‘Independent’ demonstrators in Calgary call for changes in Ottawa, on reserves
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About 30 aboriginals from across Alberta marched through downtown Calgary Wednesday, calling for change at the federal level and within the governance of First Nations, themselves.
"We can't stand around and point fingers at everybody else,” said Nathan Big Bear of the Piikani Nation. “We have to start looking at ourselves, as well, as part of the changes that need to be made within our communities. We want to make positive changes."
That said, the group also criticized the federal government’s omnibus Bill C-45, particularly its removal of thousands of lakes and streams from the regulations of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
"There's already places on reserves where you can't drink your own drinking water – you have to boil it or you have to go somewhere else," said Melody Breland of the Cold Lake First Nation.
"Pretty soon that's going to spread to all Canadians,” she added. “This affects everybody, not just us aboriginal people.”
The group’s march received a heavy escort by Calgary police on foot, bicycle and in cars. Participants said their goal was to keep the demonstration peaceful.
“I know that there are blockades across Canada that have been taking place,” said Big Bear. “There have been negative comments and there have been threats and things like that. We're not here to do that."
The group is not directly affiliated the Idle No More movement, Big Bear added, although they do share some common goals.
“We're just young people who have taken it upon ourselves to try and promote a change,” he said, adding that the demonstrators have no direct affiliation with chiefs or elected band council members, either.
"The governing system on reserves has been failing us, some of us for more than 140, 150 years,” Big Bear said. “Until those systems are changed, we're going to keep having the same problems."