By Ryan Sparrow
Across Canada, tens of thousands of first nations people and their allies have protested against Bill C-45, claiming it would be an unprecedented oppression of indigenous peoples by the government.
Ahmad Al-Amad, a third-year philosophy student, has gone to several of the demonstrations after hearing about the effects that C-45 will have on the environment and the impacts on treaty rights.
Ahmad says students should take interest in the protests “because it is not only respecting indigenous people and the land that at the very least deserve recognition of their nations and the genocide by the Canadian state but because of the destruction of our ecosystems.”
The Idle No More protests sprung out of opposition to the Omnibus C-45 bill “Jobs and Growth Act,” which focuses mostly on Tar Sands development.
“We are facing an apocalyptic future for the next generation. This is a cry for the environment which Harper is disregarding and neglecting,” said Al-Amad.
The Omnibus Bill C-45 made sweeping legislative changes to Canada, most notably changes to treaty rights and scrapping environmental protections on Canada’s water ways.
Rick Gunderman, a second-year history student who attended the demonstrations says that the Bill enacts a “freedom to pollute.”
While the bill is very broad in its scope, its primary focus is the expansion of the Tar Sands and the violation of treaty rights in order to build oil pipe lines.
“The Treaties are the last line of defense to protect water and lands from destruction,” stated Oren Lyons, a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan for the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs in a press release.
The attention to the Idle No More movement grew with the subsequent hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.
Last year Spence brought to light the impoverished conditions that many Aboriginal communities face after declaring a state of emergency due to the housing crisis at the Attawapiskat reserve.
According to an Idle No More press release, Attawapiskat has wealthy mining companies on its land that do not share any of the wealth and resources with the community.
Over the past month, there has been a wave of protests in Hamilton as part of the Idle No More movement, starting with a protest in front of City Hall.
This was followed by a flash mob inside Limeridge Mall on Dec. 24 that had more than 300 indigenous peoples and supporters attend. Inside Limeridge there were speeches followed by a pow wow and drum circles. Demonstrators held numerous creative signs.
The mall demonstration was not unique to Hamilton. On Jan. 13, West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton was packed with well over 2,600 demonstrators.
Hamilton protestors also gathered on Jan. 5, with more than 350 people rallying at King and Dundurn. Protestors proceeded to march on Highway 403 around the Dundurn Plaza. The demonstrations lasted about two hours.
Several McMaster students also participated in an “unwelcoming” of Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he visited the Ford plants in Oakville by a spontaneous demonstration organized with very little notice.
Idle No More also gained momentum at the Jan. 11 Art Crawl, which started with a smudging ceremony at the Green Smoothie Bar with drumming and singing inside. This was followed later with a march to the abandoned lot where a DJ played music, flags were flown and leaflets were passed out to people attending Art Crawl.
Organizers have set up an Idle No More teach-in at McMaster on Jan. 18 in the MUSC atrium.