An estimated 300 Idle No More demonstrators gathered under a heavy snowfall on Parliament Hill today as part of a planned global day of action that's expected to involve more than 30 cities in Canada.
The march on the Hill came on the day that MPs returned from their winter break to sit in the House of Commons.
The crowd of Ottawa activists — many chanting to a drum beat — assembled in a show of solidarity for indigenous people's land and rights, and a push for reform on federal government policy toward aboriginal people.
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Among the speakers on Monday afternoon on the steps of Parliament were NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Roméo Saganash, an NDP MP for the Quebec riding of Abitibi and a prominent Cree figure in federal politics.
Mulcair addressed the crowd on the steps of Parliament Hill. “You cannot destroy thousands of lakes and rivers and pretend to be respecting First Nations territorial fishing and hunting rights,” he said, referring to the changes to laws affecting navigable waters and fisheries.
The Opposition leader said the NDP would work on a nation to nation basis with aboriginal peoples, respecting the Royal Proclamation of 1763. "That's a promise we will keep."
Saganash tabled a private member's bill that would require federal legislation to be compatible with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The grassroots Idle No More movement grew as an expression of concern over the Conservative government's passage of the C-45 omnibus budget implementation bill, which will affect the Indian and Environmental Assessment Acts, among other things.
In Halifax, more than 200 people waved flags and chanted as they marched across the Macdonald Bridge today as part of the Idle No More movement. One lane of the three-lane bridge, which connects Halifax to the suburb of Dartmouth, was shut down to accommodate the activists.
Other protests were scheduled for Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square, and a round dance flash mob is also scheduled to take place in the Jackson Square Mall food court in Hamilton. Winnipeg will also have a similar round dance flash mob at the legislative grounds.
Idle No More activities in Saskatoon will include opening prayers, a round dance and guest speakers at Station 20 West. In Calgary, there will be an evening gathering at Olympic Plaza, and in Edmonton, an afternoon media conference held by Idle No More organizers at the Stanley Milner Library will be followed by a tea dance.