Canada natives continue to protest

Thousands of people gathered in West Edmonton Mall Sunday, January 13, as Idle No More protests continued following a meeting between First Nations leaders and Premier Stephen Harper Friday.

Thousands of people have held a protest rally in Edmonton, the capital of the Canadian province of Alberto to show their support for the rights of indigenous people in the country.

Chanting slogans and hitting drums, the protesters packed into West Edmonton Mall late Sunday to signal that they would continue protests in solidarity with the native rights movement “Idle No More”.

Organizers of the rally said that more than 2,500 people participated in the protest.

“It’s beautiful. It’s a way for us to showcase our traditions, and our spirituality and our realities to the rest of people who occupy what is now Canada,” said Quetzala Carson, a Native Studies student at the University of Alberta.

“One meeting is not enough. We really need to work on what is going on with Bill – 45, it wasn’t changed. It wasn’t changed at all,” she added.

The indigenous communities, also known as the First Nations, have been protesting against poor living conditions and high unemployment rate.

The protest follows a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and native leaders on Friday.

During the 4-hours-long meeting on Friday, Harper agreed to pay more attention to native demands and aboriginal issues, but made no promises.

Harper’s office said in a statement that the “government remains committed to ongoing dialogue on aboriginal issues and to taking achievable steps that will provide better outcomes in First Nations communities.”

Protests have been staged across the North American country after Canadian rights activist Theresa Spence went on a hunger strike on December 11, 2012.

Spence boycotted the Friday meeting, saying in a statement that she would not attend the meeting with Harper because Governor General David Johnston, who is a representative of Queen Elizabeth II, would not be taking part in it.

In a report released on December 19, 2012, Amnesty International called on Canada to address human rights abuses in the country, particularly with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples.

DB/SZH