By Monique DuBray
NORTH BAY – Canada is nation in which land has to be protected, rights and freedoms should be respected, and treaties have to be honoured.
Those messages were delivered to the Weaver Auditorium audience on hand for the second in a series of three Idle No More “teach-ins” presented by Canadore College’s First Peoples’ Centre and the Union of Ontario Indians.
“We Are All Treaty People” included presentations from Pam Palmater, Ryerson University professor and Idle No More spokesperson; Lorraine Liberty , Nipissing First Nation elder; Brian MacLeod, managing editor, Sudbury Star, and SunMedia regional content director; and Patrick Madahbee, Grand Council Chief of the 39 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation.
“We are trying to get rid of the shackles of colonialism and the brainwashing that we received over the years,” said Madahbee, who talked about some of the challenges he has faced in nearly 40 years of involvement in First Nations politics.
“We were told to think that our culture and our way of life were pagan and didn’t mean anything, and yet we had complicated and good systems of government in place.”
Madahbee referred to current federal government legislation that he said ignores First Nations rights protected by Canada’s courts and constitution. He noted that aspects of the so-called “omnibus” bills that remove environmental protection of thousands of rivers and lakes are an affront to all Canadians.
Lorraine Liberty conducted a traditional Anishinaabe water ceremony and said taking care of the water is the responsibility of all women.
“Water is life,” she said. “We (Anishinaabe) don’t look at water as a commodity; we don’t look at it as how to make money. We look at is as life-giving. My role is to carry the teachings, carry the songs, carry the petitions and language to the younger generation so that they can stand up and they can carry them.”
Participants were invited to drink from the copper pitcher of water, which the E
lder had petitioned the Creator to bless in her ceremony, and take what they learned from her message and pass it on to others.
Pam Palmater, Mi’kmaq and chair of Ryerson’s School of Indigenous Governance, said the Idle No More movement should matter to all Canadians.
“The movement itself comes from sovereignty. Make your own decisions, make your own choices, make your own language, assert your own culture, live it, breathe it, share it, and enjoy it. That’s what sovereignty is and that’s the core message of Idle No More.”
The media has come in for a lot of criticism for how it covers – and doesn’t cover –Idle No More activities. Sun Media editor Brian MacLeod spoke about some of the challenges journalists face in providing accurate and balanced reporting in this area.
“I can tell you that I do not know nearly enough about First Nation issues, as do most Canadians,” saud MacLeod.
“There isn’t an absolute complete understanding of Native Issues in the newsrooms. We have our stories, we write about the original issues. But we don’t necessarily have the whole context of issues but we still write about them, which is a real challenge.”