By Jenny Uechi. Juanita Desjarlais arrived bright and early at the Burnaby Delta Hotel on Friday to send a message to the Prime Minister. With her drum in hand, she and a small group of First Nations Idle No More activists stood in front of the hotel parking lot, banging drums and shouting songs of protest.
Desjarlais flashed a rueful smile when she notes that Harper has just announced the introduction of Bill C-54, the “Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act”, intended to protect the public from ‘high-risk’ mentally ill criminals.
“If Harper’s going to introduce a bill that protects victims from violent crime, he also needs to do something about the missing women, and all the missing aboriginal women,” she said.
“Aboriginal women are also three times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women…This racism and discrimination in Canada needs to stop.”
She expressed her deep concern over the two omnibus bills introduced last year, Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, and said both of which have a profound impact on Canada’s environmental laws.
“Harper should be removed from office,” she said.
A small group of protesters who showed up early in the morning remained until evening to coordinate more people to come to the hotel. Police officers and security watched closely to ensure that the Prime Minister’s was without incident, but the activists said they had no intention of anything but a peaceful — if disruptively loud — demonstration.
Two of the organizers of the local Idle No More movement, Steven Kakinoosit of the Woodland-Cree Nation, Sucker Creek, and his adopted sister, Danita Nez, have come to demand that the omnibus bills and other recent legislation affecting First Nations’ rights and title be repealed.
“We’re here to create a deeper awareness for Canadians of how these bills violate not only Canadian law, but International law,” he said, holding up papers in his hand. Bill C-45 in particular, he said, violates articles 18, 19 and 20 in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stating that Indigenous peoples have the right to informed consent before the introduction or implementation of any legislation that would affect them.
Nez feels the federal government’s recent meetings with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) cannot be counted as consultation, and doubts some Conservatives’ claims that some of the new legislation was implemented with the consent of Aboriginal leaders.
“They think that AFN speaks for us, but AFN doesn’t even come down to our level to know what’s going on or what we really need as a people,” she said.
“[The government’s] consultations were never done properly…if they were, you wouldn’t see the thousands of people on the streets that you see today.”
Originally posted on the Vancouver Observer, 09/02/13
Photo of Danita Nez, one of the local organizers of Idle No More, by Jenny Uechi