Idle No More rallies against fracking

Reporter: Matthew Jordan

Native and non-native activists and supporters took a stand of solidarity in support of the New Brunswick Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq community following violent protests over exploratory drilling on native land.
The Durham Region branch of Idle No More arrived at the Albert Street 401 overpass in Oshawa on Oct. 23 carrying banners and signs to express discontent over the continuing use of ‘fracking’ and its destructive consequences, not only to native land, but also to the environment as a whole. Cities across the country participated in the show of solidarity for what’s become an increasingly frequent, and nationally inclusive practice of mixing water with oil and sand to extract fuel. This method carries heavy implications to the health of the communities that border these extraction sites.
“We take a route of solidarity,” said Zach Leveque-Wilson, a self-identified Metis and organizer of the protest. “A lot of the issues are present in Durham Region just as much as they are in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta or anywhere. Oshawa also has a really long history of First Nations people and their involvement in the community.”
This recent string of peaceful protests follows a violent protest in New Brunswick over exploratory drilling which took place on Native land without the consent of the aboriginals. The Supreme Court of Canada has implemented regulations that say local Natives must be consulted before such activities can take place on their land. There is increasing disdain over the inaction from parliament and the ‘strong-arm’ tactics of provincial police when dealing with aboriginal protests.
“My ancestors did the best they could and they survived,” said Robyn Abbey, an active member with the Durham Region group and a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia. “I feel like it’s my job to do the same, and I hope that one day things will be different for us, but until then we’ve got to fight for it.”
The roots of native discontent are deep, and extend far beyond the recent issue of ‘fracking’. Numerous problems still plague relations with First Nation groups, such as the use of waterways for transportation, the installation of pipelines through Native territory, property rights on Native land, and the lack of education and impoverished living conditions on many reserves.
“You go on certain reserves up north and it’s basically a third-world country,” said Leveque-Wilson. “You talk to the native people and we have a history of fighting. But the beauty of Idle No More is that it’s not just the native people. Natives and non-natives, these issues affect everybody.”
Leveque-Wilson became actively involved in promoting environmental issues after attending Power Shift at Durham College and UOIT, a workshop on environmental hazards.
He’s been involved in organizing and demonstrating at all the Idle No More events in Durham Region.
Though it is unclear at this point as whether the Idle No More protests will result in any concrete changes for Canada’s First Nations groups, the sentiment is shared across the country, and as more people become aware of the issues, it will likely only grow.
“I think there’s a little bit of progress, but I also think it’s just made people more aware, it hasn’t really changed our situation,” said Abbey. “I do think there’s room for improvement with any progress.”