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A boisterous rally and march numbering an estimated 1,500 took to the streets of Edmonton as part of more than a dozen rallies marking the December 10 ‘Idle No More‘ national day of action and solidarity, which was called to express First Nation opposition to the changes introduced by the Harper Conservatives in the omnibus bill C-45 and other legislation.
Thousands more joined rallies and marches to mark the national day of action in Vancouver, Whitehorse, Calgary, Stand Off, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Goose Bay-Happy Valley.
The Idle No More movement emerged less than four weeks ago from the grassroots of First Nations communities in Saskatchewan. It began as an effort to educate First Nations people on the legislation being put forward by the Harper government that they feel is a direct attack on the rights of First Nations. The organizers Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah McLean began by organizing “teach-ins” to inform people.
Opposition by First Nations to Bill C-45 garnered national attention last week during when 300 First Nations Chiefs marched on Parliament hill, and several Chiefs, led by Chief Fox, went inside Parliament to deliver a message to the government. This refusal to allow First Nations leadership to respectfully enter the House of Commons triggered an even greater mobilization of First Nation peoples across the country.
The Edmonton march, which made its way from downtown’s Churchill Square before stopping at the Alberta Law Courts building en route to the federal building, Canada Place, was also an expression of solidarity with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s court appearance as part of its lawsuit against the Government of Canada in relation to the impact of tar sands development on its traditional territory which the Beaver Lake Cree Nation says is impacting its treaty rights under the 1876 Treaty 6.
“The Beaver Lake Cree have set historical precedence because for the first time under Canada’s judicial system, First Nations people are given the green light in litigation against the massive level of industrial development — this includes the tar sands activity within the Beaver Lake Cree Traditional territory,” explains Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. “The lawsuit is based on the collective effects these activities are having on the Constitutionally protected Treaty Rights of the First Nations people.”