The Idle No More movement has become synonymous with protests, but on Jan. 16 a group of local supporters made sure it was seen as more than that. That was what was proposed for the movement’s day of action. All across Canada on Jan. 16, First Nations, Metis and other aboriginal organizations and supporters got together to explain what was behind the movement.
A small group organized an educational event at the Chief Lamalice Complex on the Hay River Reserve.
“A lot of people like to think they have it all figured out, why they should or shouldn’t support the movement,” said co-organizer Doug Lamalice. “Even our own people admitted to not really knowing all that was behind it. They thought we were just going with the trend, but there is so much to it.”
Before the people started to file in from the cold, organizer Darlene Lamb was trying to work some last-minute bugs out of a presentation. She said that, although many groups across the country had planned for protesting, boycotting and blockades, she said that’s not the strategy the local supporters want to take.
“We want to be peaceful about it. We’re not extremists,” she said. “We are going to make some mistakes along the way, we’re not perfect, but this is a movement that’s going to carry on. If five people show up, that’s good, but we’re hoping more of the communities catch on to this. Right now, there are too many questions and sometimes people assume the wrong things.”
Around 60 people turned up for the event from the reserve and Hay River, including the MLAs from Hay River North and South, and the MLA for Deh Cho.
The Idle No More movement began in Saskatchewan with four women who felt it was crucial to address the federal legislation Bill C-45. They want to repeal both Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, claiming they are a threat to treaties and to the “indigenous vision of sovereignty.”
Bea Lepine went into more detail on this. She brought pages of her own research to present to people, hoping to dispel any ignorance by outing the gritty details.
Lepine has taken part in many protests since the movement exploded across Canada.
“When you’re out there with your signs, you don’t really have a chance to talk,” said Lepine. “This movement is unprecedented – for aboriginal people to be protesting all across the country. There was Oka and there was Ipperwash, but they were not across Canada.”
According to treaty, Lepine said, First Nations and indigenous people are supposed to be consulted before certain bills are passed.
Bill C-38 passed in the spring of 2012 and Bill C-45 passed in December.
Bill C-45, a 457-page bill amending 64 acts, “completely gutted” the Fisheries Act, said Lepine.
“The Fisheries Act was one of the strongest pieces of legislation in Canada,” she said. “Canada has always been a leader in environmental protection. Now that’s gone.”
Bill C-38 amends the Navigable Waters Act. Lepine said the act was changed to permit any major industrial development across rivers.
Before the bill passed, there were 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers. There are now only 159. In the North, only the Mackenzie River, Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake are protected.
It also amends the Environmental Assessment Act, meaning environmental assessments are no longer required under the amendment.
“What can you do?” asked Lepine, “It’s about getting out there forming alliances with groups, writing letters, protesting these changes, but keep it peaceful.”
Lamalice said organizers are holding an event at the community hall in Hay River on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.
“We all need to work together, we’ve said that over and over,” he said at the Jan. 16 event on the Hay River Reserve. “Tonight is about how we can work better together in the Hay River area. This is a positive night. This is not only a First Nations thing, this is a community thing.”
— Angele Cano