The third Idle No More rally in Williams Lake attracts a large number of participants
Under sunny skies and double digits below zero temperatures Friday around 100 people attended the third rally First Nations organized in Williams Lake to support Ontario Chief Theresa Spence and the Idle No More movement.
"Chief Spence began her fast on Dec.11 asking for the federal government to meet with First Nations about our issues and the protection of the environment," said Nemiah Valley Chief Marilyn Baptiste. "That meeting is taking place today. I ask you to pray for her that she can keep her strength, as well for our national Chief Shawn Atleo and all of our other leaders that are meeting with Mr. Harper and our government."
Similar rallies were being held in other cities and towns in B.C., she said.
Soda Creek chief Bev Sellars said her intent for attending the rally was for First Nations and non-First Nations grandchildren.
Quoting from a Cheyenne First Nation in the U.S., Sellers said, "A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how great its warriors are or how strong its weapons are."
Looking around the crowd, Sellars commented that she saw strong woman joining their brothers to fight for First Nations rights, along with the non-indigenous people who attended the rally.
"We have the international community looking at the treatment of First Nations in Canada," Sellars said.
Cariboo Chilcotin NDP candidate Charlie Wyse emphasized the importance of the rally in Williams Lake and the Idle No More movement.
"I want to acknowledge the rights of indigenous people and the much broader issue that the Idle No More movement is demanding," Wyse said.
"People are saying loudly and forcefully that they are no longer comfortable or are going to accept not being consulted, not being provided with the opportunity for their opinions or point of view to be presented to the decision makers."
The principle that governs all of Canada is being seriously challenged, Wyse added. "When you get omnibus bills like C-45 they remove all of these possibilities for discussion about the effect of development on the environment," Wyse added.
Baptiste said the Navigation and Protection Act changes in the omnibus bill will have an impact.
"The last time when we won against the Prosperity Mine, the Navigation Protection Act was a part of helping us win," she said. "Now the waters in the Chilcotin are not protected under the act. It's about navigable waters, it's not about protecting the waters from pollution, so people can continue to navigate in a boat, in a canoe, etc. on the waters."
The rally started in the Save-On-More parking lot. From there participants marched past Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett's office, city hall, and ended up inside the provincial government building on Borland Street.
At the second rally held Dec. 31, Williams Lake Indian Band chief Anne Louie encouraged people to contact their MPs.
While on the road in Alberta, Prince George Cariboo MP Dick Harris told the Tribune Friday afternoon his office has not received any calls or correspondence regarding the Idle No More movement.
"I'm in and out of Ottawa and my riding and I haven't had any," Harris said.
Responding to some of the comments made at the rally in Williams Lake, Harris suggested changes to the Navigation and Protection Act will put the authority on to local governments.
"Up until now you had to get federal and provincial approval to build a dock. Now, rightly so, you will have to get local government approval from the regional district or the provincial authorities."
Harris said anything done on a lake, stream or river, is still open to challenge by anybody who wants to challenge it.
"That right has never been taken away, just as it stood when it was under the old federal act."
Harris also said all of the legislation in Bill C-45 was debated at length — and defeated — when the Conservatives were a minority government so he does not think it's fair that the Opposition said there was no debate.
"The NDP, Liberals and Bloc voted against it so it couldn't go through," Harris recalled. "What we've done is brought much of that legislation back, put it in an omnibus bill and we're going to get it through, and did get it through, because we're a majority government."
When asked if he can appreciate the frustration being expressed by First Nations the many protests and rallies taking place in Canada right now, Harris said he wished things were different than they are for First Nations communities.
"My hope is that really good leadership rises up in these communities with people that want to get things done, and it gets done. I don't know what the answer is," he said.
Harris will be in Williams Lake on Jan. 16 to meet with a few people, but will not be making any announcements.