Idle No More movement marches on Red Deer
About 50 protestors marched through downtown Red Deer on Wednesday to vent their frustration with the political will of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal government.
The march was one of dozens across the country organized by Aboriginal Peoples in protest of the federal omnibus bill, C-45, which they say gives the minister of Indian Affairs the power to surrender land reserved, allowing oil, nuclear and gas companies to tear up the land for profit.
Bonnie Badger organized the local protest, saying that when she found out what the contents of the omnibus bill were, she felt helpless and frustrated.
“When I found out I seriously wanted to cry,” said Badger. “We are so generous, our people they are nurturers. The kind of people aboriginals are, we’re here for the land.
“The fact they’re trying to pollute the air, it’s not just only aboriginals they’re affecting. They’re affecting all of Canada, with pollution in the air, water and on the land.”
This rally is one of many that are a part of the Idle No More movement, which was started by four aboriginal women — Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon — who believed something must be done about “the colonial, unilateral and paternalistic” legislation being pushed through the Canadian legislature.
“I went handing out posters of the ‘One million aboriginal strong unite’ to get the word out across Red Deer,” said Badger.
“I noticed people were unaware of what was going on. I was informing people of what the Harper government was doing.”
This led to Badger telling people she was organizing a walk because there was nothing going on in Red Deer.
She said she was glad so many people showed up for the rally.
Protestors gathered near the intersection of Ross Street and 51st Avenue. An aboriginal elder gave a prayer and blessing prior to the start of the march. As well, two members of the Red Deer aboriginal community drummed and sang as the protestors began their walk.
The protest started at the Buffalo Apartments on Ross Street, went around City Hall and ended at the Native Friendship Society.
“If people were aware of what the Harper government is doing,” said Badger, adding that the lack of communication with aboriginal groups in regards to the omnibus bill was frustrating.
“He never let any of the chiefs know — I think there was a written letter to one chief and that’s it. He never let any of the other chiefs know, he never let the aboriginal people know what he was planning on doing. There was no meeting about it. I just think that’s unfair.”
Colin Connon, a spokesman from Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen’s office, said the two changes to the Indian Act included in Bill C-45 were designed to expedite decisions in regards to designated land. Decisions on designated land previously took a majority-of-a-majority for a change to occur, requiring 50 per cent of the First Nation involved to vote and then a majority of those to approve the decision, after which a second vote would take place, if a majority did not vote, requiring a simple majority. The new law bypasses the need for a majority of people to vote.
As well, the responsibility for approving designations shifts from the Governor in Council to the minister of Indian Affairs. There are no changes to surrendered land in the omnibus bill.
Badger has family members in Edmonton who are also involved in a demonstration taking place on Friday in that city.