By Alana Prochuk, Campus Anti-Violence Initiative Coordinator
Yesterday, a couple of WAVAW staffers were honoured to witness and participate in the Idle No More demonstration at Waterfront Station. The Station’s enormous interior hall was packed nearly to bursting. Its high-ceilinged space resonated with voices, drums, and the palpable energy of hundreds of people demanding respect for indigenous sovereignty, treaties, land rights, and the natural environment we all depend on.
I could hardly imagine a more perfect spot for an Idle No More rally. Waterfront Station’s neo-classical architecture (think white columns and archways and fancy detailing on the ceiling) has an imposing and über-colonial look. And the Canadian landscape paintings atop the columns served as a subtle reminder of the rivers, lakes, forests, and fields that are threatened in our current political climate—all of which, of course, belong to indigenous peoples. So, the Station made a nicely symbolic setting for talking back to the colonial establishment.
Since Waterfront Station is a major transit hub, there were also diverse passers-by. Business people hopping on the SkyTrain at the end of the work day. Parents pushing strollers. International tourists arriving from the airport and immediately discovering that Canada isn’t the harmonious, equitable place its tourism brochures and totem pole souvenirs make it out to be. Many of these random transit-users paused to read the protesters’ placards and listen to their powerful words and drumbeats—and many seemed interested. I didn’t notice any overt hostility (although—given the racism that has been swirling around Idle No More in the mainstream media and in some non-indigenous folks’ conversations—I’d be a bit surprised if there weren’t instances of hostility that I just didn’t witness).
And then, of course, there was the sound! The incredible, reverberating, stirring sound of people calling for action, amplified by the acoustics of the huge hall.
It was inspiring to hear this call, and to be surrounded by powerful messages on homemade signs. Here are a few that we were able to capture:
My colleague Lisa and I happened to be standing behind three little girls in pink, all of whom carried their own hand-made signs. The girls’ thought-provoking slogans were printed in bubble lettering (sometimes with each letter filled in with a different colour and pattern) and had obviously been produced with great thought, artfulness, and care. At a rally in defense of future generations—not only of Aboriginal peoples, but of all of us in Canada—it felt great to witness so many young people speaking out. Lisa and I remarked to each other that any of the three girls in front of us might very well become the next Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam, or Jessica Gordon—the four Aboriginal women who sparked the Idle No More movement across Canada and the world. Here, right in front of us, in a very early and incredibly powerful form, was the political leadership of Aboriginal girls.
The Idle No More movement is still picking up steam and needs your support as much now as ever. You can talk to your friends and family about the issues; speak out against racist myths whenever you hear them; ask Prime Minister Harper to meet with Chief Theresa Spence and end her hunger strike; and attend a flash mob at 6:30 pm tonight at Broadway Station or a rally on Saturday at the Peace Arch border crossing . Future generations depend on it.