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'Idle No More' in Alberni draws 125
Idle No More events in small towns like Port Alberni are linked by social media and together have as much impact as events in larger communities, Alberni event supporter Barry Bruyere said.
More than 125 people showed up yet another Idle No More flash mob event, this one held at the whaling shrine at Victoria Quay on Dec. 31. The event has grown since the two dozen or so people who gathered at an event at Harbour Quay last week.
The events are being held to mark solidarity with Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence who is in her 21st day of a hunger strike, and to oppose Bill C-45—the Harper government’s recently passed omnibus budget legislation.
There was a cultural display of song and dance to mark the occasion. But in a speech to the crowd, former Hupacasath chief councillor and now University of Victoria, law professor Judith Sayers ominously described the impact of Bill C-45. "This is about improving economic development and improving the economy at the expense of our lands and treaties,"Sayers said.
The bill undermines the protection of water, Sayers said. It also makes it easier for First Nations to surrender their lands. “We want safe drinking water as well but they are forcing us to have to go to cities and regional districts and not give us the money and resources to be able to do it ourselves,” Sayers said.
The definition of aboriginal fishery has also been changed, which will have a detrimental effect on fisheries.
The bill also requires that First Nations financial matters be made more transparent by having tribal officials disclose their finances online for the public to scrutinize. “I believe that chiefs and councils should give you guys regular financial statements,” Sayers said. “If your tribe has a mortgage with a bank at six per cent interest then what business is this of anyone's?”
The thing that sticks in peoples craws is the Conservative government's haughtiness about consultation, Sayers said. “They think they don't have to ask or consult about anything and that's what this is all about.”
Those words struck a deadening chord with Alberni resident Richard Pesik, who was in attendance at the event.
Pesik grew up in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule when the government had the population in its iron grip, he said. “When a government has absolute power then its dictatorial and they don't have to consult,” Pesik said. “There was an uprising in Czechoslovakia and that led to change. I hope to see Idle No More lead to change too.”
The event in Alberni was held in conjunction with others on the Island, including one in Chemainus where traffic was stopped on a highway. Other events were held across larger urban centres across the country as well.
Port Alberni's event might be small in comparison but you have to look at it in context, supporter Barry Bruyere said. “Port Alberni might be a small place but all these events in small places are linked immediately with the larger events through social media and the Internet,” Bruyere said.
In another development, the original founders of the Idle No More movement distanced themselves from direct action movements in a notice on their website.“The Chiefs have called for action and anyone who chooses can join with them, however this is not part of the Idle No More movement as the vision of this grassroots movement does not coincide with the visions of the Leadership,” the statement noted.
“While we appreciate the individual support we have received from chiefs and councillors, we have been given a clear mandate to work outside of the systems of government and that is what we will continue to do.”
Pesik said he hopes the movement doesn't fracture the same way the Occupy movement did earlier this year. “It became about many different things and it died. I hope that doesn't happen with this,” he said.