Monday, May 26, 2008

Media Release: Grassy Narrows First Nation Walkers to Arrive in Toronto

Contact: Chrissy Swain 519-761-7820

Grassy Narrows First Nation Walkers to Arrive in Toronto
Group nears the end of 1,850-kilometer walk to protect Native lands

Toronto, ON – Twenty-two members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation will arrive in Toronto today by foot as they complete the last leg of their 1,850 kilometer “Protecting Our Mother” walk. In Toronto they will join representatives of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations for a four day Gathering of traditional ceremonies and teachings at Queen’s Park May 26-29. A large rally will welcome the First Nations communities to Queen’s Park at 5 p.m. on May 26.

Supporters and media are invited to join the walkers on the last leg of their journey. Meet them at the Native Friendship Center on Spadina North of Bloor at 1 p.m. on Monday May 26.

The walkers began their 1,850-kilometer trek in Kenora—80 kilometers south of Grassy Narrows traditional territory—on April 30 to raise awareness about the continued struggles between the province and First Nations groups seeking to safeguard their lands from industrial exploitation.

Crissy Swain, 28, originator of the Protecting Our Mother walk, called it a response to long-standing frustration about “the way our people have been criminalized and imprisoned for protecting the Earth, our future generations and our rights as Anishinaabek and First Peoples of this land.”

The traditional gathering and ceremonies will be held to promote respect for Indigenous rights to say no to economic exploitation and environmental destruction. The ceremonies will also honour First Nations leaders who are in Ontario’s jails for peacefully acting to protect traditional lands, especially Robert Lovelace and the KI 6, Donny Morris, Sam McKay, Jack McKay, Cecilia Begg, Darryl Sainnawap, Bruce Sakakeep.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples formally recognizes the right to give or withhold consent for industrial projects on traditional lands. The three communities have declared moratoria on industrial activity occurring without their consent, but the Province has refused to respect them and continues to issue industrial permits for logging and mining projects that the communities assert are damaging to the health, culture, and future of their people.

For almost a decade, the Grassy Narrows community has been struggling to stop clear-cut logging on its traditional territory by logging giants AbitibiBowater and Weyerhaeuser. In 2002, youth in Grassy Narrows began a peaceful blockade of a major logging road, now the longest standing blockade in North America. Youth also make up the majority of participants in the Protecting Our Mother walk.

“We have to look way ahead into the future,” Ms. Swain said. “That’s how serious this is. What we decide today is going to impact what happens to my great-grandchildren."

Supporters: The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, CAIA, Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian Labour Congress, Christian Peacemaker Teams, CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy - Ryerson University, CUPE National, CUPE Local 3903, CUPE Ontario, Defence for Children International, Environmental Justice Organizing Initiative, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, KAIROS, Law Union of Ontario, Mining Watch Canada, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, No One is Illegal Toronto, NOW Magazine, OCAP, OPSEU, OPSEU Local 596, OSSTF, Rainforest Action Network, Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Tyendenaga Support Committee, University of Winnipeg Students' Association, Toronto Buddhist Peace Fellowship, United Churches Bloor and Spadina ARwg.

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