Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

indigenous rights, not G20; a march through Toronto

Thousands marched today for indigenous rights through downtown Toronto as leaders arrived in the city.

Under the beat of drums born by indigenous people of Canada, several thousand protesters marched through downtown Toronto today, including about 500 indigenous community members, mostly from Canadian First Nations. The group marched to reclaim indigenous rights as the G20 prepares to meet in downtown Toronto, which land stolen from First Nations. Many had flags that bore the words “Native Rights are Human Rights,” and “Canada Can’t Hide Genocide.” One banner which required a hundred people to carry it bore the words, “Native Land Rights Now!”

One speaker at the opening rally was Lionel Lepine, of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

“We’re here to protect and defend Mother Earth, and right now she’s under attack violently,” said Lepine. “We must take action and make sure she doesn’t get attacked any more.”

We will fight for our communities and our grandchildren, Lionel Lepine told attendees at the opening rally.

Lepine is from what he calls “ground zero” in Alberta, Canada, on the western tip of Lake Athabasca. He says that if uranium mining companies and tar sands companies succeed in what they want to do, his community will perish.

According to the draft G20 resolution that was leaked to Greenpeace, the G20 intends to continue its s0-called “open market” economic liberalization policies that loosen legislation for corporations and other business entities while reducing the ability to act for indigenous communities.

“Open markets play a pivotal role in supporting growth and job creation,” touts the draft G20 resolution. But indigenous community leaders are not convinced.

Lepine says that it is “time to evict” the Canadian government, big oil corporations, the G8 and the G20 from indigenous lands. He says that their policies of economic liberalization and letting corporations trample indigenous communities with impunity needs to stop.

“I want my grandchildren to tell a totally different story. I want them to tell a success story. I want them to say that industry is there cleaning up the mess they made when my grandfather was alive.”

"Native Land Rights Now!" were the words on a banner carried by 100 people. It could be read by helicopters, such as those bearing G20 leaders landing in Toronto.

Departing from Queens Park near the University of Toronto, the group continued throughout downtown Toronto, past tall office buildings housing many of the corporations who were recipients of G20 bailout funds. Many who were present at the rally stated that funds Toronto spent on hosting the G20 summit could have been used for social services. The Canadian government also paid a $75 billion bailout to banks in 2009, a sum that could have been used for services to the people of Canada.

The march followed community leader John Fox, of the Grassroots Committee of Ontario, of the Ojibway First Nation. “We are warriors. Remember your teachings. We do not walk in front of the eagle staff,” instructed “Pipe,” whose Indian name is “Swift and Strong,” the leader who was marshaling the march at the very front.

“The G8 and the G20 don’t consider indigenous people when they’re making their decisions behind closed doors, and that’s why we’re here today… for our voices to be heard on an international level as well,” said Currier, who spoke at the closing rally, discussed how the policies of the G8 and G20 impact her communities.

Currier is concerned that 584 indigenous women have disappeared in Canada, and that corporations and the Canadian government are exploiting her communities, in keeping with G20 policies that allow corporations to tap resources in poor communities and countries.

“There’s a lot of parallels between Canada’s aboriginal people, the Maori of New Zealand, the aboriginees in Australia, the native Americans in the United States, and the indigenous people in Latin America, said Currier. “We’re all suffering the same problems.”

“Other indigenous communities are beginning to stand up and try to realize their right, to make them real within their own countries, with people from other indigenous nations who suffer the same oppression and colonization.”

Laini Lascelles brought her 11-year-old son because "I wanted him to be a part of this and to take an active role, to see what our people are about. He's going to look back one day and he's going to know that we did something good today to support and stand with his family."

Laini Lascelles, an indigenous woman from Ontario, brought her 11-year-old son to the demonstration, despite overblown warnings that violence may break out.

She brought her son, she says, because “I wanted him to be a part of this and to take an active role, to see what our people are about. He’s going to look back one day and he’s going to know that we did something good today to support and stand with his family.”

Lascelles’ mother is of the Lenni Lenape people, based in the area of Oklahoma and New Jersey. Her father is of the Ojibwe First Nation in Sarnia, Ontario.

“It is about the future generations, and educating them, making them aware of these issues and these teachings. These are our ceremonies, and it’s our responsibility to look after them and share them.”

One of the teachings that Lascelles wishes to convey is a responsibility to protect the land.

“We have to take care of Mother Earth. It’s our responsibility. It’s a spiritual responsibility,” said Lascelles. “Has the G20 gone out to the land? Have they gone out to the water, where the tar is, the oil, have they seen the destruction of the land? Do they see that money can’t be a priority in these issues of poverty, and land, and resources, and our health?”

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Filed under: activism, climate justice, environmentalism, global justice, human welfare, immigrant rights, international relations, media

One Response

  1. Peter Oki says:

    I was wondering if anyone though about this!!! If you like it please help!!!

    As the march neared its end we approached Allen Gardens and I was struck but a profound emotion, my eyes began to tear and I thought…

    As someone who grew up in the area I could not shake the memory of how many lost and forgotten native people may of had their last breath in this park. Trying to escape the pain they often drank themselves to an early grave. The bottle did not discriminate and many fell to its illusion of temporary freedom.
    But at the time and being a kid, even with native friends in tow, we just laughed at these drunks as they ranted and raved often incoherently.

    But now as we entered this park, some 30 years later, walking tall with proud battle cries drums and song, it was if all the lost spirits of this forgotten battle field joined with us and their pain was somehow eased by our presence. Despite continual discrimination and misunderstanding, their sons and daughters have returned to this hollow ground to unite with their fallen ancestors. It was as if the these fallen fathers and mothers, sons and daughters were finally reunited in spirit with their families lost so long ago.

    Sitting on the grass and listening to various people speak, I wondered, considering how many people were not from TO, would anyone speak of the symbolic nature of this location? Of this simple park in the city that has for too long been synonymous with the destruction of our first nations? Of course there are many such parks, too many to be sure. Thus, it seems all the more reason to symbolize these forgotten battle grounds in some way. To make known how far we/they have travelled in the quest for self recognition of the first nations. As I listened nobody mentioned this and I felt that I should get up and say something about this. But I was not strong enough this time to speak and emotionally overwhelmed with the magnitude of the situation, so I write now…

    You cannot fight change, things will always change that is an inevitable fact! The question is, are we changing for the common good? Considering that over a billion dollars were spent on security during this summit, it is clear that we are making much progress, despite what some may think. Why else spend money on protecting the status quo if the powers that be are not getting scared?

    Peter Oki, sansei Japanese Canadian

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