On Tuesday, city resident Keith Cormier sent out a message via Facebook informing people of a “peaceful” demonstration planned for Margaret Bowater Park at noon on Friday.
While he sent out the message, Cormier, who is a status member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, doesn’t take credit for organizing the event.
“I just thought I’d put it out there and see who wanted to show up,” said Cormier on Wednesday. “It doesn’t need to be organized.”
The Idle No More movement is aimed at urging the federal government to honour historic treaty agreements with the country’s aboriginal groups. Those involved in the movement are concerned that Bill C-45 — the omnibus federal budget bill which they say erodes aboriginal rights — was drafted with no input from aboriginal leaders.
With a huge aboriginal population here in the Bay of Islands, Cormier thinks it’s important to send a message to the government that the movement is Canadawide.
He said taking a stand is important on two levels.
“One, as an aboriginal person, this bill attacks 14 pieces of legislation that need to be changed through changes in the Constitution in consultation with aboriginal people across Canada and it’s not being done,” said Cormier.
“And also, for non-aboriginal people, we’ve gone from 2.4 million bodies of water in Canada being protected to about 155.”
The only protected body of water in this province is Lake Melville in Labrador, which Cormier said is concerning because 80 per cent of North American salmon rivers are in this province.
While the Qalipu Band is not involved in the planning of the demonstration, Cormier has emailed an invitation to the event to ward councillor Brendan Mitchell. Mitchell, who represents the ward of Corner Brook, told The Western Star he would be attending.
But Chief Brendan Sheppard was emphatic about his participation.
“No, definitely not,” said Sheppard, when asked if he planned to attend.
“I’ve never been idle. This organization hasn’t been idle. We wouldn’t be where we’re at today if we were idle,” he added.
“Quite frankly we have work to do with the Government of Canada and the government of the province and we’re certainly not at this point in time looking to create any huge animosity between those levels of partners as we look forward to try and do work in the best interests of the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland.”