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Canada's 'Idle No More' Movement Spreads Like Wildfire

Chief Theresa Spence on 14th day of hunger strike

- Craig Brown, staff writer

The 'Idle No More' movement, a campaign of grassroots First Nations protests, has spread like wildfire over the past week in response to bills passed by the conservative Canadian government.

First Nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill during a demonstration as part of the spreading 'Idle No More' movement in Ottawa, Canada, December 21, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie Anger to the recently passed C-45, the Harper government omnibus budget bill, has fueled the growing movement.

Bil C-45 includes changes to the Canadian Indian Act regarding how reserve lands are managed, making them easier to develop and be taken away from the First Nation people.

The bill also removes thousands of lakes and streams from the list of federally protected bodies of water. “This is unacceptable. They have made a unilateral decision remove the protection of waterways... Shell Canada has proposed to mine out 21km of the Muskeg River, a river of cultural and biological significance. This ultimately gives the tar sands industry a green light to destroy vital waterways still used by our people," stated Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Atiwapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike since December 11th, resolved to starve herself to death unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets to discuss treaty rights, and Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples. She is currently living in a teepee on Victoria Island, in Ottawa, just a kilometer away from the Parliament buildings. So far, Harper has rejected calls to meet with Spence.

Chief Spence tweeted on Sunday, the 13th day of her hunger strike:

Over the last few days Idle No More supporters took over malls and public spaces all over Canada and parts of the US with a series of flashmobs performing traditional round dances in support of the movement.

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Idle No More's mission statement reads, in part:

On December 10th, Indigenous people and allies stood in solidarity across Canada to assert Indigenous sovereignty and begin the work towards sustainable, renewable development. All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities. We encourage youth to become engaged in this movement as you are the leaders of our future. There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals – Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals. We recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.

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Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, center, sits between supporters Danny Matatawabin, left, and Angela Bercier in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa during her hunger strike. (Photo; Julie Oliver, Ottawa Citizen)

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