Opinion

Prince Rupert's Idle No More all about respect

Pulling up to the Rupert Square Mall on Friday night, one couldn’t help but notice the two police cruisers parked outside the upper entrance.

Of course, the reason for those of cruisers became evident when the throngs of people standing in the entry way came into sight.

The Idle No More movement once again took to the mall to send a message about their frustration with the Conservative government’s handling of Aboriginal issues.   Unlike last time, however, there were two RCMP constables standing in the crowd, in addition to the three mall security guards standing beside mall owner Tom Cheng.

And when organizers took the megaphone and announced that the constables had requested the rally move outside, there was an audible groan and a few shouts of unfairness due to the cold temperature and the elders present.

It was a situation that could have gone badly really quickly, given the numbers that were there, but it didn’t. Instead, the group played a prayer song in remembrance of the young Lax Kw’alaams man who was killed in an accident on the highway last week before drumming those in attendance outside to continue the rally.

The constables and the mall security let them finish and move on peacefully to drum through downtown.

In this case, everyone involved is to be commended, but in particularly elder Murray Smith.

While everyone else was trying to figure out how to react to the request to leave the mall, Smith took the megaphone and stressed the importance of respect — of the government respecting First Nations and of those in the mall respecting the wishes of the owners. As Smith said, the Idle No More movement needs to be done in a respectful manner.

Idle No More is a movement that has garnered national attention and gained significant momentum, bolstered in large part by the hunger strike staged by  Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa. While other rallies in other parts of the country have blocked highways and railways, here on the north coast the rallies have been peaceful, with one at the courthouse and two in the mall.

These types of rallies may not garner the same national attention as those designed to create conflict, but they send a message that things need to change.

And showing the impact of peaceful protests of this nature across the country, Friday’s rally came on the same day as the Assembly of First Nations met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston to discuss their concerns in a respectful manner.

As Smith said, it is all about respect.

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