The deep thud of drums and traditional singing by dozens of First Nations people could be heard by shoppers at Willowbrook Shopping Centre on Saturday afternoon, as the Langley Idle No More protest took place.
Both Native and non-Native supporters from throughout the Lower Mainland congregated in the mall parking lot to show their opposition to the federal government’s Bill C-45.
Members of the Kwantlen, Matsqui, Katzie and Semiahmoo First Nations were among several groups staging the peaceful protest through songs and speeches.
After rallying outside, the group then marched inside the mall and continued to sing and drum as they paraded past stores.
The Langley movement is one of many that have sprung up across Canada since the first Idle No More protest was organized in Saskatchewan in November.
Its supporters’ major concerns with Bill C-45, also known as the second omnibus budget bill, are changes to the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act, which affects land treaties and environmental screening of major pipeline and power projects.
Chris Thomas of the Kwantlen First Nation believes that protecting the environment is something every Canadian should be concerned about.
“We’re fighting for natural resources for our Mother Earth because the timeline for Mother Earth is winding down,” Thomas said.
“According to our elders, the Earth is dying.
“We’re trying to get the word out there that it’s not only affecting the First Nations people, but it’s affecting all of Canada.
“We walk together and we share the natural resources as brothers and sisters.”
Specifically in Langley, Thomas is very concerned with future oil and gas lines in the “Grandfather Sto:lo,” or Fraser River.
“In return it’s going to be killing off our salmon, and that’s one of our main sources of food and our diet to help us keep a healthy life, body and spirit,” he said.
“All we can do is our best to keep a level mind, a good strong heart, and keep continuing to get the word out there and try to get our brothers and sisters to walk alongside and get our voices heard.”
Adele Hurst-Dand, a non-Native protester at the rally, posted on the Idle No More Langley Facebook page that the experience was “very positive,” despite feeling “a little out of place.”
“I’m trying to teach the kids how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, or what’s right even if it feels out of your comfort zone,” she wrote.
“There were many messages in the speeches, but what really stood out was that this is about all of us. Do wrong to one people, you do wrong to us all.
“They marched through the mall after prayers, songs, and speeches.
“The men, or warriors, go first, the women or life givers next, followed by children, then elders, and more warriors at the end. These men or warriors are traditionally in front and behind to protect the rest of the people.
“We expected to follow behind everyone and were surprised and honoured when a First Nations man gently insisted we walk with the life givers.
“He came and found us again after the march, during more speeches and gave Torrin and Talia a T-shirt each.
He wanted to thank them and impress upon them how important the younger generation is, and how this is about everyone.
“Needless to say they were very grateful and almost speechless.
“I am so grateful to that man and everyone there today for peacefully standing up for what is right and helping to teach my children.”
Photos from Saturday’s Idle No More protest at Willowbrook Shopping Centre