Idle No More rallies for Royal Proclamation 250th anniversary
Attawapiskat’s Idle No More Peace Rally Walk was one of more than 50 events held across Canada and the world on Oct. 7 to recognize the 250th anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation.
“It’s a message for the government,” said Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who walked with the Idle No More walkers during the 5-6 p.m. rally. “If you’re going to celebrate this event, you should honour the treaty.”
Governor General David Johnston and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt were scheduled to speak at the Creating Canada symposium, held on Oct. 7 to mark the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation.
Spence said the Oct. 7 Idle No More events, attended by thousands of Aboriginal people and their supporters, were held to raise awareness of the relationship between First Nations and the Canadian government among the Canadian population.
“This Idle No More movement, it’s a movement that is never going to stop,” Spence said. “It’s going to continue as long as we’re in this world and as long as the government is imposing their legislation without the proper consultation or even any feedback from our community members or even the leadership.”
The Royal Proclamation was signed by King George III in 1763 after the end of the French and Indian War/Seven Years’ War to prevent settlers from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. It was also issued to stabilize relationships with First Nations people through regulation of trade, settlement and land purchases.
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation was an opportunity to reflect on and reset the relationship between First Nations and Canada.
“Today and every day we must recall the intent that brought all our ancestors together so many years ago, and ensure that the principles of mutual respect, mutual recognition and partnership are our guides going forward to achieve a better life for all of us,” Atleo said. “Too many First Nation children, families and communities are challenged on a daily basis to meet basic standards of life because we are not living up to the promises in the treaties and other agreements that stem from the foundation of the Royal Proclamation.”
While some First Nations view the Royal Proclamation as a precursor to colonization, it is also seen as setting the foundation for treaty-making between First Nations and the Crown.
“The approach, laws and policies of federal governments have been paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst,” Atleo said. “Our work today is about returning to approaches that recognize First Nations authority over our lives, our lands and our peoples, where First Nation governments are strong, the treaties are alive and honoured and treaty-making allows all of us to thrive. Let today mark an ‘era of action.’ It’s clear to everyone that the paternalistic approach is not working and the status quo is failing everyone. We must commit today to return to the original relationship and act together for change.”
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