About 100 people, most of them aboriginals, participated in an Idle No More protest Friday morning along Highway 97 in Westbank. They gathered in the nearby Royal Bank parking lot and then marched up First Avenue (Old Okanagan Highway) to the main highway.
About 100 people, most of them aboriginal, marched to an impromptu Idle No More protest beside Highway 97 in Westbank at 11 a.m. on Friday. They were greeted by numerous motorists honking their horns in support although one yelled: "Get off the highway."
The main focus of the demonstration, staged on a grass strip beside an Okanagan Fur Brigade monument, was the federal Conservatives' omnibus Bill C-45, which combined the federal budget with 14 other pieces of legislation.
"We're here to let people know that we're not gone, that we care, that we're willing to take a stand and Bill C-45 is not for us," said protest organizer Roxanne Lindley.
"We believe in consultation. We believe in meaningful communication. We believe in transparency. And when we look at it, Bill C-45 is not just a brown thing, it is not just a Westbank thing. This is going to impact your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren. . . . We're here to bring awareness that it's a much bigger thing."
One of the major concerns is streamlining the public consultation process for projects with a potential environmental impact, say opponents.
"It's not a racial thing. It's not a cultural thing. We're doing what we're supposed to be doing," said Lindley. "This is our responsibility: to provide and care and have stewardship for Mother Earth, to recognize that relationship, to get that out there that this is what we're doing, this is why we're here, because we care."
She said she wasn't disappointed none of the elected leaders of the Westbank First Nation could attend because of prior commitments.
"Originally, when you look at the Idle No More movement, it was about grassroots people. I spoke to Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie and I spoke to the council, and we have their support," she said.
"We are all Okanagan, and at the end of the day, whether you are an elected leader or not, you need water, you need air and you need the land. And it needs to be protected, so that's where we are coming from."
"I'm here for the earth, I'm here for the environment, and that's really as simple as it is. It's my job as a grandmother," Lindley said.
Her ancestors had access to and provided stewardship for the earth's resources, she said.
"I want my great-grandchildren to have fresh water, good clean air, access to the land and the resources - the same rights and freedoms."
Lindley was pleased so many people participated in Friday's demonstration.
"It's a beautiful day to get the people together, to drum, to sing, to share and to be able to reach our hands out and say: 'I care about your grandchildren's future.'"
Earlier, Chief Louie issued a news release stating the Westbank First Nation chief and council endorsed the efforts of their members who support the growing grassroots movement.
"Westbank First Nation is proud of the efforts of our members to assist First Nations across Canada in their fight to be recognized," said Louie.
"The collective actions of the movement have drawn the attention of the country to the inherent rights of First Nations people, including the right to govern our reserve lands, and to be consulted and accommodated in matters affecting our resources and traditional territories."
On Oct. 18, the Harper government introduced Bill C-45, omnibus budget legislation containing policy changes to various acts, including the Indian Act, Navigation Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act, he noted.
"These changes weaken environmental protection on waters and lands which concern all Canadians."
The bill, known as the Jobs and Growth Act, was approved by the Senate on Dec. 14.