Hundreds March In Regina As Saskatchewan’s First Nations Fight Against Harper's Bill C-45
“I’m standing in solidarity with my people because I’m tired of the government’s imposition and governmental discrimination policies; I’m tired of it all. They try to determine what is best for us, we know what we want, we have our own policies, we know how to govern ourselves,” said Courtney McKay, 22.
Bill C-45, known as the Jobs and Growth Act, is 457 pages of legislation, making it one of the larger bills passed in the last 20 years. In total, it will amend or affect 37 acts.
Of utmost concern for the protesters is changes to the Navigable Waters Act, the Fisheries Act and a separate private members bill that could repeal or significantly change the Indian Act.
“Bill C-45 is going to affect our water ways, and its going to destroy our land and our resources,” said McKay.
After walking 3 1/2 kilometres from 5th Avenue to the Legislative Building, First Nations leaders took to the steps to a roaring crowd of 400 chanting “idle no more.” Glenn Pelletier, a Cowessess First Nation counsellor, denounced the Harper government for not consulting First Nations on any of the changes.
While drums were beating and the smell of burning sage surrounded the crowd, Michelle Rae McKay pointed out that 89 per cent of Canadian land is owned by the crown and First Nations have a right to that land. She said the country’s aboriginals are made up of sovereign nations and Canada has “no right” to tell them what to do.
Edmund Bellegarde, tribal chairperson for File Hill Qu’Appelle tribal council, echoed that sentiment in a scrum with reporters. “Our inherent rights to self government has to be the end result,” he said.
The “idle no more” movement has gained traction from coast to coast in the past week. Bellegarde said the future of the movement is in the hands of the government and its response. “We will continue to advocate, we will continue to march, we will continue to rally, we will continue to rally this movement. The voices of our people (are) idle no more,” he said, adding the power of First Nations networks is starting to be seen. “It’s only going to get stronger,” he said.
Many speakers spoke about the importance of young people, of which there were many on Thursday, in ensuring the aboriginal voice is being heard in Parliament.
Rain Poorman, 14, fears for the future of his education if the conservatives remain in power.
“I’d like to see Stephen Harper stop Bill C-45,” he said.