Sackville resident Hanford Nye is pleased the Idle No More movement is gaining ground not only in Canada but worldwide, putting the spotlight on the federal government’s disregard for First Nations treaty rights and their environmental concerns.
“I’m glad to see there is so much support out there,” said Nye, a native of Fort Folly First Nations.
Nye said he didn’t realize how much the Idle No More campaign had spread beyond Canadian borders until he received a call last week from his aunt – Marie (Bernard) Roberts, a Fort Folly elder who now makes her home in Chicago – who had recently participated in a protest in her city with her granddaughter.
“The movement is further afield than where I thought it was,” he said.
Nye’s aunt told him there were hundreds of people who came out to protest, waving flags and carrying placards for the cause.
The Idle No More movement, which got its start back in November, is a stand against the Harper government’s omnibus Bill C-45, which First Nations groups say threatens their treaty rights set out in the Constitution. They say the new legislation is also a significant threat to the environment.
“The real issue here isn’t the protests, the larger issue is why they’re protesting,” said Nye.
He said the government, through this new bill, is trying to ease up rules that would allow for easier access to treaty lands and waterways, without First Nations consent – areas that should be better protected.
Nye said if industry is allowed to develop on these pristine lands or around rivers, the country will lose even more of its natural resources.
“If there is an accident, what happens then? They’re not taking into account the impact of these mega projects,” he said.
He said no amount of compensation for environmental accidents can make up for losing water or food sources. “People depend on the land.”
Idle No More began late last fall by four women in Saskatchewan, who were concerned about the new bill being introduced by the government and decided to organize a ‘teach-in’ event on Nov. 10. This was followed up a week later by several other grassroots events in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, setting the stage for the nationwide movement.
Exactly one month later, Idle No More held a National Day of Action in a number of locations across the country – which gained even more notoriety when Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence announced she would be going on a hunger strike.
The northern Ontario chief’s actions have helped spur the movement along over the past month, as she put efforts in to setting up a meeting with federal government officials, including the Prime Minister, and First Nations chiefs to press Ottawa on treaty rights and improved living standards.
Stephen Harper is meeting with an Assembly of First Nations delegation today (Jan. 11)