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Yellowknifers converge to protest

Kevin Allerston
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More than 100 people gathered at the Greenstone Building Monday to protest Bill C-38, known as the omnibus bill, and the changes it will mean for Canadians and the environment.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus was one of more than 100 people who gathered at the Greenstone Building Monday to protest Bill C-38, a federal omnibus bill that would result in changes to the country's environmental policies. - Kevin Allerston/NNSL photo

In addition to the protest, NWT-based organizations such as Ecology North, and Alternatives North, joined organizations across Canada in blacking out their websites in protest of the bill.

Patrick Scott said he hasn't been involved in a protest in more than 20 years, but felt the need to come out Monday to express his opposition to the bill.

"(Prime Minister Stephen) Harper's ramming a whole bunch of changes in legislation through the omnibus bill for the budget. It's wrong, it's cruel, it's corrupt. It's destroying the environment, destroying aboriginal rights ... and it's all hidden in a budget bill. What he's doing to the environment will have a huge impact to me, my children and my grandchildren," said Scott, referring to the scrapping of the Environmental Assessment Act and changes to the Fisheries Act.

Other protest participants also used their voices to denounce the bill.

"Don't be afraid to speak out. This is our only chance," shouted Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus through a megaphone. "We're told that at the centre of the Earth, where the equator is, if it warms up two degrees there, it means like it's eight degrees more where we live," Erasmus said. "It's melting. Why deny it? For money?"

Shannon Ripley of Ecology North was at the rally and explained why it was important for her organization to join more than 400 other organizations in blacking out their websites Monday.

"The blacking out part was basically to raise awareness that if we don't speak out now there's many organizations and people that will be silenced and won't have their voices heard anymore. So when people go to the website today and realize they can't get there, it's a message of what it would be like if none of these websites were available in the future."

Ripley said she was pleased with the turnout, which makes her optimistic that demonstrations like Monday's can make a difference.

"Seeing so many people from all different walks of life in Yellowknife is great," she said. "At the moment it seems like a step in the right direction to try and have our voices heard."

Chief Francois Paulette of Smith's Landing First Nation made the trip up from Fort Fitzgerald, Alta. to speak at the protest.

"My passion is for my grandchildren," said Paulette. "We have ... a government that is doing a lot of harm to the natural world and how do we begin to turn that around? How do we turn that around, how do we get that message out to the average Canadian who probably doesn't know what's going on? We do it through events like this one here."

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