Tag Archives: Idle No More

Former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence begins hunger strike over state of community

Former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence during her hunger strike in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa in 2012. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Spence and band councillor demand end to federal government’s ‘piecemeal’ approach to crises

Former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence says she is embarking on another hunger strike, this time over the state of her community’s water and infrastructure, along with its ongoing social struggles.

Spence became a focal point of the Idle No More movement after she subsisted on fish broth and medicinal tea from December 2012 to January 2013, demanding a meeting between the prime minister, the Governor General and First Nations chiefs.

Spence held the fast in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa and her actions added fuel to cross-country protests across the country under the Idle No More banner.

Spence began the current hunger strike with Attawapiskat Band Coun. Sylvia Koostachin-Metatawabin on Sunday at midnight.

“We will no longer sit by and watch government groups and officials come in and visit our community only to offer a piecemeal approach to longstanding and ongoing crisis within our community,” said Spence and Koostachin-Metatawabin, in a statement posted on a Facebook page called Reclaiming our Steps, Past, Present and Future.

Attawapiskat’s band council declared a state of emergency last week after water tests showed potentially harmful levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) in the tap water. The chemicals are byproducts produced by the water treatment process when chlorine interacts with the high level of organic materials in the community’s water source.

The community has a separate system specifically for its drinking water supply that is filtered through a reverse-osmosis system and distributed through two water stations where community members can fill up jugs. While still safe, the drinking water is starting to register rising levels of THMs and HAAs.

Attawapiskat has long struggled with high levels of THMs and HAAs and the fix needed to deal with the issue is in the millions of dollars.

Wants senior bureaucrats at the negotiation table

The statement from Spence and Koostachin-Metatawabin demands that senior Indigenous Services Canada management with “budgetary and decision making authorities” meet with Attawapiskat on “major capital investment that encompasses not only with our water crisis, but also focusing on infrastructure and housing.”

The statement said the community also needs commitments on dealing with child welfare, health, mental health and education, along with “the looming genocidal encroachment” of resource development activities on traditional lands.

Danny Metatawabin, who was Spence’s spokesperson during Idle No More, said that Spence and Koostachin-Metatawabin are currently only drinking water.

“But if there is no solution provided by Indigenous Services Canada or provincial officials, then they are going to stop taking water,” said Metatawabin, in a telephone interview from Attawapiskat.

Metatawabin said Spence and Kooostachin-Metatawabin have taken over a vacant De Beers training facility to hold the hunger strike.

“It’s long-standing issues with the Department of Indian Affairs, it’s not just about the recent state of emergency on our water crisis,” he said.

“It’s a multitude of issues.”

By: Jorge Barrera · CBC News · Posted: Jul 16, 2019


Idle No More protesters delay Canada Day ceremony

A dozen protesters with Idle No More Kingston faced off with police in front of City Hall to express their dismay with Canada’s record of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples. (Meghan Balogh/The Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network)

Protesters under the banner of Idle No More Kingston blocked the Canada Day People Parade on Sunday in front of City Hall.

Approximately one dozen protesters stood in the street as the parade approached, holding signs that read “151 years of genocide,” “settler colonialism is a crime,” “Justice for Colten,” and “Tina, Jon, Colten, Jordon, Lillian. Canada kills.”

One protester wore a British flag as a cape with the words “European colonialism” written across it.

Some members of the several-hundred-strong Canada Day Civic Ceremony crowd booed the protesters as they resisted police and refused to clear the roadway.

Kingston Police asked protesters to move several times before physically pushing them down the street, using officers on foot, on bicycle and on horseback.

Protester Krista Flute, who is very active in the Idle No More Kingston movement, was arrested at the scene.

Evelyna Ekoko-Kay is one of the protesters who took part in the demonstration in front of City Hall. She and a handful of others stayed after being removed from the ceremony site and handed out pamphlets to anyone interested on the corner afterward.

