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Idle No More protestors gather in Westbank Centre

Idle No More demonstrators gathered near the intersection of Highway 97 and Old Okanagan Highway in Westbank Centre Friday morning. The protest took place at the same time as Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Idle No More demonstrators gathered near the intersection of Highway 97 and Old Okanagan Highway in Westbank Centre Friday morning. The protest took place at the same time as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's meeting with First Nations leaders in Ottawa.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

The beat of drums could be heard in Westbank Centre just after 11 a.m. Friday as supporters of the Idle No More movement marched from the Royal Bank of Canada parking lot toward the intersection of Main Street and Old Okanagan Highway.

Leading the pack was Westbank First Nation member Roxanne Lindley.

She took it upon herself to organize the peaceful protest, which took place at the same time as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's meeting with First Nations leaders in Ottawa.

About 100 people of various ethnicities stood in support of the grassroots movement. Messages on the signs being held by protestors ranged from "No Pipeline" to "Water is Life."

Lindley is strongly against Bill C-45, which she said will have a detrimental impact on water sources.

The omnibus budget bill, which was passed through Senate Dec. 14, 2012, includes policy changes to the Indian Act, Navigation Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act.

"We have a special relationship with Mother Earth. That's what we're all here to say: We're here to protect…that's our responsibility," said Lindley.

"Direct action is critical. That's how we create awareness, that's how we create education, that's how we tell everybody out there…this is for all mankind."

Lindley said she didn't have high expectations of Friday's meeting between the prime minister and First Nations leaders.

"A lot of these people are very detached from that political arena. They're here because of the land, water and the air. When you carry those values you will always be detached from politics because the politics aren't there to protect that stuff."

Gilly Alook stood in the circle of demonstrators, beating his drum and singing.

He said he was proud to see how many came out to show their support.

"It affects all of us, whether you're First Nations or not, it affects each and every individual that's on Mother Earth," said Alook.

"We're all here for a purpose: To protect what we stand on, to make sure we have good water, we have land, we have our four-legged and our winged ones. Every part of what our creator has created is a part of why we are here today."

According to Alook, the Idle No More movement will probably continue for "as long as it takes to be recognized and acknowledged."

"We're fighting for the cause because of all the things that have been passed without the aboriginal people being a part of it."

WFN Chief Robert Louie showed his support of the movement through a statement released Thursday afternoon.

"Westbank First Nation is proud of the efforts of our members to assist First Nations across Canada in their fight to be recognized," said Louie.

"The collective actions of the movement have drawn the attention of the country to the inherent rights of First Nations people, including the right to govern our reserve lands and to be consulted and accommodated in matters affecting our resources and traditional territories."

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

 

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