With more omnibus bills flying through the House of Commons, a group of indigenous and environmental rights stewards are saying enough is enough.
“Our government isn’t doing enough make sure people know what’s happening,” Sheelah McLean said.
“When it came to our attention how disturbing the new policies were around Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, we decided that we needed to continue to raise consciousness about what our government is doing.”
McLean is part of Idle No More, a Saskatoon-based group that’s organized rallies against many of the policies that the majority Conservative government has been implementing.
The group is hosting a rally (or “teach in” as member Sylvia McAdam likes to refer to it) in Prince Albert on Saturday, beginning at 12 p.m. at the Margo Fournier Centre.
Between the two latest omnibus bills are hundreds of pages of items, many of which Idle No More has issues with. For Saturday’s rally, the group plans to focus on two aspects, including what they refer to as “Radical changes to environmental protections of land and water,” and, “Radical changes to indigenous rights and sovereignty.”
On the indigenous rights issue, McAdam said that the key concern is with changes proposed to the Indian Act.
“It’s going to give the aboriginal affairs minister … the authority to call a referendum to surrender reserve land,” she said. “Even then, he has veto to extinguish reserve land.”
As an indigenous person, McAdam said that she’s insulted that these changes are projected to glide through Parliament without consultation.
Idle No More’s other focus, on environmental protection, has many angles, including proposed changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
“That affects all Canadians, not just indigenous people,” McAdam said.
“It will limit everyday people such as yourself or myself, from navigating waters. The freedom that we’ve enjoyed will be restricted.”
When it came to our attention how disturbing the new policies were around Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, we decided that we needed to continue to raise consciousness about what our government is doing. - Sheelah McLean, Idle No More
This will have implications when it comes to eco tourism, outfitters work and other areas.
“Nobody knows to what degree, but there will be restrictions,” McAdam said.
The underlying goal behind these omnibus bills is clear, McLean said -- to open up Canada as quickly as possible to natural resource extraction.
“They basically want to dig up the rest of Canada to mine as many resources as they possibly can, which are supposed to create jobs and help our economy,” she said.
“What it generally ends up doing is harm our environment and in the end, making big multi-national corporations very wealthy, but giving most people, if they’re lucky, a minimum wage job or maybe a little better.
“This is a very short-sighted way to develop any kind of economic policy. It’s a one-shot deal. These are not sustainable resources.”
Idle No More members hope for as big a turnout as possible on Saturday, with a handful of local dignitaries and concerned citizens lined up to share their insight on the government’s latest omnibus bills.
With the government not doing their job of public consultation, and the bills written in confusing legalese that McLean doubts MPs are able to understand, these public education sessions are important, she said.
“When huge amounts of citizens do not agree with their government, the government has to change their policies -- it’s just that simple. They’re supposed to represent us, not big corporations.
“I’m hoping that people will take to the challenge and do what’s right for us in the long run, not just short-term, short-sighted economic policies that are going to be very damaging.”