Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will meet with indigenous leaders. Protests and hunger strikes have been ongoing since December 10. From The Guardian:
The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, has agreed to a meeting with First Nations leaders following indigenous protests sparked by a hunger strike.
Since 10 December there have been road and rail blockades across Canada, flash mobs and solidarity events as far away as New Zealand, in the biggest grassroots social movement in North America since Occupy.
On Algonquin island in the Ottawa river, within view of parliament, Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat, a poor aboriginal community, has been living in a teepee in sub-zero temperatures subsisting on liquids for 27 days. Two other Aboriginal elders were in week four of their fasts when Harper agreed to meet to discuss aboriginal rights and economic development.
The Office of of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada explains the legislation, the significance of these actions and offers some suggestions:
National Leadership Day of Prayer, January 11, 2013
As many know, Chief Teresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation has been on a hunger strike since December 11 to protest several bills before Parliament that negatively impact First Nation’s communities. Below is a synopsis provided by the Saugeen First Nation:
Budget Omnibus Bill #1
This 450 page bill changed more than 70 federal Acts without proper Parliamentary debate on some dramatic changes to Canada’s laws.
We are particularly concerned that this bill dramatically changes Canada’s federal environmental legislation, removing many protections for water, fish, and the environment.
These serious changes were made without consulting SON or other First Nations.
Budget Omnibus Bill #2
This second ‘budget’ bill also exceeds 450 pages, and changes 44 federal laws.
This bill and the first budget bill remove many protections of fish habitat and does not recognize Aboriginal commercial fisheries (such as the one which SON has, as confirmed by the Ontario Court in R. v. Jones and Nadjiwon)
Of particular concern to SON are the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which reduces the number of lakes and rivers where navigation and federal environmental assessment is required from 32,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers in Canada, to just 97 lakes and 62 rivers. 99% of Canada’s waterways just lost their protection for navigation and federal environmental assessment purposes.
These changes were made without consulting SON or other First Nations
First Nations Financial Transparency Act
This bill imposes standards on First Nations governments that far exceed those for municipal, provincial and federal elected officials in other jurisdictions.
It requires First Nation-owned businesses (unlike non-Aboriginal businesses) to publicly report income and expenses thus undermining competitiveness.
It adds additional bureaucracy to the existing reporting requirements (over 150 financial reports each year) that each First Nation must provide Ottawa, contrary to the recommendations of Canada’s Auditor General and the Treasury Board.
These changes are based on a common and racist misconception that First Nations’ officials are excessively and are more financially corrupt (both of which assumptions are factually and statistically incorrect).
Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act
This Act will allow Canada to over-our ride First Nation by-laws, BCRs and policies that protect safe drinking water.
In our experience, the federal, provincial and municipal governments in our region are very poor stewards of water. They refuse, for instance, to look at cumulative water impacts when assessing projects. We want to vigorously defend our water, and don’t want the government to override our efforts to do so.
We are concerned that the Minister will now have the power to require our First Nations to charge our members fees for receiving clean water.
The Act allows the government to annul or destroy Aboriginal rights and treaty rights “to the extent necessary to ensure safe drinking water.” This is a limited power but is concerning in principle, especially when the government was not able to provide any justification why it needed this power.
All of this activity has prompted the “idlenomore” movement all over the world, a movement to support Chief Spence and this legislative crisis. Chief Spence vowed not to end her strike until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to meet with First Nation’s leaders. The Prime Minister has finally agreed to meet with Indigenous leaders on January 11, 2013 in Ottawa. We are calling all churches to pray on that day. We recommend a prayer vigil that can be all day but at least during the time of the meeting. At this point we don’t have the exact time but it will be posted on afn.ca.
We recommend that the vigil include prayer, hymns and appropriate psalms. Drumming and chanting are also encouraged. To create a sacred prayer space we suggest that the vigil be opened by Honoring the Four Directions, reciting the Great Thanksgiving of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the Athabascan Litany or using an opening that is culturally appropriate for the local area. We also recommend that where possible participants gather around a Sacred Fire if outside. At Church House we will be using a large candle as our “Sacred Fire.”
What is most important is that people pray, corporately or singularly. We offer this specially written prayer
God, Creator of everything, we give you thanks for all you provide for our journey upon Mother Earth. Please bless our leaders who are meeting in Ottawa; bless their conversation, keep their hearts and minds open to hear each other and you. Help them all to have the “Good Mind.
Bless Chief Spence, restore her health and bless everyone who has offered support. Bless our Lands, our Waters, the Sky and all the peoples of your land. We pray these words in the unity of the Sacred Circle, God the Creator, Jesus the Peacemaker and the Sacred Spirit. Amen.
Contact: The Rev. Ginny Doctor
Coordinator for Indigenous Ministry
The Anglican Church of Canada
80 Hayden St.
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 3G2