When Anne Robinson began to shake her ceremonial rattle, signalling the beginning of a prayer chant, two dozen First Nations members gathered at Harbour Quay on Friday became silent.
Those numbers grew at similar events subsequently held at Walmart and Zellers. Another is scheduled for Victoria Quay on Dec. 31.
When Robinson was done, the drum beats started, people continued trickling in and more voices joined what had become a nationwide day of action supporting treaty rights and opposing Bill C-45—the Harper government’s recently passed omnibus budget legislation.
On the West Coast, members of the Tla-o-quiaht First Nation blocked Highway 4 at the junction to Tofino and Ucluelet.
“We’re supporting Chief Theresa Spence,” said Cyndi Keitlah, one of the Alberni Valley organizers for Idle No More, the name given to this movement.
Spence, chief of northern Ontario’s Attawapiskat First Nation, who as of Dec. 27 is on her 15th day of a hunger strike to bring attention to the movement.
“We’re not going to be idle anymore,” Keitlah said. “We’re doing this to fight (Stephen) Harper for our rights for treaty negotiations that were set long ago, and our right to consultation,” said Aliza Sam, who brought her children to Harbour Quay.
At the crux of the protest, said Robinson, is “the preservation of our lands and waters that are now at risk because of Bill C-45.”