Ekoko-Kay said she is not Indigenous herself but is mixed race, with one parent an immigrant and the other a colonist. She said she stands in solidarity with Indigenous people in Canada.

“I think it’s important that non-Indigenous people align ourselves with Indigenous struggle,” she said.

“Canada is a nation founded on the genocide of Indigenous people, and it’s an ongoing genocide. In this case, genocide is in the form of residential schools, in the form of the ’60s scoop when children were taken from their homes and put in foster care and separated from their culture. It’s ongoing now, and in fact today, Indigenous youth are taken at a higher rate than they were at the height of the residential school system, to the point where over 50 per cent of children in foster care are Indigenous, even though that’s only about eight per cent of the population.”

According to Ekoko-Kay, 47 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls in juvenile detention are Indigenous.

“Indigenous people are being killed every day, whether we’re talking about missing and murdered Indigenous women, people killed by police or white vigilantes. Their killers are consistently acquitted.”

Ekoko-Kay said she feels people need to hear the message of Indigenous people who have been marginalized, especially on Canada Day.

“When people celebrate Canada Day, whether or not they are doing it maliciously or whether or not they believe that Indigenous people deserve this, they are still helping to uphold that state and helping to celebrate it, and erase the realities of settler colonialism, which is an ongoing problem,” Ekoko-Kay said. “We wanted to create a counternarrative at this protest, this rally, because otherwise the only voices being heard are those that agree with the state and are wiling to fall in line. If that’s the case, then no one will ever know about any of these things, and that’s not acceptable. People’s lives are being taken every day. There’s no time to wait.

“If we don’t take a stand, even if we’re just a small group of people, then nothing will ever change.”


First Nations Activists from Winnipeg to Blockade TransCanada Highway on Friday

Blockade at Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

Red Power Media | June 29, 2017

For immediate release

On, June 30th, 2017, First Nations activists from Winnipeg will be shutting down a portion of the TransCanada Highway to protest the Canadian government and bring awareness to the youth suicide crisis in First Nations communities as well to the deaths of several indigenous youth in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Members of the American Indian Movement, Urban Warrior Alliance and Idle No More will be taking part in a pipe ceremony for youth, followed by a blockade of the highway.

Representatives from groups taking part are demanding the Liberal government increase the availability of mental health services on reserves and provide culturally appropriate resources for youth including in Manitoba. Inadequate health-care services, the loss of cultural identity and lack of proper housing are key factors contributing to the high rates of suicide and mental illness among indigenous peoples. Recently in Ontario, three 12 year old girls died by suicide at Wapekeka First Nation, located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The latest one happened June 13th when a pre-teen girl hung herself.

The deaths of several Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay have also raised concerns about racism against Indigenous people and inadequate police investigations. First Nations leaders have expressed their lack of faith in Thunder Bay police. The York Regional Police service have been requested to investigate the deaths of Josiah Begg, 14, and Tammy Keeash, 17, found dead in McIntyre River in May. Ten indigenous people have been found dead in Thunder Bay, since 2000. Seven were First Nations students who died between 2000 and 2011 while attending high school in the Thunder Bay, hundreds of kilometres away from their remote communities where access to education is limited. Organizers of Fridays protest would like to see improvement in First Nations education and increase in funding for schooling on reserves.

Activists are requesting the RCMP respect their right to protest. They plan to start their demonstration around 12 pm just east of Winnipeg near Deacon’s corner. A press conference will also take place at that time. Activists are planning to hand out information to motorists and collect signatures on a petition calling for immediate action from the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennet, as well as the Minister of Health Jane Philpott.

Toronto Protest Ends, INAC Offices Still Occupied In Winnipeg, Vancouver

For the first time in nine days, people from a group called #OccupyINAC emerge from Toronto's Indigenous and Northern Affairs office. (Sakura Saunders/Twitter)

For the first time in nine days, people from a group called #OccupyINAC emerge from Toronto’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs office. (Sakura Saunders/Twitter)

CBC News Posted: Apr 21, 2016

#OccupyINAC protests ‘same energy’ as Idle No More, says Cree lawyer who was key figure in movement

On Thursday, demonstrators left the Toronto office of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, nine days after they took it over and sparked a protest that has spread across the country.

