Friday, December 28, 2012

Canada's First Nations Challenge Their Marginalization

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is currently on a hunger strike through the Idle No More movement and for aboriginal political rights and protection of their sovereignty.
In the mist of the holiday season many of us (westerners) have our bellies filled with turkey and mashed potatoes, so the thought of a hunger strike at this time of year would surely be the last thing on our minds. But Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is unlike many of us, in her third week of her hunger strike she continues to urge the Canadian Prime Minister to hold a meeting with First Nation Leaders.

Chief Spence’s protest is on behalf of the Idle No More movement, a movement focused on spreading a culture of respect for treaties and for the aboriginal people. Chief Spence has been on strike since December 11th, she begs the government to ensure a “nation-to-nation” meeting between the First Nations leaders and the Harper Conservative Government. Of the dire issues is the recent Bill C-45 which has been approved in the government’s budgetary bill. Bill C-45, the Job and Growth Act, is a unilateral decision made by the Harper government regarding on-reserve voting and land seizures by non-natives. In short, Bill C-45 exemplifies the Harper Government’s neglect in following the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and its own promise to consult with First Nations leaders.

Conflicted, Chief Spence demands that the Canadian Conservative government uphold treaties and include First Nations Leaders in the decision making process. Chief Spence also, calls on the public support for the Idle No More movement. The youth lead aboriginal movement has gained momentum after their Boxing Day demonstration at the West Edmonton Mall, as well as demonstrations across Canada in Saskatchewan and Calgary. As the statement below reads, the Idle No More movement has made Chief Spence’s hunger strike and Bill C-45 their focal point.

"There are many nations taking action(s) to reflect acts of Indigenous nationhood, sovereignty and jurisdiction in response to the passing of legislation such as Bill C-45 and we must continue on this path.  When we stand strong and believe in our ways and assert acts of Nationhood, it does not matter what amount of legislation the federal government introduces or passes because it is not with our consent and therefore, is not applicable.  Stand strong and believe in the spirit and intent of our Treaties as that’s what our ancestors are calling us to do.” Idle No More Article

The hunger strike has already drawn the attention of many local media outlets, the Liberal leader contender Justin Trudeau to meet with Chief Spence and a former Ontario Lieutenant Governer James Bartleman. James Bartleman grew up on the Chippewas of Rama First Nation reserve and recognizes the need to "raise the consciousness of the public, and raise the consciousness of the Canadian cabinet, that these [the First Nations community] are real people. And they suffer." (Stechyson, N. 2012-27-12, Montreal Gazette: Montreal)

Canadian Aboriginal Policies Lag Far Behind Other Western Countries

Canadian Prime Minister Powers

Ms. Mansharn Toor, FDA Blogger and Writer with a background in International Relations.

Question to the Readers:

Reflecting on the thoughts of James Bartleman, is conscious awareness enough to protect the sovereignty of the First Nations in Canada?

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