Canada Flunks on Indigenous Rights, Protesters Say

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by
The Toronto Star

Canada Flunks on Indigenous Rights, Protesters Say

by
Peter Edwards

First Nations protesters and supporters march outside of Queen’s Park on Thursday, June 24, 2010, to bring the world’s attention to their call for native rights. (STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR)

TORONTO - Canada was given a failing grade on aboriginal human rights by First Nations groups protesting the G8/G20 economic summits.

“Canada has failed,” said Cathryn Mandoka, 59, of the Stoney Point First Nation near Sarnia. “Canada gets an F.”

As
she made her comments, Mandoka, a member of the Association of Iroquois
and Allied Indians, passed out mock report cards for Canada, giving the
country failing grades in several categories, including the failure to
adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples and a failure on environmental issues, like protection of lands
and resources.

Mandoka was one of about 1,000 Native people
and supporters who gathered outside Queen's Park, and then marched
through downtown Toronto on Thursday afternoon.

The march was
peaceful, as stressed in handouts given by organizers. Some of the
marchers carried sacred eagle feathers, feathered fans and traditional
hand drums.

Among the rules outlined in flyers given to protesters:

 
“No masks or bandanas covering your face: If you are wearing a bandana
you will be respectfully approached to remove it. You may keep a
bandana in your pocket soaked in vinegar in the case of tear gas or
pepper spray attacks by police.”

 “Watch out & support those around you, especially children, parents and elders.”

 “Non-native people are asked to take leadership from Indigenous peoples.”

Organizers
of the protest accused the federal government of working aggressively
to undermine Indigenous treaty rights, through the expropriation and
destruction of traditional lands and interference in self government.

Police
on bicycles and motorcycles followed the march while other officers
watched from sidewalks as demonstrators slowly wound down University
Ave. and then north again on Bay St.

Arthur Manuel, 58, of
the Shuswap Band in Neskonlith, B.C., said he hoped the march called
attention to the failure of Canada to recognize the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He said it was also important that the message be delivered in a non-violent way.

“This is a peaceful demonstration,” Manuel said. “That's what I believe in.”

Chelsea
Skunk, 18, an Ojibwa originally from Thunder Bay and now living in
Toronto, said she appreciated how protest organizers stressed a
peaceful, respectful protest that paid special attention to children
and the elderly.

“I'm really grateful to the organizers,”
said Skunk, who plans to begin studying social work in the fall. “I
think it's a really good atmosphere. Everybody's really calm right now.
It should always be that way.”

Anne Marie Garrels, 36, an
Ojibwa living in Toronto, said she couldn't help feel positive, despite
holding a sign that stated, “Canada Can't Hide Genocide.”

“I feel good today,” she said as she surveyed the crowd. “Happy, very happy.”

THE PROTESTERS

Who they are: Broad assortment of First Nations groups and supporters from across Canada.

What
they hope to accomplish: Call attention to wide range of Native issues,
including what they consider to be a lack of police protection for
First Nations women, a lack of recognition for First Nations
jurisdictions and the failure of Canada to adopt the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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