#J11: First Nations Movement Goes Global

As Harper Meets with AFN, Worldwide Day of Action Planned

  • Demonstrators hold a banner advocating for Aboriginal rights at an Idle No More rally last December. Photo Thien Vo

Tomorrow might be a pivotal day for the grassroots indigenous peoples movement growing across Canada and internationally.

Long-awaited meetings between the Prime Minister, Federal Officers, First Nations Chiefs and the Governor General are slated to take place, coinciding with demonstrations set to pop up around the world, as part of what is being deemed a global day of action.

Operating under the Twitter hashtag #J11, demonstrations will be held worldwide tomorrow in support of the Idle No More movement and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

The date falls exactly a month after the start of Spence’s liquids-only hunger strike, in solidarity with the movement in protest of Bill C-45, legislation it calls threatening to indigenous land and water rights.

The #J11 Facebook page does not outline any specific recommended action for participating events beyond “simply a framework and rallying point for all peoples to stand united—to offer a strong, loud and visible alternative to the Assembly of First Nations/Harper agenda and messaging.”

Beginning at 1 p.m., the Palais du Congrès will be the site of the Montreal events. There will be several speakers and a large round dance held outside.

“What we want is a long-term commitment from the government to establish a dialogue with the First Nations,” said one of the event’s organizers and member of Idle No More Quebec Widia Larivière.

“We are protesting to show that we are still here and that this movement is going to continue until there is a real change,” she said.

Larivière says the event, timed strategically alongside the meeting with Harper, aims to better the relationship between the Canadian government and First Nations people.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but I know the movement is going to keep going after the meeting,” she said. “It’s going to keep growing. I don’t know any exact dates but for sure there is going to be more action in Montreal.”

According to its Facebook page, over 6,000 people are planning to attend tomorrow’s event.

The “working” meeting tomorrow will begin with remarks from Harper and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo at 1 p.m, followed immediately by a plenary session, with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan and Treasury Board President Tony Clement.

Harper and Atleo will discuss the outcomes of the session later in the afternoon.

On Jan. 8 Spence announced that she would be absent from the Jan. 11 meeting and continue her hunger-strike, should Governor General David Johnston not attend. She insisted his presence was integral in discussing treaty issues.

Earlier today however, Johnston’s attendance was confirmed by a statement issued by the Rideau House Press Office and The Prime Minister’s Office.

Johnston will participate in a ceremonial meeting however, set for 6:30 p.m., not the initially scheduled working meeting.

A spokesperson for Chief Spence has called this a “positive step.” Spence will attend the ceremonial meeting with the Johnston, Harper and other First Nations leaders.

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