Aboriginal protesters occupy federal office buildings across Canada, demanding Trudeau visit Attawapiskat

Winnipeg INAC occupation 4

Occupation of Winnipeg offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), April 14, 2016.

by Victor Ferreira, National Post, April 14, 2016

TORONTO — Several groups of indigenous activists have occupied the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in Toronto and staged a sit-in in Winnipeg, demanding that Justin Trudeau visits a northern Ontario community struggling with a recent spate of suicide attempts.

A group of about 30 people first occupied the Toronto building around 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, police said. The protest has been peaceful, police said. A second group of activists occupied the Winnipeg INAC offices Thursday evening. There are reports that a third group has occupied an INAC office near James Bay in northern Ontario.

Winnipeg police Const. Robert Carver confirmed that protesters had entered the city’s INAC offices, but avoided using the term “occupied” because he said staff are allowing the group of 20 activists to be inside the building.

“An occupation is where they’re no longer welcome and they’re not leaving,” Carver said. “They are currently being allowed to smudge by the INAC staff.”

Toronto INAC protest 3

Occupation of Toronto offices of INAC, April 13, 2016.

In Toronto, the protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau address the crisis in Attawapiskat, a First Nations community dealing with the aftermath of a large number of suicide attempts over the weekend. The group is also calling for a list of more than 20 demands to improve the community,  including a youth centre, elder camp, emergency mental health responders, firefighters and libraries, to be met.

Protesters staged a “die-in” in the INAC office and hung up Attawapiskat First Nation and Mohawk Warrior Society banners on Wednesday. The group has been cut off from washrooms and told that if they leave the building, they will not be allowed to re-enter. Deliveries of food, water and toilet paper from other activists outside the building have been allowed, but on an inconsistent basis. At least one young child and several senior citizens are among the protesters occupying the building’s 8th floor office.

Toronto INAC protest 6

Participants in occupation of Toronto INAC. Photo: Twitter

Access to the building’s front entrance has been cut off by security officers who are only allowing people with keycards through the front door. In Winnipeg, Carver said the building has also been closed off to anyone who isn’t staff.

A smaller group of activists remain at their posts outside the building’s front door, gathering supplies and raising awareness for the protesters and the crisis in Attawapiskat. Some burned sage and wafted the fumes towards their faces in a ceremony meant to cleanse their souls. Others held hands and formed a circle to pray for the well-being of the protesters inside and the citizens of Attawakpiskat.

Multiple posters laying out the group’s demands and support for the embattled community clung to the exterior walls, drawing the attention and questions of curious Torontonians passing by.

Police said their role in such protests is “neutral” and have no plans as of Thursday morning to forcibly remove the protesters from the building. Several officers are currently in the office’s lobby to ensure the protest remains peaceful.

The Attawapiskat community declared a state of emergency Saturday after reports of 11 suicide attempts taking place in one day. On Monday, police thwarted a suicide pact between 13 young people in the community, including a nine-year-old.



Posted on April 14, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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