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Idle No More Global Day of Action Inspires Solidarity Across Canada and Around the World

From blockades in New Brunswick to highway slow-downs in Quebec to hundreds of youth marching on the legislature in BC, connections between communities reverberated across Canada and in countries all over the world yesterday. October 7 marked the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognizing land rights of indigenous peoples in Canada, and more than 60 events on multiple continents happened in solidarity with Idle No More and Canadian indigenous peoples.

Environmental advocacy group Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) in Houston, TX, hand delivered an eviction notice to Houston-based Southwestern Energy Company on behalf of the Mi’kmaq Warriors of New Brunswick, who are currently fighting the companies plans for LNG development on their unceded territories.

In New Brunswick, organizer Suzanne Patles has been participating in the blockade in Rexton, NB, since late last month. Southwestern Energy has been conducting explorations in the area since May. Yesterday there was  a gathering on the site of the blockade where supporters shared stories and a meal. More than 40 chiefs of the Atlantic provinces were in attendance.

She said the scope of actions yesterday is a hopeful thing and something that’s necessary if the work ahead is going to be accomplished.

“When people operate under a united front and solidarity all across, you can get more things done. You don’t have to go out and travel to these places, you’re able to reach out for help and they can reach for helping hand in return.” She calls this exchange an interconnected trade in expertise. “It’s a collaboration of unique people and it’s an awakening. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”

Solidarity Across Cultures

Kayla Gebeck is an Ojibwe woman from the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota currently studying human rights law in London, England. She attended the solidarity action held at Canada Gate in Green Park in London at the statue of King George III, the man who signed the original document. She took her camera to document the day to show those at home that progress is being made to fight assimilation and colonization and to emphasize the need for international solidarity.

“I wanted to let First Nations people, including the Ojibway of Canada, know that I support their current efforts in the Idle No More movement and appreciate the dedication of their ancestors to protect not only their cultures, languages, and communities but also the land that allows future generations to thrive.”

Kevin Smith, a campaigner with Platform London, a social justice organization that combines art, education, research and activism, helped organize the gathering. His goal was to recognize the links between the oil industry in the United Kingdom and the devastation on the ground in Canada.

“We feel like the legacy of colonialism is still very much ongoing in terms of the activities of British oil companies,” he said. “We wanted to do something in solidarity with Idle No More and in solidarity with the amazing inspiring resistance that has been put up by various First Nations groups in Canada.”

Smith said the decision to hold the gathering at the statue of the man who signed the proclamation centuries ago was twofold: the historical relevance to the event was obvious, but it also offered the opportunity to be critical of the monarchy and the systems still perpetuating colonialism today.

“It’s really crucial and critical that these treaty rights area recognized by the Canadian political institution, but at the same time we want to problematize the role the UK has played historically in colonization and the devastation that has caused not just in the First Nations in Canada, but various people all over the world.”

Holding Canada Accountable

The day wasnotable for another reason, and one nearly as inauspicious as the anniversary of the British Proclamation. Yesterday United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, arrived in Canada to begin a nine-day inquiry into the lives of indigenous peoples across the country. He will meet with First Nations people, government officials and representatives of the resource industry. It has been almost 10 years since the UN sent a delegate to investigate Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples, and the results of that report were less than favourable.

Anaya also arrives only a few weeks after the Canadian government refused UN recommendations to launch a comprehensive inquiry into the hundreds of cases of missing and murdered women, primarily indigenous women.

These issues are top of the agenda for Andrea Laudry, organizer of the Idle No More event in Ottawa. She’s a North American focal point on the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and she will be meeting with James Anaya next week. She also plans to raise concerns about the disproportionate number of indigenous people incarcerated in Canada, as well as staggering rates of suicides among aboriginal youth.

“We are beginning to gain a stronger momentum around why it’s important that we fight for our rights. It’s up to us as individuals and communities to really solidify what we want,” she said. “We have to keep this momentum going for our young people.”

Laudry also sees this as a chance to embrace the evolution of the movement and focus on pushing it forward. She said the Global Day of Action and the UN visit need to go hand-in-hand.

“We organized the event to really be part of the whole movement occurring around the world…It really showed that people were still present and aware of the movement and the fight.”

Image Credit: Photos by Zack Embree

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When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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