First Nations protest on Yonge Street, Toronto, in advance of the recent G20 summit. 24 June 2010. Photo on Wikimedia Commons, provided with a Creative Commons License.
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by Hillary Bain Lindsay, The Dominion
July 5, 2010
Canada still has not signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People; 584 Aboriginal women are still missing and murdered; and many of us still live on unceded First Nations territory—and are exploiting it. The list could go on.
On the other hand, Indigenous resistance is growing in Canada; so too are solidarity movements.
For the second time in 2010 (the first being the Vancouver Olympics), First Nations rights were at the forefront of a major convergence of social justice activists.
"No G20 on stolen Native land," chanted demonstrators throughout the week of protests leading up to G8/G20 meetings, and warrior flags were flying at all the marches—whether led by environmental justice advocates or anti-poverty organizers.
And on June 24, more than 1,000 people flooded the streets of downtown Toronto for the "Canada Can't Hide Genocide" march and rally.
The crowd did not gather on June 24 to protest the G20 so much as to reject it entirely.
"Fundamentally, we reject the G8 and G20 as decision-making bodies over our peoples," Ben Powless, a Mohawk from Six Nations, told a cheering crowd. "These are the illegitimate organizations of the colonial states that seek the further exploitation of our peoples."
Marilyn Poucachiche, an Algonquin from Barriere Lake First Nation, drove nine hours from her community to attend the rally and knows that story well.
"The government has been trying to assimilate or has been assimilating [our] people for a long time," she says.
Barriere Lake First Nation has a traditional governing system, a system that the Indian Act does not recognize. "The Canadian government have been trying to impose Section 74 in our community from the Indian Act," says Poucachiche. Section 74 would require the community to hold band elections. "It favours the Canadian policy on how we should govern and select our leaders."
"That will extinguish our Aboriginal title and treaty rights," she says. "They're trying to select their Chief according to their law. But we're saying it's our way, not your way."
Whether or not Canadians choose to support Indigenous struggles, the state, as Powless points out, has certain obligations.
"Fundamentally," says Powless, "Canada must live up to its international and domestic treaty obligations and respect self-determination, the right for free, prior and informed consent and the sovereignty of our peoples."