First Nations group stages demonstration at N.B. legislature
Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012 11:45AM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7:01PM AST
Despite the wild winter weather, about 100 people turned out to protest the federal government’s proposed changes to the Indian Act.
Sounds of traditional First Nations songs echoed across the New Brunswick Legislature’s front law in Fredericton today.
The protesters hope their demonstration will send a message against Ottawa’s attempts to change Bill C-45.
“C-45 is just going to take away all rights of the First Nations’ people,” says Angela Acquin, a member of St. Mary’s First Nation. “The water protection, the land protection, and education for our future generations.”
What started as a simple demonstration quickly turned complex at the legislature.
First, protesters shifted their focus from the front of the legislature to a side door in the hopes of catching government ministers on their way into the building.
Then, a number of demonstrators entered the legislature, hoping to sit in the public gallery. When they were denied access, those outside barricaded the front doors.
Police were called in but most kept their distance. Only one officer entered the legislature to usher the protesters back outside.
“The option that was given was that we were either escorted out or we were arrested,” says Judie Acquin-Miksovksy of St. Mary’s First Nation. “Me and Jim, Jim and I, we consulted with a couple of people and we were told not to be arrested. It could’ve been a really bad Christmas.”
Inside the legislature, the deputy premier said he had no knowledge of anyone being denied access.
“The Legislative Assembly, it’s not something that the government has full control on it and you probably should ask that question to the sergeant-at-arms, who is responsible for the security,” says Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud.
The sergeant-at-arms declined to speak with CTV News, but in an email response, he said the legislature goes to great lengths to ensure peoples’ right to be heard but that a small faction did attempt to move the protest inside, which, he says, is simply not permissible.
Protesters left a short time later, but vowed their fight against Bill C-45 is far from over.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Andy Campbell