Update, March 11: Jean Sock and Shelley Young, Mi’kmaq Idle No More activists, ended a 10-day hunger strike upon being assured that local chiefs will conduct consultations with their communities before returning to negotiations with provincial and federal governments over treaties.
Fredericton – Two Mi’kmaq Idle No More organizers, Shelley Young from Eskasoni and Jean Sock from Elsipogtog, began a hunger strike at Porcupine Lodge at Millbrook First Nation on March 1st in protest of what they say are government efforts to extinguish century old treaties.
The Harper government is proposing framework agreements that they argue will bring more economic opportunities to Aboriginal communities. Idle No More is a grassroots movement of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal allies opposed to legislation and framework agreements that violate nation-to-nation treaties and threaten Canada’s lakes and rivers.
“The framework agreements promise economic opportunity for a select group of Mi’kmaq people at the price of all Mi’kmaq peoples’ inherent treaties,” said Marina Young, Shelley’s sister. “Our people are already living under a paternalistic government within the Indian Act itself where Chiefs tell people how their community will be run.”
The Idle No More organizers feel that their current leadership should not be dealing with the Harper government that has openly disregarded First Nation’s treaties with the passing of Bill C-45. They feel that the Bill and proposed framework agreements are direct assaults on Aboriginal communities aimed at selling off their territory in the interests of oil, gas and mining companies.
“We’ve been protesting against the Harper Government since December for their lack of consultation with our leaders over Bill C-45 and other impending bills, yet our own leaders fail to consult with us on negotiations that regard our rights, impact our lands and extinguish our treaties,” said Shelley Young.
“Information sessions done in select few communities where a handful of people show is not proper consultation. Band members should have complete understanding of these comprehensive claim policies and be in full support of them if they are to continue. These processes will ultimately be detrimental to our lands. Mi’kmaq people will have different rights in different provinces, our original treaties will be extinguished (labelled ‘certainty’ in the federal policy), and will affect our children and future generations to come,” said Young.
The threat of modernizing treaties and negotiating with a government that clearly disrespects the peace and friendship treaties matters to all Canadians, according to Young. “It has been stated that the Native people are Canada’s last hope in protecting our lands and our waterways for all of us to enjoy,” said Young.
Sock and Young say they will fast, drinking only water, until all levels of governments and First Nations leaders consult the people. The hunger strike is Sock’s second. A week after Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence started her hunger strike on Dec. 11th, the Mi’kmaq Sundance Leader joined her in fasting. About 20 others are joining Sock and Young in four-day relay fasting as well as in praying and traditional activities. They hope that more people will join them in efforts to save the treaties.