Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω
On a sunny Friday afternoon, approximately 60 people gathered in front of the Campus Activity Centre. They formed a circle as First Nations elders performed a smudging ceremony to help clear away negative energy. The people danced as songs and drums played.
Jan. 25’s Idle No More event combined that with speeches expressing concern about C-45, an omnibus bill passed in December that contains changes to environmental laws. The speeches also discussed concerns about the treatment of First Nations people in Canada.
One of the changes in the bill saw the 130-year-old Navigable Waters Protection Act replaced by the Navigation Protection Act, which removed environmental protections from thousands of rivers and lakes. Supporters of Idle No More are concerned this change will prioritize development at the cost of the environment.
“The environmental concerns that come from C-45 and C-38 [another omnibus bill] are astronomical when it comes to looking at how we live our life,” said Lenora Starr, a speaker who organized the Kamloops Idle No More event on Dec. 21. “For us in particular, as First Nations people who are guaranteed a way of life, this bill jeopardizes our way of life. It’s for us to stand up, not only for our own people and our own generations but for all of humanity that’s impacted by this.”
“We all drink water, we all eat food from the ground, we all breath the air that’s here and if all of that is sold, it will be another form of control that the government has over us,” said Jordan Robinson, a TRU student involved in organizing the event. “We should be controlling the government, not vice-versa.”
While Idle No More supporters share a concern about C-45, TRU anthropology professor Lisa Cook told the audience the movement means different things to different people.
“I encourage anybody with any questions to ask them, please,” she said. “Listen with your heart to the answers and then figure out where you stand and what this movement and this moment means to you, because this is a movement of individuals.”
The TRU Idle No More event had its beginnings at the Dec. 21 event, where some young women had the idea to organize an event at the university, Starr told the audience. She said she was proud of their work and its results.
“They did it,” she said. “With very little direction they knew what they were doing.”
It was important to have an event on campus, Robinson said.
“[The event was held] to let people know that it’s not just an Indian thing, it’s not just a bunch of Natives that are mad, it’s everybody that should be a little pissed at what Stephen Harper is doing,” he said. “It affects all of us.”
Leif Douglass, TRUSU arts, science and education representative, spoke to express the students union’s support of the movement.
“I’m just happy and honoured to be here and see such great attendance,” he said. “It’s a great event to have on campus and to see students involved is always great.”
Matt Griffiths, a TRU student, was one of the people attending the event.
“I have friends that also wanted to attend and it’s a good movement that they are doing,” he said. “They are tackling environmental issues and Aboriginal issues as well and that needs to be a thing [in which] work gets done.”
Robinson said he was pleased at how the event turned out.
“I think it was a great success,” he said. “A lot of people showed up, the circle [was] huge. It was perfect.”
Updated Jan. 27 at 9:52 p.m. by copy/web editor.