'We will fight it': Winnipeg protesters march against federal legislation they call 'White Paper 2.0'
Rally, march held in Winnipeg to oppose federal legislation around First Nations rights
Grassroots activists and allies marched in Winnipeg on Monday, protesting proposed federal legislation they say would undermine First Nations' rights in Canada.
The Rally 4 Indigenous Rights was part of a national day of action against a series of federal bills opponents are calling "White Paper 2.0," referring to 1969 legislation which aimed, unsuccessfully, to erase the distinct status of First Nations.
"To the federal government and Justin Trudeau, also Carolyn Bennett and Seamus O'Regan — they need to know that they don't have our consent," Winnipeg event organizer Elyssa McIvor said Monday.
"They never informed us of these changes, and we will fight it till the end."
Protesters carried signs opposing four federal bills — Bills C-86, C-91, C-92 and C-97 — that would overhaul the Indigenous child welfare system, set up an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and restructure the federal government's departments dealing with Indigenous issues, among other changes.
Bill C-86, which received royal assent in December 2018, introduced amendments to legislation including the First Nations Land Management Act and The First Nations Fiscal Management Act. The other three bills have yet to receive royal assent.
The original White Paper, introduced by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and his justice minister Jean Chrétien, galvanized First Nations people across the country and the federal government backed down.
Earlier this month, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett backed down from plans to replace policies dealing with modern treaties and self-government with one policy by June.
McIvor and other critics alarmed by the new legislation said it would have the effect of pushing First Nations into becoming municipalities and ending Indigenous rights.
"These bills are falsely claiming that they will give us more self-government, more self-determination, more control of our services, more control of our territories," McIvor said. "But in reality, it is lessening and weakening everything that we are trying to work toward."
The march in Winnipeg went from the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to the Manitoba Legislature. McIvor said it included participants from Treaty 1, Treaty 2 and Treaty 5 territory, plus allies.
Other events were scheduled to take place in Canadian cities including Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon and Ottawa.
With files from Jorge Barrerra