Idle No More organizers say there’s “more to come” as hundreds gather for rally in Vancouver

Hundreds of people gathered outside Vancouver City Hall today (January 11) as part of a country-wide series of Idle No More protests.

Photos

Members of First Nations including Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Cree gathered on the lawn of city hall as the crowd of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal supporters joined in singing, drumming, and chanting.

Several hundred people marched from the Native Education College on Main Street and East 5th Avenue along West Broadway to city hall, carrying banners, flags, and drums.

Khelsilem Rivers, one of the organizers of the event, said today’s rally marked just the beginning of further Idle No More actions.

“There’s been countless flash mobs, rallies, gatherings, and there’s more to come—there’s more we can do,” he told the crowd. “This is a day in the history of our peoples and the history of Canada, for we are not going to be idle no more. This is not the end, this is the beginning.”

Today’s protest coincided with similar demonstrations across the country, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with a group of First Nations leaders, including Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo. The meeting was boycotted by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, and by delegations of chiefs from some provinces, who had asked for both the prime minister and the governor general to meet with them.

Since the Idle No More movement was sparked by four women in Saskatchewan in opposition to federal omnibus bill C-45, weeks of rallies, flash mobs, and round dances have taken place with the aim of bringing attention to issues including indigenous rights, treaty rights, poverty in aboriginal communities, and environmental protection.

Steven Kakinoosit, another organizer of today’s event, told the crowd he wanted to “thank Stephen Harper”.

“I want to thank him for doing something that no other government, no other person could do—he has united the people,” he said. “He has united us in such a way that it’s not just our brothers and sisters here in Canada, but we’re now uniting with our brothers and sisters in the rest of the Americas.

“We start by doing these rallies, by doing these flash mobs, this is where we start,” he added. “But it doesn’t end with rallies; it doesn’t end with flash mobs. It ends when our sovereignty is respected; it ends when our government works with our people on a nation to nation basis.” 

While one speaker at the rally voiced dissent over Atleo’s choice to proceed with the scheduled meeting with the prime minister in Ottawa today, others urged for Idle No More demonstrators to form a unified front.

“[Atleo] had to go into that meeting today because somebody had to go—the dialogue has to stay open,” argued Cecilia Point. “It’s not what we want right now, but I think the first thing he should have on his agenda is probably another meeting with the demands that [Idle No More] and probably all of us here have. We want to be heard.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who was among the supporters at the march today, said the weeks of Idle No More actions have brought indigenous issues “to the front of the political agenda in Canada”.

“There’s a healthy level of public debate on all sides of this issue,” he said in an interview. “For government to know and understand that Canadians want to see dramatic and substantial changes on the aboriginal file, so to speak, is a good thing. We just have to keep the pressure up to force the Government of Canada to change its policy and approach to indigenous human rights and land rights.”

Stewart noted January 16 has been set aside as another Idle No More “day of action” across the country. When asked if the protests in B.C. might escalate to blockades, like the railway blockades that have been staged in Ontario, Phillip responded “I don’t think there’s any question about that”.

“I think that some communities and groups and individuals may choose to move in that direction—I think it’s the nature of these types of movements,” he said. “They’re very volatile, very emotional, and again, the bottom line here is there needs to be dramatic transformational change within the approach of the Government of Canada as it applies to aboriginal people.”

Comments (11) Add New Comment
Joanne Light
"Con"ada to Kanata--the beginning.
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Mary
What an inspiring group of people!
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AlienAnthropologist
And maybe the 7th generation and those afterwards, will find it in their hearts to help us all, when the inevitable and universal collapse occurs...
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cuz
Hundreds huh? Wow, that's not a lot of people for a movement that's "gripping the nation". Harper agreed to meet and lots of aboriginal leaders decided to not attend. You just can't please some people.
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aldous smith
There was a round dance and rally of 500 in ultra conservative London Ontario. 'cuz' should pay more attention. The Idle no More movement is going global. In Canada, Native Peoples and non-natives are fighting as one against our Canadian government, that for decades has patronized and attacked Native Peoples. We have a strong sense of justice and the health of this corporate-driven world. That's not just hundreds, it's beginning with thousands in this country alone, and is growing. The insecure and venal will always hide behind cynicism and 'think' through aggression. Harper does this quite naturally. Remeber what he said years ago about us not recognizing this country when he had finished with it.
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Norge
I wonder if they will have a demonstration on the last Wednesday of the month? Or even the day after? I doubt it.
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Lee L.
Harper should have agreed to meet with first migrants only if Chief Spence agreed to attend a public audit and review of her band's finances.

NNA ( Native non-aboriginal)
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Lee L.
Oh ... and.. Spence should agree to meet only if Harper agreed to and audit and review of HIS band's finances.



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not my real name
All Canadians, including First Nations, need to be idle no more and take our country away from politicians like Harper and his ilk who work against us and our environment.

Let's use our imagination and find real solutions now!
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Gitxsan (gak)
this is a very touchy subject due to the diverse and very complex structure that we have governing out nations.
we are going to answer the calling for all first nations to stand in solidarity. this is a time to have our voices herd and to have our ancestors herd. this time in our history will never be forgotten and will last for generations to come and it is crucial that we do not back down. -all my relations -dy
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Steven Kakinoosit
It was over 1000 people. I don't know where they got there numbers because there were at least 500 in the march and we were meet by at least that many at city hall, if not more.
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