Chiefs take fight to House of Commons' doorstep

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Raw video of dramatic confrontation involving First Nations chiefs on the doorstep to the House of Commons chamber where MPs pass the laws of the land

By Jorge Barrera and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
OTTAWA–First Nations chiefs clashed with Parliament Hill security guards Tuesday after they tried to enter the House of Commons and deliver a message to the Harper government that the time for talk had passed.

Surrounded by the crush of video cameras and bathed in the glow of TV lights, the chiefs from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario served notice that they now planned to take “direct action” against the Harper government.

The dramatic confrontation lasted for only about 30 seconds when chiefs relented and pulled back from their attempt to enter the green-carpeted chamber where the laws of the land get debated and only MPs and chamber officials are allowed to enter.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee led the attempted walk into the chamber and was flanked by Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day, Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Derek Nepinak.

“We were asked to come in here,” said Madahbee.

“No, not in the chamber,” said a Parliament Hill security guard.

“We need to go into the House of Commons,” said Day. “We allowed them onto this land. We signed treaties with this government.”

But the security guards barred the way.

“You are not going to accomplish anything by rushing into the Commons chamber,” said the guard.

“We are not rushing, we are trying to walk in if you get the hell out of the road,” said Madahbee.

Moments earlier, oil-rich Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox confronted Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

Fox, who is planning to travel to Vienna later this month to a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel, challenged Oliver on what he said was Ottawa’s policy to strip away the rights of Indigenous peoples to their lands.

“I think we can work together as partners to achieve what you want to achieve which is full respect for your rights,” said Oliver.

“There is an inherent right, the land belongs to our people. Why is government policy and legislation always wanting us to surrender the land? To cede and surrender,” said Fox.

“What we are looking for is equal partnership. That is what our government wants to do,” said Oliver, before retreating back into the Chamber. “We are going to continue to work on behalf of all the people of Canada.”

“Your law and your legislation won’t mean a damn thing to us, it won’t work,” said Madahbee.

It was Fox who had called the chiefs that morning to leave the plush confines of the Hilton hotel at the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Que., cross the Ottawa River and take their message to Parliament Hill. The chiefs are meeting there this week as part of their annual Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly.

“We tried to enter into the house in order to deliver our message to all Members of Parliament and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a peaceful way that our Inherent and Treaty Rights aren’t negotiable. We weren’t consulted on C-45 which outlines a new legislation on land surrender and wanted to be included in these discussions,” said Fox in a statement issued late in the day. “These actions have strained a already fragile relationship. We have no other choice now but to take a course that will have impacts on all Canadians.”

About 200 people, included chiefs from across the country answered the call and gathered on the steps leading to Parliament Hill’s Centre Block.

The rally began at about 1 p.m. as chiefs trickled in one by one. They then marched towards the Peace Tower where they were met by a steel barricade and RCMP officers.

During speeches Nepinak approached one officer and asked why they weren’t be allowed through. He was told they were to stay on the other side while other people were allowed to pass.

About five minutes later the RCMP officer approached Nepinak and told him NDP Charlie Angus was trying to negotiate a way for the chiefs to enter the Parliament buildings.

The chiefs then left the crowd and walked to the front door of Parliament Hill. They weren’t allowed in and told to go through security on the side. They then walked up to the chamber.


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