The Idle No More movement stopped traffic for three hours this morning along Hwy. 17. Vehicles were back up along the Trans-Canada Highway at Hwy. 6 in Espanola from 9:30 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. Dec. 22 while First Nations communities protested federal legislation that would remove environmental protection from thousands of lakes in Canada.
Chief Steve Miller of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek said the combination of widespread anger and social media has allowed Idle No More to mushroom across Canada.
“It’s a grassroots initiative — the people want to be heard,” Miller said. “And with social media, once people start talking about something that really hits home, it becomes something powerful and there’s something unique that’s happening here.”
It’s a peaceful movement, he said, aimed at getting the attention of the public and government, and to bring First Nations into the decision-making process.
“Politically, we’ve been trying to get the government to listen,” he said. “It’s hard to control your feelings at times, when you know families are hurting out there. But we try to be peaceful, to band together, and with one strong voice to move things a different way.”
On Dec. 21, some 400 people rallied in Sudbury for Idle No More, as well as to support Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence, who is on a hunger strike until she gains a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Isaac Day, a member of Serpent River First Nation who attended the Sudbury rally, said the legacy of governments and corporations in dealing with Aboriginal people has been devastating.
“First Nations are very angry,” he said. “You’re going to see more of this down the road.”
He says Canadian governments and private corporations have profited from natural resources on First Nations lands, but haven’t shared that wealth fairly with them.
“It’s our DNA that’s in that forest. So when legislation is passed without input from First Nations, it’s like a slap in the face.”
He said the peaceful nature of the protests and the power example set by Spence’s hunger strike is galvanizing people across Canada.
“I really admire Chief Spence for the stance she’s taking. From what I understand, there are elders guarding her, and it’s a very spiritual quest that she’s taking.”