a brief report on the demonstration against bills c-10, c-33 and for justice for missing and murdered indigenous women
i got to parliament hill (unceded algonquin territory) around quarter to one in the afternoon, and the large square in front of the parliament was already half full of people, many with unity flags or flags of the haudesaunee nation, or anishnaabe nation, as well as many others.
on the grass to the east side of the square, there was also maybe two hundred people doing yoga, which was odd. for anyone interested, there will be yoga on the hill at noon every day until septembre.
the crowd when I arrived was actually made up about half of folks who had been protesting canadian mining in south america and half of folks, mostly first nations people, who had come to protest the conservative government’s colonial policies: the attempt to further control first nations education with the ultimate goal of marginalizing first nations people and forcing them to assimilate, aka cultural genocide; the further criminalization of first nations people engaged in growing, buying and selling tobacco; and, finally, the silence and lack of action about missing and murdered indigenous women, two-spirits and girls.
a half hour later it seemed to me that there was around 2000 people.
the rally started with drumming by the o-town boys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejUBRy0bce0). claudette commanda did an opening prayer, but not until after she had asked everyone, “are you ready to rumble?” and, yes, people were ready to rumble, just like in the WWF.
there were several speeches, notably gilbert whiteduck from kitgan zibi, whose words make up the title of this short blog post, and an older woman whose name i don’t know talking about justice for missing and murdered indigenous women.
after the speeches, which apparently weren’t political (they all seemed political to me), we marched west down wellington to elgin, and followed elgin south to city hall where we walked past city hall and then returned to elgin and went east on laurier until kent street. from kent street we walked behind the confederation building and then east on wellington and back to parliament. the only consistent chants were “kill the bill” and “harper’s got to go”. rather than chants, most of the sound was the music of the many drummers and singers.
the police were keeping to the background for the most part – i’ve seen much smaller demonstrations with much heavier police presences.
and the, at the end, there was time for some youth to speak. one young man finished his speech with a quote from malcolm x “We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”.
i was, as far as I could tell, one of the few white people at the demonstration, and one of the few non-native people, too. i felt inspired by the demonstration. i missed participating in the mass demonstrations during idle no more. i’m guessing that it might have had a similar feeling to some of those.
the resurgence of indigenous cultures and indigenous resistance to colonialism continues, and this is so good, for so many reasons.
first, of course, is that indigenous people are continuing to fight for their survival and their sovereignty. and more than just fighting, they are accomplishing real, tangible political objectives as their adversaries are forced to negotiate with them, and as the left is pushed to deepen its commitment to decolonization, as well as the sometimes more intangible, but at least equally important cultural objectives that are part of this resurgence.
a corollary to these positives, is that other resistance movements struggling for justice invariably benefit when movements of oppressed people surge and grow powerful. when we think of the wave of activism and resistance during the “60s” (which really lasted from the 50s into the 70s) the movements that changed american, and to a lesser extent, canadian society (to speak nothing of their impact globally) were very much linked to the struggles of black people for civil rights, human rights, and black liberation. when movements of oppressed people do well, then it is much more likely that all movements for social justice will do well.
surely, i would have liked to hear some more chants that reflected the fact that it is not simply the harper government that needs to go, but all forms of colonial governance. certainly i would have liked to hear more people connecting the criminalization of first nations people selling and buying tobacco to racism and to opposition to oppressive institutions like the police and prisons.
does this mean that i am not inspired and humbled by the power of what people did yesterday? not for a second. if anti-racist and indigenous solidarity activists and communities were half as well organized and half as able to mobilize i would be happy (but not satisfied as this is still not sufficient to change the world in the way we want and the way we need). however, as the mc said, we need to be patient as these struggles mature and evolve.
Photo by Raymond St-Martin
News coverage of the protests:
First Nations mount national day of resistance in several cities
Marchers take to parliament hill to send government a message