Once again, the dictatorship-style tactics of the Harper Conservatives were on display on Parliament Hill yesterday as the government refused to listen to the leaders of Canada’s First Nations. Then, as you can see from the photo, security personnel physically barred the leaders from entering the floor of the House of Commons, where they’d hoped to air their legitimate grievances.
What were the leaders’ grievances? Broadly speaking, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are prosecuting their first major plan to terminate First Nations and legitimize Canada’s colonialism. In the context of Tuesday’s encounter, most of the grievances relate to draconian changes proposed by the Harper Government‘s omnibus budget Bill C-45, a 443-page bill implementing the federal budget. And these include:
- The Conservatives’ unilateralism when creating bills that negatively impact Aboriginal peoples
- Bill C-45′s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which will severely impact First Nations Treaty rights and way of life. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has argued that Bill C-45 would allow the tar sands industry to destroy vital waterways and treaty rights. Earlier, the nation’s Chief Allan Adam said Canada’s First Nations “have seen the erosion of our people’s Treaty rights throughout various forms of legislation over the past decade.”
- The continuing erosion of First Nations-Canada treaty rights, especially since the Conservative came to power in 2006
- The Conservative government’s reckless sell-off of the ownership of our natural resources. The hotly-contested the Canada-China investment treaty (or FIPA), for example
- The Conservatives’ undisguised efforts to weaken and control First Nations communities across the country
- Maybe, just maybe, the leaders also wanted to tell Harper that Aboriginal and other progressive activists, dissenters and civil society organizations aren’t radicals and “enemies of the state”? In a January 2012 letter, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver labeled environmental movements “radical groups” funded by “foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.” He suggested that these groups pursued “their radical ideological agenda.” And that their goal is “to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.”
The opposition proposed amendments to Bill C-45. And the Conservatives used their majority to reject all during a six hour voting session.
And, as usual, the corporate media did everything possible to kill this front-page story. For example, the CBC News hid the news inside its extensive report on the House of Commons vote on Bill C-45.
All these subtle repressive tactics are futile. The peaceful confrontation is the beginning of something that can’t be stopped. Something whose long-awaited hour has arrived.
Last month I attended the hugely successful youth-led Power Shift 2012 conference, which took place in Ottawa and Gatineau. I’ve posited before that the conference showcased the best of the future aboriginal political talent; young leaders dedicated to environmental justice, and social and racial justice. For example, Clayton Thomas-Mueller, who co-hosted the conference’s opening night with Brigette DePape. Crystal Lameman, an activist and tar sands campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network in Alberta. And Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.
Yesterday, the leaders came to Parliament Hill to let us know that Canada’s First Nations are fed up. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs made it clear that Canada’s First Nations had put the Conservative government on notice.
“We’ve tried other means of communicating with this government,” he said. “This may not be the last time we do this.”
Photo via: Winnipeg Free Press