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Eastern Door — Idle No More

Anti-C-45 rally draws hundreds to the streets of Halifax

by Miles Howe

Idle No More Rally [Photo: Miles Howe]
Idle No More Rally [Photo: Miles Howe]

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) — Buoyed on by the thunderous drums of the Eastern Eagles, hundreds of Mi'kma'ki's original peoples and their allies marched through the streets of Halifax on Dec. 14, adding their voices to those across Canada that are now rallying under the banner of 'Idle No More' against the Harper government's passing of Bill C-45.

As noted by Elizabeth May, Bill C-45, ostensibly a budgetary document, has attached to it over 900 pages of "legislation largely unrelated to the budget itself." And while the direct motivation behind the bill appears to many critics to be related to the Harper government's attempts at undoing any and all roadblocks related to pipeline construction, the federal Conservatives have in the legislative process awoken the anger of First Nations communities across the country, who at a grassroots and chieftain level have decried the lack of meaningful consultation in passing this bill.

For months now, again as a potential measure to weaken what has been the most resilient form of resistance to pipeline — and other industrial — development, First Nations communities across Canada have felt the brunt of the Harper government's seemingly unending legislative onslaught. These include, according to the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy: Bill C-27, First Nations Financial Transparency Act; Bill C-428, Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act; Bill S-2, Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act; Bill S-6, First Nations Elections Act; Bill S-8 , First Nations Safe Drinking Water Act; Bill S-207, An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act; and Bill S-212, First Nations Self Government Recognition Act.

Such bills, when contemplated in the context of the passing of Bill C-45, as well as in the appearance of numerous, government-sanctioned, tri-partee groups across the country that have begun to insert themselves into the consultation process between chiefs and constituencies, appear in effect to directly threaten Canada's First Nations' ability to effectively contribute to the consultation process, which is not only a respect for Indigenous rights, but is indicative of "honourable Crown" policy.

Many have also noted that 'proper consultation,' even without the Harper government's current barage of bills, has for years been a total misnomer. Canada's First Nations communities unfortunately lead the way in statistics related to poverty, incarceration, a variety of diseases, lack of formal education, sub-standard housing, drug use and suicide, and suggests a community under attack, with symptoms in immediate need of attention, not a party yet able to approach the proverbial bargaining table on equal footing with the Crown.

It is in this context of 'not-much-left-to-lose' that the passing of Bill C-45, with ammendments to the Fisheries Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canada Labour Code, has proven to be the awakening of a grassroots, First Nations-lead, movement across Canada. It is a bill whose passing may well also attract the solidarity of other activists, including labour activists and environmentalists, whose respective causes also face deep cuts in the name of the Harper agenda.

As of press time, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence had entered her seventh day of a hunger strike; her only demand is to meet and consult with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston. Chief Spence's health, as well as anti-C-45 roadblocks that have begun to sporadically appear, are hot spots that may serve to galvanize the 'Idle No More' movement, and have created a situation in which many First Nations' communities across the country are considering next moves.

Please enjoy the full audio from Dec. 14's 'Idle No More' rally in K'jipuktuk (Halifax), Mi'kma'ki.

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