The Idle No More aboriginal issues movement made its second appearance at UBC yesterday.
A student-organized demonstration supporting the movement took the form of a protest march across campus, and then a rally to listen to students and professors speak beside the SUB.
The demonstration was started by third-year political science and theatre student Jessie Mackenzie. She said she organized the demonstration, with the help of other UBC students, to raise awareness of aboriginal issues on campus.
“Canada is guilty of gross human rights violations and continues [its] indigenous rights violations,” said Mackenzie. “I don’t think it’s cool that students are apathetic.”
The day began with a Musqueam prayer, followed by a march of around 50 people singing and playing drums as they walked. The demonstration began at the Museum of Anthropology and worked its way down Main Mall, finishing just outside the SUB.
Students and professors then took turns addressing the crowd, speaking on topics from aboriginal history to environmental issues.
Glen Coulthard, an assistant professor in the UBC First Nations studies program, spoke about the purpose and context of Idle No More protests. He said the movement started as a direct response to proposed legislation from the Harper government, but then moved on to address larger, deeper issues faced by aboriginal people in Canada.
The Idle No More movement began in December of last year, as a series of decentralized aboriginal rights protests. It has bloomed into a general push for more awareness of aboriginal issues, centring around opposition to bills C-38 and C-45. Opponents of the legislation argue that the new bills would pave the way for outside developments on First Nations lands and weaken environmental protections.
“When similar legislation passed in the United States, 62 per cent of reserve land was lost,” said Mique’l Dangeli, a member of Tsimshian Nation and a doctoral candidate in UBC’s department of art history, visual art and theory.
However, Dangeli said the repercussions of the proposed legislation extend beyond aboriginal people.
“This isn’t just a First Nations issue, this is a human issue.” said Deangeli. “If people are not willing to stand with Idle No More, they’re forsaking their fresh water. They’re forsaking their clean air. They’re forsaking the food and the nourishment that we get from our environment.”
One protester who attended, UBC First Nations studies student Claire Love-Wilson, thought the demonstration was a success.
“My main hope is that attention and consciousness [are] drawn to the issues that Idle No More is bringing up,” she said.