First Nations in and around Williams Lake held a second rally on Dec. 31 in support of Chief Theresa Spence who is in the 21st day of her hunger strike asking for a meeting with prime minister Stephen Harper. The first rally was held Dec. 21.
Challenging the 50 people of all ages gathered at the outdoor stage in Boitanio Park, Williams Lake Indian Band chief Anne Louie, urged everyone to write to their MPs to express concerns and ask them to support the meeting requested by Chief Spence.
“Her community members, and many other First Nations live in deplorable conditions,” Louie said, adding the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility and obligation for all First Nations.
“I ask you to keep Chief Theresa Spence in your thoughts, hearts and prayers. It is very sad that she had to go to this extreme to bring to public the issues that are based on the federal government’s actions.”
The federal government’s Omnibus Bill C-45 is an example of government exercising its muscle because it has a majority government, Louie added.
“We are not the only ones affected by this bill. The navigable waters legislation impacts everyone, not just our people. Environmental assessment changes may affect everyone,” Louie said. “All you have to do is look at the proposed Enbridge pipeline and other pipelines to see how it will affect everyone in B.C.”
She also alleged there is a misunderstanding amongst members of the general public on how First Nations are treated by the federal government.
“I suggest if anyone is opposed to what Chief Spence is doing that they go to her community and reside there for one year under the same conditions that her people are residing.”
The federal government sends out “misinformation” when it says it is spending millions of dollars on First Nations, Louie added.
“What the public needs to be made aware of is the majority of these funds are exhausted before they ever reach First Nations communities.”
Paying for ministers’ salaries, their staff, administration at Aboriginal Affairs, and a large portion is transferred to the provincial government for health, education, child welfare programs, which are all “failing miserably” because of lack of proper consultation.
“The rates paid to the provincial government are much higher than what is issued to our community programs. We must let our elected MPs know that we expect equal treatment.”
All Canadians, whether First Nations or not, benefit from funding for health, education and social programs, she added.
“Tax collection alone, does not pay for all of this. Another myth is that First Nations do not pay taxes. This is false. The general public needs to get informed about this before making such negative comments. The Auditor General has repeatedly stated year after year, that the federal government must review and act on the treatment and issues of aboriginal people.”
Trudy Stump provided a smudging on everyone gathered for the rally, including Canoe/Dog Creek chief Dave Archie who said his thoughts go out to all First Nations people living without food and in poor conditions, “harmful to their health and spirit.”
Looking around he said the rally represented the stand people are going to have to take more and more.
His words were followed by drumming and singing.