Supporters of Idle No More took to Kitimat’s streets, stopping traffic at the Lahakas/Haisla Boulevard intersection, before taking to the halls of City Centre Mall, while Haisla dancers performed to traditional drums.
The now global movement which supports First Nations rights and sovereignty touched down in Kitimat on Sunday, December 30, thanks to the efforts of Burton Amos, who was born and raised in the area, although he currently calls Vancouver home.
While in town for the holidays he felt there needed to be a local demonstration for the Idle No More movement and organized the Sunday march with less than 24 hours notice, though by his count he still had over 80 people come out.
“The whole idea was to address the environmental issues that are happening because of the government actions, like [Prime Minister] Harper especially, pushing legislation forward to help China get their oil,” said Amos.
The environment was clearly the top issue for supporters in Kitimat, which is potentially the place of a number of industrial projects, most controversially the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline which will bring in bitumen from the Alberta oil sands.
“One oil spill will end our ability to live off the land. All it’s going to take is one oil spill because oil doesn’t leave,” said Amos.
He believes that an oil spill in the channel would cause a devastating chain reaction, from killing fish stocks to affecting land-based animals.
“To the government and the people involved it’s all about money but to us it’s all about our future.”
Amos added he hopes the movement, at least locally, doesn’t end here. People had approached him to do many more such rallies, but being that he lives in Vancouver he said it would be up to the people here to keep the torch going.
According to the official Idle No More blog, the movement began with Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean, who “felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.” The four ladies began organizing Teach-Ins starting in November which were geared to aim awareness of Bill C-45, the government’s omnibus bill which has altered the classification of some protected waters as well as made some changes to the Indian Act.
Idle No More rallies are also inspired by the actions of Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence, who is on a hunger strike until she can meet with senior members of the government to discuss First Nations issues.