AULD’S COVE: Participants in a series of Canada Day protests whose sits included the mainland side of the Canso Causeway are pleased with the response they received from passing motorists and vowing to continue their efforts.
The national aboriginal organization Idle No More encouraged its members and supporters to gather in several public locations on July 1, in the hopes of drawing attention to concerns that exist throughout Canada’s indigenous communities.
These “Unsettling Canada” displays were also the latest salvo in the campaign to draw attention to the presence of aboriginal people in what is now known as Canada, which predates the 1867 Confederation by an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 years.
“We’ve been here longer than 150 years, and we will continue to be here, as Mi’kmaw people and indigenous people, throughout the world,” said Madonna Bernard, one of several Waycobah First Nation residents that joined the estimated 30 people at the Auld’s Cove demonstration.
“We’re here, we’ve always been here, and we’re not leaving anytime soon.”
Supported by members of the Inverness County chapter of the Council of Canadians, representatives from the Ecology Action Centre and several members of Sipekne’katik First Nation, the Cape Breton contingent was also encouraged by the reaction of motorists heading to and from Cape Breton in the early afternoon hours of Canada Day.
“It was awesome, because I would say that of every 10 cars that went by, seven of them would honk,” Bernard beamed.
“It goes to show what we really are all about. We are all treaty people – the allies [of aboriginal communities] also. Our treaties are there not just to protect us, but to protect them also.”
Bernard and her colleagues also criticized the mass land appropriation and assimilation efforts that have accompanied the past 150 years, and disputed Canada’s status as a functioning nation.
“I know everybody talks about Canada as a country, but I’m sorry to say, Canada’s not a country…It is a corporation, with a corporate number,” she insisted.
“The country is the indigenous people that are the residents of this country. All the organizations may not see it that way right now, but it is what it is.”
Speaking to The Reporter from the gate of the Alton Natural Gas Project, where Bernard and her colleagues have held rotating demonstrations since May 23 to counter what they describe as the discharge of brine into the Stewiacke River, she claimed that the July 1 efforts in Auld’s Cove and elsewhere cannot be dismissed as traditional protests.
“I’m tired of being called a ‘protestor’…We’re not ‘protestors,’ we’re ‘protectors,’” Bernard remarked.
“We’re water protectors, land protectors, air protectors – we protect Mother Earth, and that’s our duty as indigenous people.”