November 13, 2008
National Gathering of Indigenous Peoples Challenge Harper Government in Winnipeg
By Defenders of the Land
Photos by Ben Powless
WINNIPEG -- Grassroots activists, elders, and elected leaders from First Nations fighting for self-determination and protection of land and resource rights presented a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Conservative Party's national policy conference in Winnipeg today. The Indigenous spokespeople have come to Winnipeg from communities across Canada to form a network dedicated to fighting for recognition of and respect for Indigenous rights, and deliver their message to Prime Minister Harper.
"Canada, along with the United States and New Zealand, is one of three countries that have voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on Canada to join the vast majority of nations who have adopted this declaration," said Art Manuel, of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.
Terry Sappier of Tobique First Nation said the "The federal government, jointly with Indigenous communities, must change its policies on self-government, land claims and historic Treaties to bring them in accordance with standards of international law, a fair and just interpretation of these rights, which are protected in the Constitution of Canada and in court cases."
"When Indigenous peoples stand up for our land and resource rights, and fight for self-determination, the governments of Canada and the provinces criminalize us. We're calling on these governments to act honourably and fairly towards Indigenous peoples as the courts have directed them to do, instead of cherry-picking the rights and court cases they like," said Sam McKay, spokesperson of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, who was jailed for over two months for non-violently preventing mineral exploration on their traditional territory.
The Indigenous Peoples were stopped by the police from entering the convention centre and a member of the RCMP committed to delivering the letter to the Prime Minister. The Indigenous peoples pledged to form a national network to continue their fight for land rights and self-determination. Irene Billy, an elder from the Skwek'wek'welt Protection Centre said, "We will be watching your government's actions and if your government does not accede to our reasonable requests, we will take coordinated action to convince your government to respect our Indigenous Peoples and communities."
For more information,
Harmony Rice 416.576.9718 (c)
Art Manuel 250.319-0688 (c)
Russell Diabo 613.296.0110 (c)
Picture 1: Milton Bornwithatooth negotiates with RCMP security guard to deliver the letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Picture 2: (left to right) Chrissy Swain, Irene Billy, Arthur Manuel, Judy de Silva and Jo Redsky on their way to deliver the letter to Prime Minister Harper
Please credit Ben Powless.
DEFENDERS OF THE LAND GATHERING
Indian and Mėtis Friendship Centre
November 12-14, 2008
November 13, 2008
Mr. Stephen Harper
Government of Canada
c/o Winnipeg Convention Centre
Mr. Prime Minister:
We are here in Winnipeg attending a gathering of spokespeople of Indigenous Peoples from across Canada who are engaged in land use/natural resource conflicts involving hydro, forestry, fisheries, wildlife, mining, uranium mining, oil and gas exploration and development, tar sands and of course urbanization and tourism, including impacts from the preparations for the 2010 Olympics.
From the presentations we have heard at our gathering it is clear that the federal government is responsible for violations of our Inherent, Aboriginal, Treaty and Human Rights, by issuing unilateral self-government and land claims policies and related negotiation processes.
These federal policies are designed to give the provinces, industry and third parties priority over our traditional lands, resources and waters.
As the spokespeople for our respective Indigenous communities we must insist that your government take immediate steps to:
1. Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and
2. Jointly change the federal policies on self-government, land claims and historic Treaties with Indigenous communities;
3. Cease the criminalization of Indigenous Peoples when they are exercising their rights to lands, resources and self-determination and direct the provinces to do the same.
We will be watching your government’s actions and if your government does not accede to our reasonable requests, we commit that we the undersigned who are attending our gathering here in Winnipeg will take coordinated action to convince your government to respect our Indigenous Peoples and communities by acting on our requests presented in this letter.
In Defense of Our Mother Earth,
Tobique, Maliseet Nation
Algonquins of Barriere Lake
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
Six Nations, Grand River
Youth Rep., Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Indigenous Environmental Network
Redwire Native Youth Society
Pimicikamac Cree Nation
Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade
First Nations Environmental Network
Swelk’wek’welt Protection Centre
Lonefighters Society, Blackfoot Confederacy
Lubicon Lake Cree Nation
Native 2010 Resistance, British Columbia
Downtown Eastside Women’s Council
Elders Council, Vancouver
Russell Diabo, Member, Mohawk Nation Damien Lee, Member, Ojibway Nation Clayton, Thomas-Muller, member, Cree Nation, Ila Bussidor, member, Dene Nation, Kaaren Dannenmann, member, Anishnabe Lawrence Angeconob, member, Anishnabe, Ben Powless, member, Mohawk Nation Lionel Lapine, Athabasca Chipewyan
Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, No One Is Illegal, Vancouver, Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada, No One Is Illegal, Montreal No One Is Illegal Toronto, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Catalyst Centre for Popular Education, Environmental Justice Organizing Initiative,
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Tyendinaga Support Committee
Courtney Kirkby Carmelle Wolfson
Susanne Hare, Clayoquot Sound Peter Kulchyski
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