CORNER BROOK Michael Earle Jr. turned five years old on Friday and, to mark the day, his parents took him to the Idle No More demonstration.
© Diane Crocker
Michael Earle and his son, five-year-old Michael Earle Jr., at Friday's Idle No More protest in Corner Brook.
“We’re here for him, for his future,” said his dad, Michael Earle Sr.
The family, which includes mom Lena Onalik, was among around 50 people to attend the demonstration at Margaret Bowater Park. The group included local native people, many of whom are members of the Qalipu First Nation Mi’kmaq, and other supporters. Among them were people from the Bay St. George area, Labrador and even a man from British Columbia.
Members of the group first stood along the road and parking area, many with signs, before moving further into the park for a lighting of sweet grass, prayer and traditional singing and drumming.
The only disruption during the peaceful demonstration came when a member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary interrupted to inform some of the group that they were illegally parked on O’Connell Drive.
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.
Earle said his family is against the bill and in full support of Idle No More.
“We want to see a future for this little boy when he grows up,” he said while gently tapping his son’s shoulders. “With this new bill there’s not going to be any future for him.”
Young Michael is part Inuit on his mom’s side and also has native ancestry on his father’s side.
Onalik, who is originally from Makkaovik in Labrador, attended the demonstration wearing a traditional-style Inuit coat.
See ANCESTRY on page 2
Earle has lived on the west coast all his life and said, even with his ancestry, he didn’t apply for native status.
“We know in our hearts we are,” he said. “We know who we are and we don’t want any benefits from it.”
He said his son is being taught about his native background.
“He knows his heritage. He wears the traditional clothing and he eats traditional food.”
Russell Park of Gillams, a Qalipu Band member, attended the demonstration to support Chief Theresa Spence and the fight against Bill C-45.
Spence, chief of the Ontario Attawapiskat First Nation, is currently on a hunger strike in Ottawa that she started to persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper to build a better relationship with aboriginal leaders. On Friday, Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said they will meet a delegation of First Nations leaders on Jan. 11.
“It’s important because Harper is shooting down all the rights of the people and trying to take away every Canadian aboriginal’s right,” said Park of his reason for attending.
He said Spence’s hunger strike is generating support across the country and uniting aboriginal people.
Qalipu Band councillor Brendan Mitchell, who represents the ward of Corner Brook, was also among the group of demonstrators.
“It’s great for people to come out in support of First Nations people in Canada and also for the conservation and the preservation aspect of what’s involved in Bill C-45,” he said.
“I’m interested in the native aspect, the aboriginal aspect, and the impacts of C-45, but I’m also a member of SPAWN (Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland), a member of the Federation of Fly Fishers in the United States, and I’m concerned about conservation also.
“A big part of our mandates of the organizations is conservation and preservation of the environment, and making sure we sustain what we have.”
Mitchell said he thinks the Idle No More message is getting through and providing leaders in the country with “a bit of a gut check” with respect to the implications and impacts of Bill C-45.
“Our leaders have a responsibility to make sure we do the right things right, and I think that will happen.”
The demonstration in the park was followed by a talking circle at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.