Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Friday Canada’s “First Nations” are planning a day of protest to draw attention to unresolved land claims, poverty on native reservations and a plethora of other issues native leaders and their advocates are saying to be in a crisis mode.

Today some of them set up a teepee on the lawn of the Ontario legislature as a prelude.

Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, speaking about the planned June 29 nationwide protest, told Canadian Press, “We don’t want to cause a major disruption in the lives of Canadians, but at the same time, we also want to make sure they understand that this is a crisis.”

Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse said the day of action is more about education than confrontation.

"We want to provide education to the general public about the outstanding claims," said Toulouse in a telephone interview from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, west of Sudbury.

"We're not talking about trying to gain more. All we're talking about is what is rightfully ours and getting the federal government and the provincial government to deal with those issues."

Some others are a little more direct.

Terrance Nelson, Chief of the Roseau River reserve near Winnipeg has vowed to block rail lines and disrupt the movement of goods and people across Canada. Nelson believes that the only way to get action is to force multinational corporations to force the Government of Canada to resolve the natives’ issues and the only way to achieve this goal is through the disruption of business. Nelson told the CBC, “There’s only two ways to deal with white people, to have an effective resolution of the issues. You either pick up a gun and deal with the issue, or you stand between the white man and his money. On June 29, we’re going to stand between the white man and his money.”

Shawn Brant, a Mohawk protester from the Bay of Quinte First Nation who led a 30-hour rail blockade near Deseronto, Ont., last month, agreed that direct action is the only way aboriginal people can make their voices heard, and he hopes the death of Dudley George (killed at the hands of police) will motivate people to "express their anger" during the planned day of protest.

"I think it's about demonstrating the power we have in our backyards. I think it's about saying ... we're never going to be disrespected, we're not going to allow for another situation like Dudley George, we're not going to drink poison water without there being consequences," said Brant

Stay tuned.

The following is from the Cornwall Standard Freeholder (Canada).

Activists erect teepee on lawn of legislature

Canada - Activists from two northern Ontario First Nations groups erected a nine-metre teepee on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature Monday, four days before a planned national aboriginal day of protest.

Members of the Grassy Narrows and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nations said they were using the teepee to draw attention to the continued logging and mineral extraction on their traditional lands. "Our traditional territory has been destroyed by forestry operations," said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister.

"All the trees are gone, all the animals are gone, and there's been no compensation for our people."

Fobister also said the demonstration was intended to educate the public in advance of the day of protest on June 29.

John Cutfeet, a spokesman for the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, said the mining of minerals on traditional lands near Thunder Bay is illegal.

"What we're saying is it's now time for this government to recognize our rights and uphold the laws of this land," he said, noting a Supreme Court of Canada ruling stating that aboriginals must be consulted about resource development on their traditional lands.

David Ramsay, the province's minister of natural resources and aboriginal affairs, insisted his office does consult with aboriginal groups before issuing permits, and he called the matter "a difference of opinion."

He said aboriginal groups and the provincial government have been unable to fully agree over the definition of a consultation, but added his ministry has tried to avoid allocating logging permits near trapping grounds and species migration areas.

Leah Fontaine, a 20-year-old who lives on the Grassy Narrows reserve near Kenora, Ont., travelled to Toronto last week to take part in Monday's protest.

"Our trapping and our wildlife are being destroyed by the logging companies," she said.

Only a few minutes from her home, Fontaine said massive areas of the forest have been clearcut.
"It's depressing."

But while the area has seen an increase in logging activity, she said none of the economic benefits have reached the reserve, which suffers from 75 per cent unemployment.

"In Grassy, there's maybe only 50 jobs and there's about 800 people there," she said. "It's impossible to find a job."

Grassy Narrows resident Melissa Fobister, 26, said previous efforts by the band to deter logging on their traditional lands have resulted in the logging companies moving to remote locations less easily accessed by roads.

"It's almost like they're being sneaky," she said, adding that the recent birth of her child has motivated her to take action.

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