Idle No More protesters stage Peace Arch demonstration
The Idle No More movement is gaining support from south of the border as Americans met with Canadians at several border points Saturday, including the Peace Arch crossing south of Vancouver.
Among the U.S citizens who joined hundreds at the Surrey crossing was Charles Fiddler, of the Turtle Mountain Nation in North Dakota.
"This isn’t just Canadian, its indigenous people all over the world," Fiddler said.
The movement in Canada, just under two months old, was spawned in opposition to the passage of the omnibus federal bill C-45.
"The government has continued on with unilateralism and passing bills to undermine First Nations rights and interests," said Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
While the movement is bringing together native groups across the country, it’s also exposing dissent within some First Nations communities.
Rally organizer Steven Kakinoosit says it's great Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to meet with the Assembly of First Nations next week, but he believes the AFN doesn't represent 80 per cent of First Nations people in Canada.
The trickle down system does not work, absolutely.
The 22-year-old Vancouver student says the protest movement is a reaction to the chronic poverty and despair on many reserves and he blames First Nations leaders and the federal government for that.
Kakinoosit questions why millions of dollars is given to improve their lives but nothing changes at the community level.
"The trickle down system does not work, absolutely."
He says the money meant to lift communities instead gets spent on trips and other things by the leaders.
"That is a problem in our communities is the fact that our quote-unquote "leadership" in the reserves, they will say one thing and then spend it on another thing."
Kakinoosit says people need to understand the housing, the schooling and the healthcare they are given is inferior to what most citizens get.
He says his generation is tired of waiting and the protesters want to wake up the federal government and their own elected First Nations leaders.
"We need to come forward at this level because it's all well and good that you are in Ottawa, but if you are not up in the communities talking to the people then, really, how can you say you are representing those people?"
With files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly and Deborah Goble