The purpose of Aaron Detlor’s communication was to “advise that the Haudenosaunee hold treaty rights over the area contemplated by this Project, and that the Project will interfere with those rights and interests… At the same time we are hereby asking Minister Wilkinson and the Crown generally to withhold any pending approvals subject to the commencement of a good faith process to uphold the honour of the Crown”.
I woke up just past midnight with a bolt. My six-month-old son was crying. He has a cold – the second of his short life–and his blocked nose frightens him. I was about to get up when he started snoring again. I, on the other hand, was wide awake.
A single thought entered my head: Chief Theresa Spence is hungry. Actually it wasn’t a thought. It was a feeling. The feeling of hunger. Lying in my dark room, I pictured the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation lying on a pile of blankets in her teepee across from Parliament Hill, entering day 14 of her hunger strike.
I had of course been following Chief Spence’s protest and her demand to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the plight of her people and his demolition of treaty rights through omnibus legislation. I had worried about her. Supported her. Helped circulate the petitions. But now, before the distancing filters of light and reason had a chance to intervene, I felt her. The determination behind her hunger. The radicality of choosing this time of year, a time of so much stuffing – mouths, birds, stockings – to say: I am hungry. My people are hungry. So many people are hungry and homeless. Your new laws will only lead to more of this misery. Can we talk about it like human beings?
Lying there, I imagined another resolve too – Prime Minister Harper’s. Telling himself: I will not meet with her. I will not cave in to her. I will not be forced to do anything.
Mr. Harper may relent, scared of the political fallout from letting this great leader die. I dearly hope he does. I want Chief Spence to eat. But I won’t soon forget this clash between these two very different kinds of resolve, one so sealed off, closed in; the other cracked wide open, a conduit for the pain of the world.
But Chief Spence’s hunger is not just speaking to Mr. Harper. It is also speaking to all of us, telling us that the time for bitching and moaning is over. Now is the time to act, to stand strong and unbending for the people, places and principles that we love.
This message is a potent gift. So is the Idle No More movement – its name at once a firm commitment to the future, while at the same time a gentle self-criticism of the past. We did sit idly by, but no more.
The greatest blessing of all, however, is indigenous sovereignty itself. It is the huge stretches of this country that have never been ceded by war or treaty. It is the treaties signed and still recognized by our courts. If Canadians have a chance of stopping Mr. Harper’s planet-trashing plans, it will be because these legally binding rights – backed up by mass movements, court challenges, and direct action will stand in his way. All Canadians should offer our deepest thanks that our indigenous brothers and sisters have protected their land rights for all these generations, refusing to turn them into one-off payments, no matter how badly they were needed. These are the rights Mr. Harper is trying to extinguish now.
During this season of light and magic, something truly magical is spreading. There are round dances by the dollar stores. There are drums drowning out muzak in shopping malls. There are eagle feathers upstaging the fake Santas. The people whose land our founders stole and whose culture they tried to stamp out are rising up, hungry for justice. Canada’s roots are showing. And these roots will make us all stand stronger.
Author and activist Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo, The Shock Doctrine , and a forthcoming book on the politics of climate change.
ORA supports the grassroots Idle No More protest by First Nations and other Canadians against the federal government’s Omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45 and all affected legislation which have threatened our land and water and put First Nations’ treaty rights in grave danger. Our major environmental legislation has been gutted, including the critically important Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Our fresh water and healthy river ecosystems are of vital importance for the future of all First Nations and Canadians.
“All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities.”
ORA stands in solidarity with First Nations. We are all treaty people.
Ontario: Landmark Legal Victory Could End Clearcut Logging In Grassy
Yesterday the Grassy Narrows First Nation (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek) won a major victory in their more than decade long battle to stop clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows’ traditional territory. Grassy Narrows Chief and Council welcome the decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to protect the rights promised to the Anishinaabe from interference by Ontario. Madam Justice Mary-Anne Sanderson’s decision, over 300 pages in length, finds that the Government of Ontario does not have the power to take away the rights in Treaty 3 by authorizing development including logging and mining.
This decision will set the stage for proper recognition and protection of those rights and, even more importantly, will help protect the Anishinaabe way of life in Northwestern Ontario. Grassy Narrows hopes that this will be a turning point in this battle. We expect that real protection for the endangered boreal forest and our way of life will be put in place immediately.
Joseph Fobister, one of the trappers who were plaintiffs in this case said, “this is a victory for our people. We have struggled for many years to save our way of life in the face of uncontrolled clearcutting, which has contaminated our waters and destroyed our lands.” Mr. Fobister also thanked the people of Grassy Narrows and the supporters who have stood by the community in the fight against clearcut logging.
Chief Simon Fobister urges the Governments of Ontario and Canada to come to the table to negotiate a modern understanding that will fully respect and implement our rights. Chief Fobister said that “this will require protecting the way of life of the Anishinaabe who were here before the logging industry came to these lands and will be here after the logging companies have moved on to other forests.”
This case describes the long history of the Anishinaabe and their fight to hold the Government of Canada to the promises made in Treaty 3. Grassy Narrows calls on Canada and Ontario to honour the spirit and intent of this decision by moving to eliminate clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Traditional Territory and to develop a meaningful new approach to the management of this territory in partnership with Grassy Narrows.
Source: Grassy Narrows First Nation