All Canadians, not just those of Aboriginal descent, should support the efforts of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to engage in a renewed, nationwide dialogue about the role of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in determining the best path to peace, justice and environmentally sound land-use practices across the country.
For the past 23 days, Chief Spence has engaged in a hunger strike that aims to persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with her to discuss issues she feels are vital to the country’s, and Aboriginal peoples’, future. In recent days her efforts have received the support of demonstrators in the Sea to Sky Corridor — including a group who drummed, danced and spoke at the base of Whistler Mountain during the busy Christmas season. Meanwhile, for three days members of the Seton Lake Band blockaded the CN Rail line near Shalalth to show solidarity with Spence and those staging a similar blockade in Sarnia, Ont.
While some might argue that those engaging in such acts of civil disobedience should be punished, it should be clear that the intent of the protests is to gain people’s attention and spark dialogue, not conflict. The Idle No More movement, according to its website, “calls on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.”
Squamish Nation member Amanda Nahanee told the Whistler Question she joined the local demonstration to oppose the Feds’ Bill C-45, which includes the continued stripping of environmental protection from Canadian waterways, and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. “We need to start coming together now as Canadians, all of us coming together with better solutions,” she said.
Those aren’t the words of a radical bent on inciting anarchy. We all want better conditions for those living on Canada’s reserves — and most British Columbians appear to want the Feds to wake up and understand that you can have economic prosperity without putting the environment at grave risk. Protection of Mother Earth for future generations may have its roots in Aboriginal cultures, but increasingly, it’s a value that we all share.
— David Burke