Two of the chiefs that stormed Parliament Hill a year ago say the actions of the prime minister indicate he couldn’t care less about murdered Indigenous women and have thrown their support behind direct action to force a national inquiry on the issue.
Chiefs Patrick Madahbee and Isadore Day fielded questions from APTN National News based on the recent ultimatum by Tyendinaga Mohawk activist Shawn Brant.
Brant is giving Prime Minister Stephen Harper until the end of the month to call an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women or face unspecified direct action.
“Shawn has demonstrated that he backs up his words,” said Madahbee, grand council chief of Anishinabek Nation in northern Ontario. “I support anything that is done with the intent of protecting our rights.”
Brant is a well-known Mohawk activist and led a blockade of Hwy. 401 in 2007 for 11 hours. At the same time he blocked the railway tracks and local road choking the route.
The Harper government has refused to call an inquiry and the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t respond to questions sent by email.
Madabhee said direct action is typically the only way to get the government’s attention and tactics like passing out leaflets or getting signatures for a petition don’t work.
“The government has become used to that tactic. It doesn’t move them,” he said.
Madahbee said Harper has no sympathy for the growing number of missing and murdered that ranges between 600 to 3,000 according to various studies.
“This prime minister just doesn’t care,” he said.
Madahbee was there with Chief Isadore Day of Serpent River First Nation, in northwest Ontario, when they stormed Parliament Hill Dec. 4, 2012 and tried to get into the House of Commons to confront Harper. It was arguably the beginning of the Idle No More movement as the cross-country protest escalated from that day forward.
Day says he backs direct action for a national inquiry, however his answer was a little more complex.
“I support direct action but think if it’s going to have an impact we must include others in that march,” he said. “Direct action must be done with the inclusion of others relevant to process.”
So far Brant has refused to say exactly what he has planned but has told APTN it will be more than a blockade of a highway or railway tracks.
“The notion of having all the details of a campaign is very natural. We are asking for unconditional support for a cause that needs to be concluded by whatever means necessary,” said Brant, whose Mohawk community sits near Belleville, Ont. “I understand it takes tremendous courage to trust our judgment.”
Brant’s 2007 highway and railway blockades cost the Canadian economy about $100 million, according to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service
Brant and the “Mohawk men of Tyendinaga” have been given a mandate by the community protect Indigenous women and the first step he said is national inquiry.
“We are only asking our leadership to look into their hearts and decide for themselves if tactical uncertainty is worse than the on-going slaughter of our mothers and daughters. Doing nothing is no longer an option,” he said.
Day agrees doing nothing is no longer an option and said the murder and abductions of Indigenous women is an issue to draw a line on.
“My opinion is we should leave the political soapbox far away from this issue and do all we can in our communities for our women and girls and contribute to a collective push to hold the federal government accountable for every loss of life of our Indigenous women,” he said. “Our First Nation women are being marginalized in a national policy by the Conservative government that is not only disgraceful (but) refusing a national inquiry is a national embarrassment to all Canadians.”
Gladys Radek and Gail Nepinak have both lost family members. In Radek’s case her niece went missing in 2005 and has not been heard from since, while Nepinak lost her sister to serial Killer Shawn Lamb and her body is supposedly buried in a Winnipeg dump underneath trash.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada issued another call for an inquiry last week presenting the names of over 23,000 people who want one too at a media conference in Ottawa.
President Michele Audette remained neutral on the call for direct action but said she appreciated Brant’s support.
At the same media conference last week, Algonquin elder Annie Smith St. George said everyone should come together in a peaceful way.
“We should a never stop speaking about it, we should take it and work together, it’s time to come together in a peaceful way,” said Smith St. George. “If we can do a peaceful dialogue and not going against each other, because you know, you get hurt.”