Feature Story                                                                                       Thursday, December 27, 2012


Stó:lō Idle No More

Indoor flash mob protest shuts down Cottonwood Mall

Staff/Voice photos


Bill C-45 protestors pack the main area of the mall Wednesday.


n what was the most powerful Stó:lō protest in recent memory, about 150-200 First Nations people from all over the Fraser Valley congregated inside Cottonwood Mall on Boxing Day to protest against the Conservative government's Omnibus Bill C-45.


Police watched from the sidelines as the ostentatious crowd sang and drummed continuously for an hour-and-a-half.


Protests were also held at shopping centres around the Lower Mainland, including Metrotown in Burnaby and Park Royal in West Vancouver. The Chilliwack rally was organized by Cheam band member Melvin Wilson and Chris Thomas from Kwantlen.


Stó:lō elder Eddie Gardner's shouts to the crowd from within the tight inner circle of drummers could barely be heard over the din of medicine rattles and whoops from emboldened supporters.


He said First Nations must be included in the decision-making process in Ottawa.


"No more legislation without consultation," hollered Gardner.


Stó:lō Grand Chief Ken Malloway delivered a brief but fiery speech.


"Now that Harper has the majority, he wants to absolve our rights, attack our rights," said Malloway, adding that Natives won their rights in court through fair decisions. "But he's not doing it because he doesn't respect the Supreme Court of Canada."


Malloway said the fish in the rivers will die along with their Aboriginal rights and he implored people to stand up to the Harper government, equating the Canadian leadership to Custer's last stand.


"This is our Little Big Horn and he's Custer," he shouted to the cheering crowd.


In an interview afterward, Malloway told The Voice he considers Harper's dismembering of the Indian Act an assault on Aboriginal rights and that the government's only concern was making money.


Malloway is also against pipelines, citing Kalamazoo in Michigan, as an example of a poor response by Enbridge to a devastating leak which could happen in BC. if the pipelines were to be approved.


When asked about shipping crude, not bitumen, aboard train cars instead of in pipelines, Malloway agreed transporting it via rail is hazardous, and said companies need to design better wheels and suspension systems, instead of using outdated technology.


"It's like a wagon wheel that was made in the 1700's," he said. "If they would split that axle and have bearings on both sides, it wouldn't be screaming when it goes around a bend because the outside rail is wearing faster than the inside rail. It's just a recipe for disaster."


"Those trains are designed to go in a straight line, and when you try to make them go around a corner, and too fast, they're going to derail."


Some people went to the mall to protest Bill C-45 right across the board. Others had more focused objections and want FIPPA open for public scrutiny.


Chilliwack residents Collette and Leo Belanget, support the protestors because both are worried about the environmental deregulations attached to Bill C-45.


Belanget says he and his wife were there just as average citizens who feel they've been kept in the dark, and they want answers to questions.


"I don't like it because it shows a lack of transparency, in my opinion, by the federal government and Omnibus type bills, that's a US trick," he said. "That takes away our right to democracy and I think it takes away any fairness."


"Where is the future of our country going to go when that kind of stuff can happen?" asked Belanget.


In an e-mail last week, Gardner blamed the world's dependency on fossil fuel for the pipeline push.


"Governments are controlled by foreign, state-owned companies, and multinational corporations. The world needs a radical change in direction and it will take a major shift from fossil fuel dependency to clean energy technologies."


He says there are a growing number of highly educated economists, business analysts and environmentalists who are seeing the "writing on the wall", but it may all be for nothing.


"Our attempts at stopping Kinder Morgan and Enbridge may fail, and the same goes for shipping our unrefined natural resources to the Asian market. That's a frightening situation to be in."


"The consequences of this is; horrific destruction of the environment, global warming, and the severe outcome for the future generations that go with it," Gardner concluded.


Download Grand Chief Ken Malloway's speech at Cottonwood Mall here.


See more photos below.



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