The following is the text of speech I gave at the Idle No More rally in Edmonton on January 11:
Tansi ~ Niya Melina Miyowapan Laboucan-Massimo. Niya Nehiyaw. Kinaskomtinowow.
My name is Melina Mewapan Laboucan-Massimo. I am a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation. And I work as a Climate & Energy campaigner on Tar Sands issues here in Alberta.
Photo credit: Paula Che Kirman
It is amazing to see you all out here today as we stand together to assert our rights as Indigenous peoples. After years of organizing here in Alberta and across Turtle Island, it is pretty inspiring to see so many people coming together to say NO MORE, Enough is Enough.
All across Turtle Island we see communities trying to protect the little they have left as a result of a dishonoured treaty process and the disrespect the Canadian government has shown for these sacred agreements. Agreements that our ancestors made so we could live as equals in peace and in co-operation.
Canada promotes itself as being a democratic country but this is becoming further and further from the truth as the Harper government makes sweeping changes to federal legislation without First Nation consultation or consent.
In Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 we have seen dramatic changes to over 100 Federal Acts and Laws – changes that will affect the safety of our water, fish and the land which undermines our Treaty and Aboriginal rights.
The Harper government’s omnibus budget bills introduced the most sweeping changes to environmental law ever seen in Canadian history - all of this is designed to make it easier for the government and companies to extract resources from our lands.
In the north of Alberta we already see the water becoming polluted, the air being poisoned and the land being destroyed. In the tar sands we see the landscape drastically changing from a once pristine and beautiful boreal forest to an increasingly industrial and toxic terrain.
Animals and fish have become sick with tumors and caribou are listed as a threatened species that are predicted to disappear entirely from our traditional territories within the next 30 years. People no longer feel safe to harvest traditional medicines, teas or berries because they have become contaminated. People young and old have started to die of rare forms of cancers that we have never seen before.
More than any other time in our history the earth is being contaminated and destroyed at an unparalleled rate and people and animals alike are being sacrificed for the benefit of a few.
Each day in the tar sands over 1.5 million barrels of oil is produced. For each barrel of oil that is made it takes 3 to 5 barrels of water to make just one barrel of oil. This means everyday in the tar sands they are using millions of barrels of water to produce oil!
Yet communities like where my family lives still do not have running water.
Does the Harper government not understand that water is the most valuable and precious resource we have? Yet we see this government continue to strip away any protective measures to ensure that communities will continue to have access to clean water – a necessity for all Canadians.
People across this country need to understand that this will affect us all. The legislative changes are coming to a river or lake near you thanks to Bill C-45. Out of 32,000 large lakes across Canada, now only 97 lakes are protected. And out of 2.5 million rivers in Canada, there are now only 62 rivers protected under federal law. It is clear that these changes are an attack on our Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
In the next 10 to 20 years, the exploitation of the tar sands will be one of the biggest issues and debates of how we as a human race consume and produce energy. Working towards harnessing renewable energy and returning to our sustainable ways as Indigenous peoples is of extreme importance if we are to live out our existence as stewards of the land, a duty given to us by the Creator. Now is the time to transition to more sustainable and self-sufficient economies before it is too late.
There are prophecies that speak of a time when people must come together to heal the earth.
A time when people from the Four Directions come together to work for Justice, Peace, Freedom and recognition of Kichi Manitou, our Creator, the Great Spirit and the sacredness of Mother Earth.
The Idle No More movement is a sign of the changing times – that we will no longer be silent while the land and Mother Earth continue to be pillaged and sold off for profit. But we must stand strong as one – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, Elders and young ones – we must choose to say stand and say no more. No more can you divide and conquer, no more will you instill fear in us. No more. We must choose to fight for the preservation of Mother Earth and a way of life that is sustainable for all. It is our responsibility to protect our homelands.