'This is deadly serious,' says Atleo as Idle No More flexes muscles once again

Thousands gathered in Ottawa Friday under the banner of Idle No More and in the name of hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence as part of nation-wide rallies that saw highways blocked and a flashmob round dance shut down an intersection in Canada’s biggest city.

APTN National News
OTTAWA--Thousands gathered in Ottawa Friday under the banner of Idle No More and in the name of hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence as part of nation-wide rallies that saw highways blocked and a flashmob round dance shut down an intersection in Canada’s biggest city.

Despite heavy snow fall and at times brittle winds in Canada’s capital, the RCMP said the rally on Parliament Hill drew 4,000 people at its peak.

“I came here to pray upon unceded Algonquin territory for people to come together in unity,” said Louise Wawati, 58, a traditional council elder from Barriere Lake, a northern Quebec Algonquin community that has waged a decades-long struggle against Ottawa to gain control over their traditional territory.

The rally in Ottawa was one of dozens that played out across the continent and even across the Atlantic. From Cairo, Egypt, to Prince Albert, Sask., from Los Angeles to Milbrook First Nation, N.S., from Yellowknife to Halifax, people rolled out their signs, blocked highways, and danced in the streets.

Indigenous actor Adam Beach attended a small rally in Los Angeles, while in Cairo, Patricia Stein, a Lakota from South Dakota, attached an Idle No More sign to the wall of the Canadian embassy there. In Toronto, a round dance shut down a downtown intersection and near Rexton, N.B., the Mi’kmaq blocked Hwy. 11.

In Ottawa, the march to Parliament Hill began on Victoria Island, the place where Spence is holding her hunger strike in a teepee warmed by a woodstove. Spence is on a hunger strike until Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston agree to a treaty meeting with First Nations leaders. She spent the rally there with her family on the 11th day of the hunger strike, but her name was on everyone lips.

At one moment during the rally, the crowd directed a chant at Harper calling on him to “go see Theresa Spence.”

Kyle Laforme, from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation near Brantford, Ont., said he admired Spence.

“She has more bravery than the entire nation,” said Laforme, 22.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo called on the men in the crowd to hear Spence’s message.

“And so men, when a woman like Chief Spence says, it is time to work together, it is time to be unified, it is time that we are idle no more, we better listen,” said Atleo.

Atleo also praised the youth who have been driving the Idle No More movement.

“You are our leaders right now at this time in history, you are the change we’ve been waiting for…We believe in our hearts that this is the moment,” said Atleo.

Atleo told the crowd that they were facing a Canadian government that has never recognized them as distinct peoples.

“The (federal) Department of Justice, the federal government, so many governments, over so many years, stand on a principle that is unacceptable,” said Atleo. “Canada stands on a foundation that the Cree, the Ojibway, the Nuu-chah-nulth, my people, do not exist as a people.”

Atleo said the Canada faced a moment of “reckoning” in 2013.

“This is deadly serious,” said Atleo. “Lives are at stake like Chief Spence’s.”

The Harper government, however, is unwilling to bend to Spence’s demands and insists that she meet with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, which is something she has already rejected.

The Conservatives are also starting to claim that Spence’s demands have evolved since her hunger strike began, which is something that doesn’t mesh with the record.

“Chief Spence started this process very specifically identifying community issues and we encouraged her to meet with Minister Duncan,” said Greg Rickford, parliamentary secretary for Aboriginal Affairs, in an interview with APTN National News.

Rickford said the government would deal with Atleo on “issues of national scope” and that senior officials in the Prime Minster’s Office had been in touch with Atleo that day.

The Harper government, however, may be facing something unprecedented.

While there have been serious conflicts in the past, most revolved around a specific land issue, whether it was the gravesites in Kanesatake or the land reclamation by Six Nations in Caledonia, Ont.

The Idle No More movement, which began in response to the Conservative’s omnibus Bill C -45, is evolving into a national phenomena and it’s demanding nothing less than the nation’s full attention to finally find lasting peace with the original nations of this land.

And Spence’s demands are but a first step.

The tone in many of the speeches carried an underlying message that a confrontation loomed if the Harper government continued on its current path in dealing with First Nations.

“Stephen Harper may be angry, Stephen Harper may be smart, but there’s one thing he doesn’t understand. We’re not going to give up ever,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We will never stop, not for one second Mr. Harper. You better be ready.”


3 thoughts on “'This is deadly serious,' says Atleo as Idle No More flexes muscles once again

  1. MaryAnnWilhelm says:

    One million Indigenous people and growing more frustrated each day. If Spence dies, she will have made a martyr. Every town, every city, every province will cry out and a tidal wave of action stronger than round dances will rain down. They have nothing to lose, everything to gain to stop Harper from legislating Indigenous out of existence. Harper has no more than indicated as such that he doesn’t care and any words coming out of Harper are only a means to an end. What is that end? Allowing for corporate pillaging of resources, stripping environmental protections, selling out Canada even if he has to create new laws to do so. STOP HARPER!

  2. I AM NOT ANATIVE BUTI SUPPORT YOU ALL TOM KEEP THIS OUTRAGEOUS ACTION BY HARPER WHO ISM GOING TO KEEP CANADA FREE AND YOUR LAND YOURS TO KEEP WHAT IS YOURSM TO WATCH OVER LANDS RIVERS MOUNTIANS NATURAL RESOURCES THAt is yours to run and manage as you see fit for the benefit of allcanadians and what if quebec separates from canada and you seperate from quebec what will be left for them not much i would think its time for this goverment listen to you all and as for pipe lines your are the ones who should decide how t6he benefits should be divided with your nations being the first on the list its time for the goverment makethe profits go to the peoples of this great nation natural resources should not be sold out to the bidder may the great gods take care of all of you nations people and bring back what is yours you are the nations are the only ones that can sava this country from foreing ownership canada is not forsale but is open for business with people who will work with your nations todevelop natural resources for the betterment of all of canada go forwaRD AND MAY THEPEACE AND HEALTH TO ALL OF CANADIANS AND MAY THE EAGLE FLY FREE FOREVER IN THIS GREAT LAND ON EARTH

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