Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace


Posted by strattof on February 1, 2013


Idle No More started as a response to the Harper government’s second omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45. An omnibus bill is a proposed law that packages together a number of different bills or measures into one piece of legislation to be accepted in a single vote.

Omnibus bills are not illegal. However, if an omnibus bill is lengthy and puts together many unrelated measures, it becomes an affront to and an assault on democracy. 

Bill C-45 is 457 pages long and combines 60 different measures. As a result, MPs – not to mention ordinary Canadians – will have had difficulty knowing what is in the bill. The scale and scope of the bill also means that the measures were not subject to the usual detailed clause-by-clause analysis by committees or parliament.

In short, omnibus bills, such as Bill C-45, are a stealthy way to slip legislation past the Canadian public and to force it unscrutinized through parliament. 


Bill C-45 radically alters the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canada’s first environmental law, passed by Parliament in 1882. The changes drastically weaken the environmental protection of Canada’s waterways, excluding 99% of Canadian lakes and rivers from federal environmental oversight. The bill also exempts pipelines from the act.

These changes will have a negative impact on all Canadians:

  • They put clean drinking water at risk.
  • They will negatively affect fish and fisheries.
  • They violate First Nations Treaty rights. Waterways were never surrendered. The changes were made without consultation or consent.

Who will benefit from these changes? Natural resource industries. Projects, such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, will now have free reign to disrupt and impact Canadian waterways with no regard for the environment or human health.

Bill C-45 is not the Harper government’s first attack on environmental regulations. Since 2006, it has been working to dismantle environmental monitoring systems that stand in the way of resource development.


All Canadians, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, benefit from the Treaties. The Scarth Street Mall, where we stand every Thursday, is on Treaty 4 land. So too are Taylor Field and Wascana Park.

First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty agreements. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its Treaty commitments.

These failures include:

  • Education: A child who attends school on a reserve receives on average 25% less in government funding than other Canadian children.
  • Housing: On-reserve housing is a Treaty right. Reserve housing has been chronically underfunded since at least the 1950s.
  • Resource sharing: Much of Canada’s wealth comes from the exploitation of natural resources, many of which are on First Nations land. Wealth derived from these resources is not being shared, as spelled out in Treaty agreements.

These failures are the reason First Nations live in poverty more than any other people in Canada.




  • October 28 2011: Chief Theresa Spence declared a state of emergency on Attawapiskat First Nation.
  • On December 11 2012, Chief Spence started a liquids-only hunger strike that lasted 44 days.


Reports by the Auditor General, Amnesty International, and the United Nations all show that First Nations live in much worse conditions than any other people in Canada.

Chief Spence’s actions are a desperate attempt to make the Canadian government pay attention to the deplorable living conditions of First Nations and start the Treaty implementation process.    


  • In both instances, the Harper government’s response has been to accuse Chief Spence of financial mismanagement.
  • In the first instance, the government placed Attawapiskat under third party management. A federal court found the arrangement an “unreasonable” response to a humanitarian crisis.
  • In the second instance, the government leaked an audit of Attawapiskat, finding substantial documentation lacking for the $104 million the reserve received from the federal government between April 1 2005 and November 30 2011. 


  • Chief Spence was not elected Chief of Attawapiskat until August 10 2010. She was chief for only 16 months of the 6.5 year-period the audit covers.   
  • The audit does not accuse Chief Spence of corruption, but of not providing adequate paperwork for some transactions.
  • $104 million over a 6.5 year period works out to $16 million a year. Much of it is used to cover services, such as education and water, provided by provincial and municipal governments in non-reserve communities.
  • Attawapiskat has a population of about 2,000. $16 million a year works out to $8,000 per person, less than half of what governments spend on non-Indigenous people.
  • Attawapiskat has been under co-management with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs since 2001. If funds have been mismanaged, it will have been under the watch of the federal government.


“I get asked as I go around, ‘what is Theresa Spence doing?’ I don’t answer that because she can speak for herself. What I do say is, ‘Do you really think that she wants to sit in a teepee on an island on a hunger strike?’ She is doing this because everything else has been taken away. There aren’t any other alternatives.” – Thomas King, author of Medicine River and The Inconvenient Indian.

“To be Indian in Canada today is to see your children suffer. On reserves, in Métis communities and in the cities, Aboriginal children go hungry, lack warm clothing and solid educational resources, die as infants at a rate two to four times the national average and endure immunization rates 20 times lower than the general population.” – Richard Wagamese, author of Keeper ‘n Me and Indian Horse.

“By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, Indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis.” – Amnesty International, December 2012


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