(MintPress) – Thousands of protesters associated with the Idle No More movement are expected to demonstrate in 30 Canadian cities today, one of the largest mass demonstrations advocating for indigenous rights in the region.
A “twitter storm” was organized in conjunction with public protests under the hashtag #OpHarper in an effort to draw attention to the policies of his conservative government.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper helped champion recent national legislation including C-45, a bill that removes many environmental regulations and further diminishes tribal rights. Activists claim that the bill will accelerate Ottawa’s ability to seize tribal lands for logging, gas drilling, and pipeline projects.
The movement has gained significant momentum in recent weeks as more indigenous tribes and allied international activists join forces. Key leaders have helped to galvanize support, especially Chief Theresa Spence, a leader of the impoverished Attawapiskat First Nation who has carried out hunger strike for the past 26 days to draw attention to the plight of her tribe.
Activists from around the world, including the U.S., Australia and Ecuador are expected to join the demonstrations in solidarity with indigenous Canadians.
“This day of action will peacefully protest attacks on Democracy, Indigenous Sovereignty, Human Rights and Environmental Protections when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons on January 28th,” organizers said in a statement on the Idle No More website.
Organizers added, “As a grassroots movement, clearly no political organization speaks for Idle No More. This movement is of the people … For The People!”
While protesters have appealed to all elected leaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been the primary target of indigenous activists, claiming that Harper’s policies violate tribal and environmental rights.
Protecting Tribal and Environmental Rights
Protesters have focused on tribal sovereignty amidst growing distrust for Harper’s government. The problem, however has international ramifications for tribes across North America, threatened by the construction of major oil pipelines on or near tribal land.
The largest such pipeline is the 2,147 mile Keystone XL pipeline. If completed, the tar sands pipeline would stretch from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
Environmentalists claim that if completed, the project will be “game over” in the fight to stem the negative effects of global warming because of the mass proliferation of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.