Over A Thousand Marched Toronto Streets Supporting The Aboriginal National Day of Action
At the end of a four-day rally at Queen's Park yesterday, hundreds of Natives and non-Natives packed up their tents, dismantled their teepees and proceeded to march through the busy downtown Toronto streets leading to Little Norway Park on the shore of Lake Ontario, for the second annual Aboriginal National Day of Action.
At this years event the Assembly of First Nations called on the Government of Canada to take immediate steps to improve their quality of life, ensure safe drinking water, end the housing crisis in First Nations communities, efficient health care for Aboriginal people, better education for their children, and an end to discrimination against Aboriginal people.
While passing the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the group quickly grew when hundreds of labour activists from the Canadian Union Of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) who were gathered for a convention joined in.
"The people united will never be defeated." and "Land rights not mining rights." Were shouted by the flag waving protesters.
Darren Patrick - Aboriginal VP of Executive Council of Canadian Labour Congress says that companies have to stop hiding behind the government and the government has to stop hiding behind companies.
"There's no reason that they (KI-6 & Bob Lovelace) should have been incarcerated for standing up for whats ours - shame on the Federal and the Provincial Governments for allowing that to happen in the first place and for supporting that." Patrick said.
The Canadian Labour Congress says they look forward to working with all the First Nations across the country and they passed three main objectives at their convention.
- To ensure better funding for their children.
- To lobby governments to end overcrowding, unsafe housing, crumbling infrastructure and the lack of access to safe and clean drinking water.
- Call on the Federal Government to show respect of First Nations people across Canada by implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Bob Lovelace, who was also in attendance after being released from prison after serving 105 days over disputes about uranium exploration near Sharbot Lake - 70 km North of Kingston, Ontario.
"Our stand was a last resort, there's no doubt about that and We will take whatever measures to stop the exploration on our territory." Lovelace stated.
Wednesday the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Lovelace and six leaders from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, aka the KI-6, had served enough time and should remain free.
KI Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, Head councillor Cecilia Begg, councillors Sam McKay and Darryl Sainnawap, and band employee Bruce Sakakeep, were convicted of contempt of court back in March and sentenced to six months in jail for opposing Platinum exploration by Platinex Inc. on their traditional land 600km north of Thunder Bay. All six were temporarily released last Friday pending the outcome of Wednesday's appeal.
"I think that Canadians need to stand up and say that this is not the way to treat their Aboriginal neighbours. We're not the enemies of Canada." Bob Lovelace said.
Lovelace also gave praise to non-Aboriginal people who stand with them.
Rallies were also planned in B.C., Sask., the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Halifax.