Aboriginal groups rally on Parliament Hill

Colin Johnstone

Colin Johnstone

Aboriginal groups march to Parliament Hill on National Aboriginal Day.

Aboriginal groups from across Canada staged a rally on Parliament Hill this afternoon to mark National Aboriginal Day.

The demonstrators marched from Victoria Island and reached Parliament Hill just after 1:30 p.m.

They arrived at the Hill waving flags, singing, and beating drums.

National Aboriginal Day, first proclaimed in 1996 by then-Gov.-Gen. Roméo LeBlanc, celebrates the contributions and cultures of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.

The rally saw many speakers, including politicians and representatives from indigenous groups and organizations, address the 150 people who had gathered on the Hill.

Bruce McKenzie walked 3,450 kilometres from Stanley Mission, Sask. to oppose Bill C-45, which removes federal protection from many of the country’s waterways. All life, he said, “depends on our waters. And we must protect them.”

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair criticized Bill C-45 and said that his party wants to restore protection to these lakes and rivers. The NDP, he said, will “work to create a relation from nation to nation” with Canada’s indigenous people.

“After years of Liberal and Conservative governments promising and then never doing, it’s time now to act,” he said. “To have at the cabinet table a group of people who will measure every single government action to make sure that we respect our treaty obligations, our international obligations, and the inherent rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in our land.”

The Idle No More movement’s “Sovereignty Summer” campaign will take place over the next few months, with the goal of promoting aboriginal rights and environmental protection.