Idle No More marches through St. Paul
Members of Saddle Lake, Frog Lake and Kehewin took to the streets of St. Paul in peaceful protest of the federal government on Monday for the Idle No More worldwide day of action.
“This is an education; this is a peace rally. We’re doing this for settlers, for allies, for our people,” said local Idle No More organizer Shannon Houle. “We’re just the ones who are having to be the voice at this point. This is affecting the rest of the world. The bills are unprotecting the water, they’re unprotecting the land, and we’re going to be handing out a lot of educational information on what’s really happening.”
The rally started at Extra Foods on the west end of town, where Houle made a passionate speech for the cause, calling on everyone to speak out against the bills that she feels endanger Canada’s land and water.
“I was in attendance at the first Albertan Idle No More meeting in Louis Bull. That day is when I learned about what’s happening, about the bills that are going through and infringing on our rights,” Houle said in her speech to protestors. “Today as we walk, we walk in peace because this is how Idle No More was started, ceremony with elders, and this is how Idle No More has to continue.”
Fred Cardinal, an 83-year-old Saddle Lake resident who came out for the rally, spoke out by saying that the whole issue comes down to a simple series of questions.
“Do you drink water? Do you eat?” Cardinal queried. “Then why are you hell-bent on destroying the Earth?”
A younger member of the protest, Jarrid Poitras of St. Paul said that he wanted to play a role in uniting the surrounding communities.
“We need to educate as many people as we can about what’s going on with these issues,” he said.
The large group of protesters marched down main street in St. Paul in support of the Idle No More movement, making stops in front of the movie theatre and Westlock-St. Paul MP Brian Storseth’s office before concluding outside the St. Paul shopping centre.
“According to (Storseth), they don’t have to consent with us,” Houle said.
Two speakers took to the megaphone out front of Storseth’s office to discuss the protection of water and fisheries. “He needs to wake up too, get his treaties, treaties mean that he has to consent with us.”
It’s a two-sided agreement . . . we signed treaties so that it was a peace treaty, and that other side of the nation seems to have forgotten that this is something that can’t be changed.”
Houle added, “We’re breaking down stereotypes too. Canada has told people that we’re a problem. We’re not a problem, our treaties will save this water, they will save this land. We’re just asking people to walk with us, and we’re inviting everybody.”
She said the movement is happening across the world, and is garnering support from many different areas.
“One of our founders, Sylvia McAdam is actually in London, (England) right now, and they did their walk today,” Houle said, adding that she also has received written support from all corners of the world. “Even Greenland got a hold of me, New Zealand, Africa, everywhere . . . I’m on a Facebook feed with a lot of them. It’s amazing, it’s growing every day.”
Members of Kehewin Cree Nation also carried out a peaceful demonstration on Highway 41 near Kehewin on Jan. 25, not only to continue supporting Idle No More and distributing information about the movement, but to also combat the negative light they said certain media outlets have been shining on the movement and indigenous people as a whole.
“We’re all humans and we’re looking out for the next generation – we’re looking out for our kids and our kids’ kids,” said Ben Badger, one of the demonstration’s organizers.
“We’re trying to protect the land and the water for everyone, not just certain people. We’re all in this together. We’re not villains because we are standing up for our rights and our dignity,” he added.
The group of about 20 to 30 demonstrators held up signs and flags and spoke with passing motorists, some willing to listen and others more hostile to the demonstration, which occurred from about 12 until 4 p.m.
“We’ve had a lot of support,” said Elmer G. Paul, a resident of Kehewin. “And for those who swear at us or give us the finger, we don’t get mad, we do our best to turn the negative energy into positive energy.”
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