“The time has come for us to go back to our families and loved ones, and to come out and thank our supporters. Without you, this week of awareness that has spread across the land may never have happened,” read a statement from a group called #OccupyINAC, who say they were directed to leave by youth from Attawapiskat.

But while the occupation in Toronto has ended, groups are still inside buildings in Winnipeg and Vancouver — and a key figure in Idle No More sees similarities to that movement.

“People felt all of the same energy with [as Idle No More]. This need to do something, this need to say something, this need to demonstrate that they exist. We exist. And we are not going to let those things happen and be silent about it,” said Tanya Kappo, a Cree lawyer from Alberta who was involved in Idle No More from its earliest days.

The #OccupyINAC protesters are demanding that Ottawa do more to help Indigenous communities like Attawapiskat, Ont., and Pimicikamak, Man., which have seen multiple suicide attempts in recent months.

Protesters are also camped outside INAC’s Regina office, while ongoing demonstrations keep the department’s Gatineau office closed to the public.

“Due to exceptional circumstances,” those offices are inaccessible to the public but remain operational, the department said on its website.

All other INAC regional offices and business centres are open for regular business.

‘Great sign of support’

Kappo says she supports the #OccupyINAC protests because it was sparked by concern between Indigenous communities.

“The occupation, in my mind, became a great sign of support to people in Attawapiskat,” she said.

“This is a way of getting the message out there in a peaceful way, that comes from a place of support and caring.”

But while Idle No More eventually spread across the country and saw thousands of people join rallies and ‘flash mob round dances,’ so far #OccupyINAC only involves a few dozen on the ground, and many messages of support on social media.

Occupation in Vancouver

In British Columbia, a group with a core of three women and their children have been occupying INAC’s downtown Vancouver office since Monday.

OccupyINAC Vancouver

A group lead by Indigenous women have taken over INAC’s Vancouver office, in solidarity with protests happening across the country. (OccupyINAC/Twitter)

“The children of Attawapiskat amplified the cries of all Indigenous children across Canada and OccupyINAC-Vancouver stand in solidarity with them,” the group said in a statement posted on social media.

Organizers said that they want a meeting with federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. They also want funding restored to Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth, which was redirected for job training programs under the Harper government. The fund used to support cultural activities for Indigenous youth, mainly through friendship centres.

“Our main goal is to exit INAC with a victory dance,” the statement reads.

Solidarity in Saskatchewan

A fence that had been erected in front of INAC’s Regina building on Tuesday morning has since come down.

The office itself is still closed, but the small group of protesters who are camping outside the building cheered as the fence was taken down Wednesday afternoon.

Regina Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office

Protesters in Regina camp out in front of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

The Regina event was organized by Robyn Pitawanakwat, who said the problems facing Attawapiskat are well known in Saskatchewan communities. Three First Nations in the province also declared mental health emergencies back in March.

“It’s an old story,” she said. “It’s a tired story, but nobody is more tired than the people in these communities. They need help.

Pitawanakwat added that the problem is also rooted in Indigenous people not having control over their own communities.

“The idea that we cannot administrate our own communities and our own funds is ridiculous,” she said. “There are people who have never been to these communities deciding who gets the money and it needs to stop.”

Bennett, Angus visit Attawapiskat

Since the protests began, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has paid a visit to Attawapiskat, joined by NDP MP Charlie Angus.

Bennett said a youth centre and better housing are in the works — but she said she wants continued guidance to form a plan that will address problems in First Nations right across the country.

