Venice Joins Protest Against Threat to Native Lands in Canada
While President Obama vowed to take on climate change during his second term, Venetians focused on the environment Monday in their own way: gathering at the beach, beating drums, and sharing their stories.
“We’re here today… to bring awareness over what’s taking place in Canada,” said Hector Perez-Pacheco, a Quecha Native American involved in Idle No More, a grassroots organization focused on protecting the land rights of Native American tribes in Canada who are worried about increased risk to the environment in the pursuit of natural resources by the government and corporations.
“For many years, the government has abused the rights designated by the treaties [with Native Americans],” Pacheco said.
Two recent bills, C-44 and C-45, are at the heart of Idle No More, which was founded in September. C-45, an omnibus budget bill, includes changes to the Indian Act that will allow First Nations communities to more easily lease reserve lands and includes changes to the Navigation Protection Act that will lessen restrictions on pipe and power line projects that cross waterways.
Idle No More has gained followers around the world, organizers said. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike in Ottowa since Dec. 11, demanding the Canadian prime minister and Ottowa governor meet with First Nation leadership to discuss the status of the treaties.
At the MLK Day rally in Venice, the organizers seemed more focused on getting people generally engaged (there were even cookies!) than on prompting specific actions.
“It’s a life thing; it’s a spirit thing,” said Lydia Ponce, a local Idle No More organizer. She urged the crowd of about 50 residents, activists, and passers-by on the unseasonably warm and busy afternoon to get involved.
Former Venice Neighborhood Council board member and organizer Barbara Lonsdale drew a parallel from the concerns of indigenous Canadian groups to issues in her native lands in Alaska, where the Pebble Mine project threatens to negatively impact the environment.
Lonsdale pointed out that the Natural Resources Defense Council in Santa Monica are on the legal team against the project.
“We need to be concentrating on renewable energy,” she said. “That’s what we as Californians do.”
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