Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel signs on to Leap Manifesto

The Leap Manifesto, an urgent call to rectify Canada's misdeeds when it comes to the environment, the economy and human rights, is gaining momentum among some of the country's most high-profile names.

Mohawk activist from Kanesatake says she may consider voting under duress to oust Stephen Harper

Ellen Gabriel is a longtime Mohawk activist and artist from Kanesatake. "The Leap Manifesto is a vision for the future that thinks about the children, for them to not have to clean up our messes," she says. (Laurene Jardin/CBC)

Kanesatake artist and activist Ellen Gabriel has added her name to Naomi Klein's Leap Manifesto, a growing list of prominent Canadians calling for urgent action to change the course of the country's environment, economy and human rights track record.

She spoke to CBC's Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Wednesday morning to share her thoughts on the Manifesto, climate change in Canada and aboriginal voting — a process many aboriginal people eschew as a way of maintaining sovereignty. 

Mike Finnerty: What's the story behind the Leap Manifesto, and why you decided to sign onto it?

Ellen Gabriel: The story behind it is that there was a meeting in the spring, of people from very diverse backgrounds and activists. People who are very concerned about climate change, and how climate change is impacting those who are most marginalized, who are least able to deal with the climate crisis we are experiencing.
It's either we do this, or we're going to be in really deep trouble. We don't have a choice anymore.- Ellen Gabriel

I mean, we haven't had a normal summer. People want to have a green economy, something that is more sustainable. The Leap Manifesto is a vision for the future that thinks about the children, for them to not have to clean up our messes. It's also a way to put political pressure, since it's an election year, for the next government to stop focusing just on economy. [It's a call to] care about the planet and all those people who are currently living in really toxic environments because of slack environmental laws that the Harper government put in place a couple years ago. 

MF: How realistic is the Leap Manifesto?

EG: It's either we do this, or we're going to be in really deep trouble. We don't have a choice anymore. People need to wake up and see that business as usual is threatening the health and well-being not just of the planet, but of people. We are affected in every way, shape and form by every kind of industry, right around the world.

Indigenous people have been asking world leaders at the UN to wake up, and have been saying "You cannot treat the Earth like this and expect to have no consequences." These are attainable goals. There is research that says it's possible to have clean electricity by 2035. 

MF: Conservative supporters have been calling this a "Tommunist Manifesto" as a reference to Tom Mulcair. They are saying that it's NDPers who are behind it. Is that true?

EG: I don't think so, if you look at the list of people who have signed on, there are people from diverse backgrounds. Probably some of them are for green energy. It's not meant to be [for] one particular side or the other, because you need to put pressure on the NDP to step up to the plate and make sure these things are done.

What we are doing to the planet… the planet doesn't need us. Mother Earth is going to survive long after we are extinct.- Ellen Gabriel

As consumers, we need to demand environmental democracy, whether you are indigenous are not. We need to all have a say in how resources are being used, on how policies are implemented and changed. Indigenous people are far from having our human rights respected. I think it's important that this be taken seriously, and not laughed at, and not called aspirational, because it is possible to do. You just need to be willing to do it, and try, and understand, and educate yourself. If we don't do it, we are guilty. Just as guilty as the polluters. What we are doing to the planet… the planet doesn't need us. Mother Earth is going to survive long after we are extinct. We are the ones that are poisoning our own atmosphere and the very Mother that brings us life. 

MF: Will it bring you to vote?

EG: If I was to vote, it would be under duress, because right now we are under a system that does not respect our rights. So why would I want to contribute to voting in who is going to be the next oppressor?

But I think a lot of indigenous people are going to be voting under duress, because we want to get the tyrant who is in there out. All the actions the Harper government has done has not respected our rights. They didn't even cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when they wanted files. The apology was a negotiated apology. It was done so they didn't have to go to court. It was not a sincere apology. It made it difficult for survivors, and it only addressed residential schools, not the damage to our language, our culture, and the dispossession of our lands.

The status quo remains ever since the apology, so that shows the genuine sincerity of it, which was not there. 


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