First Nations in and around Williams Lake protested Dec. 21 to show support for chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario who is on the eleventh day of a hunger strike to protest Bill C-45.
Around 50 First Nations leaders and community members gathered outside city hall ,before making a peaceful procession through the city, to continue what Canoe Creek chief David Archie said the ancestors started when the first visitors arrived.
“Our ancestors have been dealing with this for a long time and now it’s our turn,” Archie said.
“What we do here is going to set the pace for our kids and the next leaders to come, and I’m glad we have people from both sides of the river working together for a common good.”
Williams Lake Indian Band Chief said Bill C-45 marks the first time in Canadian history that so many bills regarding First Nations are being pushed through the House of Commons at one time.
“Bill C-35 is a bill that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has passed without any consultation with First Nations,” Louie said. “The bill is changing our aboriginal rights which are protected under the constitution section 35.”
“Spence is chief of a community that has people living in deplorable conditions, including living in shacks and tents. I have been following this protest on the news,” Louie said, adding there is a huge movement occurring that involves First Nations people bringing these issues to the forefront of the Canadian public.
“Her community is not the only community that has suffered under these conditions, it is all First Nations in Canada who are underfunded and have their rights cut while the federal government benefits from the resource extraction from our traditional territories,” Louie said. “Many of our leaders say we are beggars in our own lands.”
Soda Creek chief Bev Sellers asserted Spence’s protest is only one action been taken against Bill C-35.
“A grass roots movement called Idle No More is sweeping the nation,” Sellers said. “People across the nation are working to peacefully bring these issues to the general public.”
The movement has received the support of the federal NDP, along with other non-aboriginal groups and individuals.
“Today as we meet here there are a number of protests and rallies taking place in Egypt, at the Canadian Embassy in London, England, and throughout North America,” Sellers said, adding Idle No More is not just about aboriginal people, it’s also about protecting waters.
“As aboriginal people I say we are fighting for our children and grandchildren, but by doing that we are fighting for everybody’s children and grandchildren.”
Today’s protest was organized quickly, said Joe Alphonse, Tsilqot’in National Government tribal chair and Anaham chief.
“We can’t sit and wait for others to come and look after our interests as First Nations people. If we don’t demand things we’re going to be forgotten about.”
First Nations don’t agree with having more rights removed, Alpohnse said.
“It goes against our rights as human beings, that’s why we’re here.”