Friday, November 14, 2008

Defend the Land Gathering

The following media release and letter were obtained via an activist email list.


November 13, 2008

National Gathering of Indigenous Peoples Challenge Harper Government in Winnipeg

Winnipeg—Grassroots activists, elders, and elected leaders from First Nations fighting for self-determination and protection of land and resource rights presented a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Conservative Party's national policy conference in Winnipeg today. The Indigenous spokespeople have come to Winnipeg from communities across Canada to form a network dedicated to fighting for recognition of and respect for Indigenous rights, and deliver their message to Prime Minister Harper.

"Canada, along with the United States and New Zealand, is one of three countries that have voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on Canada to join the vast majority of nations who have adopted this declaration," said Art Manuel, of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.

Terry Sappier of Tobique First Nation said the "The federal government, jointly with Indigenous communities, must change its policies on self-government, land claims and historic Treaties to bring them in accordance with standards of international law, a fair and just interpretation of these rights, which are protected in the Constitution of Canada and in court cases."

"When Indigenous peoples stand up for our land and resource rights, and fight for self-determination, the governments of Canada and the provinces criminalize us. We're calling on these governments to act honourably and fairly towards Indigenous peoples as the courts have directed them to do, instead of cherry-picking the rights and court cases they like," said Sam McKay, spokesperson of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, who was jailed for over two months for non-violently preventing mineral exploration on their traditional territory.

The Indigenous Peoples were stopped by the police from entering the convention centre and a member of the RCMP committed to delivering the letter to the Prime Minister. The Indigenous peoples pledged to form a national network to continue their fight for land rights and self-determination. Irene Billy, an elder from the Skwek'wek'welt Protection Centre said, "We will be watching your government's actions and if your government does not accede to our reasonable requests, we will take coordinated action to convince your government to respect our Indigenous Peoples and communities."


For more information,
Harmony Rice 416.576.9718 (c)
Art Manuel 250.319-0688 (c)
Russell Diabo 613.296.0110 (c)


Defenders of the Land Letter to Harper Nov 13 08

Indian and MÄ—tis Friendship Centre
Winnipeg, Manitoba
November 12-14, 2008

Hand Delivered

November 13, 2008

Mr. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
Government of Canada
c/o Winnipeg Convention Centre
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mr. Prime Minister:

We are here in Winnipeg attending a gathering of spokespeople of Indigenous Peoples from across Canada who are engaged in land use/natural resource conflicts involving hydro, forestry, fisheries, wildlife, mining, uranium mining, oil and gas exploration and development, tar sands and of course urbanization and tourism, including impacts from the preparations for the 2010 Olympics.

From the presentations we have heard at our gathering it is clear that the federal government is responsible for violations of our Inherent, Aboriginal, Treaty and Human Rights, by issuing unilateral self-government and land claims policies and related negotiation processes.

These federal policies are designed to give the provinces, industry and third parties priority over our traditional lands, resources and waters.

As the spokespeople for our respective Indigenous communities we must insist that your government take immediate steps to:

1. Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and

2. Jointly change the federal policies on self-government, land claims and historic Treaties with Indigenous communities;

3. Cease the criminalization of Indigenous Peoples when they are exercising their rights to lands, resources and self-determination and direct the provinces to do the same.

We will be watching your government’s actions and if your government does not accede to our reasonable requests, we commit that we the undersigned who are attending our gathering here in Winnipeg will take coordinated action to convince your government to respect our Indigenous Peoples and communities by acting on our requests presented in this letter.

In Defense of Our Mother Earth,


Tobique, Maliseet Nation
Algonquins of Barriere Lake
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
Six Nations, Grand River
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwig
Youth Rep., Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Indigenous Environmental Network
Redwire Native Youth Society
Pimicikamac Cree Nation
Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade
First Nations Environmental Network
Swelk’wek’welt Protection Centre
Asubpeeschoseewasong, Anishinabe Territory
Lonefighters Society, Blackfoot Confederacy
Lubicon Lake Cree Nation
Native 2010 Resistance, British Columbia
Downtown Eastside Women’s Council
Elders Council, Vancouver

Russell Diabo, Member, Mohawk Nation
Damien Lee, Member, Ojibway Nation
Clayton Thomas-Muller, member, Cree Nation
Ila Bussidor, member, Dene Nation
Kaaren Dannenmann, member, Anishnabe
Lawrence Angeconob, member, Anishnabe
Ben Powless, member, Mohawk Nation
Lionel Lapine, Athabasca Chipewyan

Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective
No One Is Illegal, Vancouver
Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada
No One Is Illegal, Montreal
No One Is Illegal, Toronto
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Catalyst Centre for Popular Education
Environmental Justice Organizing Initiative
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Tyendinaga Support Committee

Shiri Pasternak
Martha Stiegman
Courtney Kirkby
Carmelle Wolfson
Susanne Hare, Clayoquot Sound
Peter Kulchyski

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