Honourable senators, I rise today to celebrate National Aboriginal Day. As honourable senators know, the Idle No More movement spread across Canada this past year and brought much public attention to Aboriginal issues. The Idle No More movement was initiated by four women from Saskatchewan: Nina Wilson from Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Sheelah McLean from Treaty 6 territory, Sylvia McAdam from Big River Reserve in Treaty 6 territory and Jessica Gordon from Pasqua in Treaty 4 territory.
In February, they received the Carole Geller Human Rights Award for initiating the Idle No More national movement that challenges Canada's failure to respect treaty and inherent Aboriginal rights and to protect the land and its resources.
The omnibus budget bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, catalyzed the formation of the Idle No More movement. The inclusion in these budget bills of substantial legislative changes to the environmental protection of land, fisheries and waterways when undergoing resource exploration and extraction was seen as profoundly undemocratic and a threat to traditional Aboriginal ways of being, since these bills violate the sacred Aboriginal relationship with land, water and air.
Over the past year, I have attended Idle No More protests in Saskatchewan and here on Parliament Hill. I am inspired by the Aboriginal youth who are taking peaceful, spiritual actions to make things better for their communities.
Honourable senators may recall the arrival on Parliament Hill on March 23 of the Nishiyuu youth who walked 1,600 kilometres from James Bay in solidarity with Idle No More. It is clear that Aboriginal youth are ready to lead in building awareness for Aboriginal sacred laws and cultures that revolve around environmental protection and sustainability.
Furthermore, a group of Aboriginal youth started walking to Ottawa on March 16 from Stanley Mission in northern Saskatchewan, a 3,450-kilometre trek. Dubbed "The Sacred Journey for Future Generations," the walkers see their journey as an attempt to convince the federal government to rescind Bill C-45 because it impacts Aboriginal rights without consultation. One of the organizers said:
We have to stand up for mother Earth. The plants don't have a voice, the animals don't have a voice, the fish don't have a voice. We have to be their voice.
They have been joined by walkers from Onion Lake, English River and Nipissing First Nations, and they will arrive on Parliament Hill tomorrow, June 21, to participate in the Idle No More rally on Parliament Hill. I look forward to welcoming them tomorrow.
The Idle No More protesters have marched, sang, drummed and held flash-mob round dances in every major city across this country. They do this with a great sense of purpose, with prayers, with determination and, above all, a vision of creating a better Canada.
Idle No More has planned a "Sovereignty Summer" to continue to bring attention to the Conservative government's agenda that is undermining the treaties and rights of Aboriginal peoples. I encourage honourable senators to participate in any event in their community.
On National Aboriginal Day, I would like to acknowledge the four female founders of Idle No More and all those in the movement who have risen up to create change, to protect mother earth, to protect the environment and to increase socio-economic opportunities for Aboriginals which will benefit all Canadians.