Last updated: December 31, 2013 8:44 pm
Windsor's indigenous community ‘Idle No More,’ protest Bill C-45
WINDSOR (CUP) — Around 150 Windsorites and others from Southern Ontario gathered in Dieppe Park for the Idle No More rally on Dec. 13 to protest Bill C-45.
The protestors claim the proposed amendments violate treaty rights for aboriginal peoples and the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which demands that a country consult with its indigenous people before changing anything within their treaty. They also claim that the bill endangers the rivers and lakes that provide Canadians with safe drinking water.
“The federal government is supposed to consult with us in regards to changing that legislation, but right now we don’t see any free, prior and informed consent,” said Andrea Landry, one of the organizers of the rally.
The protestors expressed their outrage at being ignored by the government at the rally with signs saying, “Stephen Harper, Don’t Sell Us Out!” and “Where’s My Voice in Bill C-45?”
They chanted “Kill Bill C-45!” as the rally marched in downtown Windsor. Several chiefs and other members of the First Nations community took the megaphone to share their opinion of the new legislation and motivate the crowd.
Bill C-45 was passed Dec. 6 by the House of Commons and on Dec. 14 by the Senate. It includes changes to the the Indian Act, pensions for members of Parliament and employment insurance.
The changes within the bill that are specific to First Nations peoples include taking away many of their territorial waters, redefining Aboriginal fisheries and empowering the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to call a band meeting to propose ceding aboriginal territory back to the government.
Other changes to legislation proposed in the bill concern the protection status of Canada’s waters. The Navigable Water’s Protection Act now only offers protection to 97 of Canada’s approximately 32,000 major lakes.
“It’s taking away our natural resources, like the water that you drink, the water that runs through the [Detroit] River, the lakes, they’re all supposed to be protected for a reason,” said Annissa Hill from the Oneida Reserve. “Stephen Harper is trying to run this right under our noses.”
Lorena Shepley, another organizer of the rally, agreed. “It isn’t right what they did with these bills. They lumped it all into this omnibus bill; they didn’t ask our permission for anything.”
“Our government respects its duty to consult. Every year our government conducts over 5,000 consultations with First Nations,” said Jan O’Driscoll, press secretary for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. “We will continue to work in partnership with First Nations to support strong, self-sufficient and more prosperous Aboriginal communities.”
This rally was just one in the Idle No More movement that has been sweeping across Canada since the bill was passed. Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence has been fasting since Dec. 11 to protest Bill C-45.