APTN National News
OTTAWA–It began in Cairo with a sign.
Patricia Stein, a Lakota from South Dakota, attached an Idle No More sign to the wall of the Canadian embassy in Cairo on Friday morning.
It then moved to London, where a handful of people also rallied in support of Idle No More.
And as the sun rose across the Atlantic, the hashtag #idlenomore began to flash with increasing speed across Twitter.
By mid-morning Friday, about 500 people gathered in Ottawa on Victoria Island in preparation for march to Parliament Hill. With drums pounding and flags waving, they gathered outside the compound where Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is staying in a teepee during her now 11 day-long hunger strike.
Buses rolled in throughout the morning and the numbers slowly grew despite inclement weather. People, from as far away as Regina, were expected to take part in the rally, which has been billed as the largest one among the many planned for the day.
From Halifax to Vancouver, Toronto to Prince Albert, Montreal to Los Angeles, Idle No More rallies and flashmob round dances were expected to sweep across the continent Friday in another show of strength for a movement that began in opposition to the Conservative’s omnibus Bill C-45 and its changes to the Indian Act and Navigable Waters Act, but has since blossomed into wider call over Indigenous rights.
Speaking to reporters during a morning conference call, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said Spence’s hunger strike and the Idle No More movement had awakened First Nations people across Canada.
“The language that I have heard from elders with ceremony with chief Spence has been an incredible awakening that is occurring,” said Atleo. “We have yet to see the kind of results we so deeply desire. It is a connecting and a push by young people, when they say Idle No More, that they are saying they are helping to be the change they are looking for.”
Atleo said he had yet to hear a response to Spence’s call for a treaty meeting between First Nations leaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
Atleo says he faces an “ideological” divide with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on how to deal with the “deepening crisis” facing First Nations people in the country.
Atleo said he had so fair failed to reach a “common understanding” with the prime minister.
“Either there isn’t an understanding and perhaps a potential to care, or there is an understanding and there isn’t a sense of caring,” said Atleo. “It feels like we have an ideological divide, a different way of viewing this challenge of both the issues in our communities, the reality of title rights and treaty rights as well as section 35.”
Atleo said that the prime minister, however, does share a belief that the Aboriginal Affairs bureaucracy is one of the main obstacles to major changes.
“There is some shared notions of the intransigence of bureaucracy, that bureaucracy is part of the challenge, part of the problem and its hindering progress,” said Atleo. “To me it means that the prime minister himself, while he may want to rely on referring these issue to his minister or to ministers, does require the prime ministerial intervention and the expression of political will. I have not seen that…I have not had so many conversations with him that I can say we have a shared understanding.”