, come down to which side you are on because on The Hill there is no meaningful discussion or arbitration associated with Canada’s bottom-line.

Yet there is hope. Aboriginal peoples are leading the way for the rest of Canada to follow. Their outpouring of dissent is in defence of our shared values of democracy, environmental stewardship, innovation and ultimately the waking up of all who stand to have a say over what happens to them and their lands. The old ways are looking for new people, and new people are looking for old ways. We find ourselves at the epicentre of what will be looked back upon as Canada’s moment to do the right thing. Without the support of Canadians the Idle No More movement cannot go any further than what it’s doing for aboriginal peoples across the nation. If by national spirit all aboriginal and non-aboriginal people unite under this banner and finally work together in securing a holistic future for all Canadians, one that we can live with, we could very well being seeing our own Arab Spring. There needs to be respect and fairness as we shape our way through this together, to each his own of course, but ultimately it’s about reformatting the Canadian State, by and for all Canadians and all aboriginal peoples.

Frank Jr Molley, EIC, Wabanaki Press

(Edited and republished 03-20-2014)

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