With many impassioned people making up the latest Idle No More protest on Monday, one of the more unique ones was Terra Lennox–Zepp.
It’s not just because she’s Caucasian -- there are plenty of local non-aboriginal Idle No More supporters. It’s because, as a local lawyer, she links a unique law perspective with her distaste for Bill C-45.
“From a law perspective, this bill has been passed -- Bill C-45 has been passed, and it’s called the Jobs and Growth Act -- and I’m concerned about some items in the bill,” she said before Monday’s protest that began outside of Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback’s office.
Three areas within Bill C-45 -- the federal government’s recently implemented omnibus budget act, now named the Jobs and Growth Act -- are of particular concern to Lennox-Zepp.
The biggest concern is with changes to the Indian Act.
These changes note that “reserve land can now be leased in a different way and it now takes just a majority of voters to make those changes to the reserve land leases,” she said.
The second two concerns both tie into this first one, and include changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and environmental assessments.
Fewer waterways are to be protected and kept navigable by things like canoes, and fewer environmental assessments will be done for resource development.
“I don’t understand why we would ever want less environmental assessments done,” Lennox-Zepp said.
Tying all three concerns together are treaty rights, which the government doesn’t seem too interested in.
“The Sierra Club is finding that the most effective way to try and get some consultation about environmental impacts are to work with First Nations, because there’s a duty to consult with First Nations,” Lennox-Zepp explained.
I don’t understand why we would ever want less environmental assessments done. - Prince Albert lawyer Terra Lennox-Zepp
This, she explained, is how treaty rights impact not just First Nations people, but everyone.
“I grew up here -- Prince Albert is my community,” she said. “I feel that Prince Albert is very important to me, but I’m not First Nations -- I’m white -- but I’m part of Treaty 6.”
From a legal perspective, she’s keeping a close eye on a court case two Alberta native bands -- Mikisew Cree and Frog Lake First Nation -- have filed against the federal government.
The court case attacks the Jobs and Growth Act and the earlier omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, noting that “if legislation is going to affect treaty rights, then they must consult First Nations,” Lennox-Zepp explained. “So, that’s one to watch in the news.”
Monday’s protest, which ended in traditional song and dance at the Gateway Mall, was part of a national protest accompanying MPs return to the House of Commons.
Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback has recently stated that there’s “not a chance at all” that the Jobs and Growth Act will be repealed.
He’s also argued that changes to the Navigable Waters Protect Act are to reduce red tape when it comes to building things like bridges over streams and rivers that aren’t navigated by canoes, anyway.
As for the elimination of some environmental assessments, Hoback has also noted that this is to prevent the federal and provincial governments from doubling up on a very similar assessment, therefore delaying projects.
Local Idle No More supporters have set up a Facebook page, titled “Official Prince Albert – Idle No More,” where upcoming protests and other goings-on are advertised.