Indigenous Suicide Inuit 20160418

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett, left, NDP MP Charlie Angus, centre, and Chief Bruce Shisheesh, right, hold hands as they speak with youth during a recent visit to Attawapiskat, Ont. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

“I’ve committed to setting up a youth advisory committee to help me with priorities and make sure, as we develop plans for young indigenous people, coast-to-coast-to-coast, that I will have their guidance,” she said.

Angus announced that a delegation of Indigenous youth from northern Ontario would be visiting Ottawa soon, where they’ll be hosted by Senator Murray Sinclair.

For Winnipeg, no end in sight

In Winnipeg, where protests began one day after Toronto, around a dozen people remain in INAC’s offices.

Organizers have said little to media but a statement issued on social media lays out their demands, which include the abolishment of the Indian Act, a meeting with the Prime Minister and an end to discrimination against two-spirit people, among others.

“We will continue to assert our sovereign right to occupy this space until the Crown, so-called Government of Canada, and so-called Chief and Council, acknowledge this statement and the commands within,” the statement reads.

With files from CBC Saskatchewan, CBC Manitoba, Wawmeesh Hamilton and The Canadian Press


Winnipeg Indigenous And Northern Affairs Office Occupied By Protesters


CBC News Posted: Apr 14, 2016

Protesters at INAC office on Hargrave Street call for help for First Nations in crisis

Protesters have occupied an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office in downtown Winnipeg.

“We have officially occupied INAC in Winnipeg in support of our brothers and sisters across Turtle Island!!!!” organizer Raquel Lavallee posted on Facebook.

Protesters say they are taking over the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Winnipeg "in support of our brothers and sisters across Turtle Island." (Raquel Lynn Lavallee/Facebook)

Protesters say they are taking over the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Winnipeg “in support of our brothers and sisters across Turtle Island.” (Raquel Lynn Lavallee/Facebook)

A similar occupation took place in Toronto on Wednesday when about 20 members of Idle No More and Black Lives Matter set up in an Indigenous and Northern Affairs office there, demanding the federal government take immediate action to address recent suicide attempts in Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.

Protesters started that occupation with a die-in on the floor of the office, before holding a ceremony that included the burning of sweetgrass and sage.

They said they were standing in solidarity with the Attawapiskat community, which declared a state of emergency Saturday following reports of 11 suicide attempts in one day alone last weekend.

There are also reports of more than 100 suicide attempts and at least one death since September in the remote community of nearly 2,000 people.

Other First Nations dealing with recent suicides include Pimicikamak and Shamattawa in Manitoba.

First Nations across Canada need better funding and a commitment from the federal government to address the poverty, overcrowded housing, and other issues, the protesters in Winnipeg say.

It’s time … to honour our commitments of healing and reconciliation in Canada,” said Ko’na Cochrane, who heard about the protest and drove to the INAC office on Hargrave Street, between Ellice and Cumberland avenues.

INAC protest

Ko’na Cochrane drums on Thursday outside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office on Hargrave Street in Winnipeg. (David Gaudet/CBC)

She drummed, sang songs and performed a smudge on the street in front of the office, where the protesters could see from a second-storey window.

“Canada has a serious problem and they need to deal with it in a big way. The population of indigenous people in Canada have had enough.”

Lavallee posted on Facebook that it has been peaceful but asked supporters to bring protesters water and food.

“Well we are doing fine up here. The security is being very friendly,” she wrote.

“The police are outside, we were told they were called only because there was concerns about our smudging.”

Protesters have set up inside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office on Hargrave Street in downtown Winnipeg. (Raquel Lynn Lavallee/Facebook)

Protesters have set up inside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office on Hargrave Street in downtown Winnipeg. (Raquel Lynn Lavallee/Facebook)

Protesters can be seen in the window of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office at 365 Hargrave Street in Winnipeg on Thursday. (Dave Gaudet/CBC)

Protesters can be seen in the window of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office at 365 Hargrave Street in Winnipeg on Thursday. (Dave Gaudet/CBC)