Chiefs from all across Canada attempt to gain access to Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa. They are repulsed and try to visit the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs. Again the chiefs are denied entry and there is barely a blip on the radar of the mainstream media. A chief heads to Ottawa saying she will go on a hunger strike until she can meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss her community’s problems. Canada’s news teams must have missed this one also as the story was difficult to find.
This is definitely a sad state that we have arrived at. Looked at in another way, however, this situation really lends itself to traditional Aboriginal use and understanding of dark humour.
It is understandable as, that same week, there was the overwhelming importance of the Ikea monkey dominating our media. How did it escape and what should we do with it? A lost child may be returned to you but not your monkey. These, after all, are more important, relevant and entertaining considerations to our national media than the plight and challenges faced by dispossessed peoples in our own country.
Yet through it all some Aboriginal nations are making a change in access to the mainstream media. Recently Grand Chief Coon Come had an Op-Ed in the Montreal Gazette. This is a rare but welcome occurrence in the Aboriginal world these days.
“This summer, my people, the James Bay Cree Nation, enacted a permanent moratorium on uranium exploration, mining, milling and waste emplacement in our territory on the east shore of James Bay, Eeyou Istchee. I was mandated to take all necessary steps to ensure full recognition of our stand,” said Coon Come.
Coon Come gently slapped down the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which has authorized the Matoush project. He felt Cree opposition had been ignored but held out hope saying, “Before this project can proceed, provincial authorization is also required.” He added that “many concerned groups and individuals are now joining the Crees in urging the Quebec government to conduct an independent and comprehensive assessment of the long-term environmental, social and ethical challenges presented by the uranium industry.”
Coon Come worries about the waste as “more than 99 tonnes of finely milled waste would be produced for every tonne of marketable product. These tailings contain over four-fifths of the radioactivity of the original ore.” It is the knowledge that the tailings from the uranium mine will be radioactive and toxic for many millennia that he feels really concerns the communities. Coon Come’s Gazette Op-Ed strongly said, “The Cree Nation will not be intimidated or silenced by dismissive comments like those from Dr. Binder that show so little respect for his proper role or for us. We are confident that when Quebecers learn the facts about uranium mining and waste, they will join us in our moratorium stand…”
It’s a safe bet doing this type of Op-Ed for a paper like the Gazette as over 350 municipalities have come out against uranium mining and rightly so. Canada’s safety record does leave something to be desired.
But I smile and wish Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat luck in getting an audience with Prime Minister Harper. Hopefully for her, they will talk over a good meal. As for all those chiefs trying to storm Parliament, I have asked Santa to bring you some brass knuckles. Maybe then more than one First Nation will have access to mainstream media. Just joking, no violence, peace on Earth for the holiday season…