December 21, 2012 - 1:19pmUpdated: December 21, 2012 - 5:33pm
Idle No More protest in downtown Saskatoon on Dec. 21, 2012. Francois Biber/News Talk Radio
Amid sobbing, the “Idle No More” protest began with a song and prayer in downtown Saskatoon on Friday afternoon.
Hundreds of people peacefully gathered in the city, expressing outrage at the Harper government over a bill that they say tramples their treaty rights.
"This is about solidarity, this is about creating awareness in this country that something is wrong," said protest leader Dion Tootoosis.
"(Bill C-45) is working against all Canadians, not just First Nations. This is about the land and the water."
Idle No More started in early December after four Saskatchewan women addressed issues arising from the federal government's latest omnibus budget Bill C-45.
And the two pressing issues in the bill trample laws in the Indian Act, specifically relating to protected waterways and land sales.
"This legislation will deny and suppress people who live on First Nations land. It denies our access to clean water and in turn prevents the treaties from protecting the lands and water," said Tootoosis.
"What they're doing through industry is going to kill us all."
Senator Jillian Dyck spoke at the protest; she said she was delighting to see not only aboriginals at the Vimy Memorial but other Canadians as well.
As someone who has seen Bill C-45 develop, Dyck said the manner in which the federal government is going about pushing these laws is anti-democratic.
"What's really getting lost here is all these provisions were put in a budget bill, they did not belong there," said Dyck.
"Not only are they bad provisions, they were snuck into an omnibus budget bill and you have no choice, because you have to pass the budget."
Dyck added the only thing the Idle No More movement can do now is, in the next election, (the current government) needs to be voted out.
On the eve of the protest, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence repeated her call for a meeting with the prime minister and Canada's governor general.
Spence, who started a hunger strike this month, issued an open letter yesterday to Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
In it, she urges them to embark on a national discussion about the state of poverty among First Nations communities.
Spence says many communities face impoverished conditions, despite assurances from the government that progress is being made to alleviate poverty.