The erection of a pyramid, a Wigwam or any structure is no longer permitted at Parliament Hill demonstrations, so on March 1, 2012 we had to manage with a big circle at the Eternal Flame. We prayed and pleaded for safe, warm, enduring and affordable Canadian housing to replace U.S. built F-35 warplanes and more prisons as a federal budget priority. Terrible winter weather kept the expected strong Algonquin contingent snowbound, and a mechanical breakdown stranded our Canada Coach charter from Toronto for 1 ½ hours near Kingston. That bus was carrying Frontiers Foundation Executive Director Marco A. Guzman, Project Amik Residents Committee President Mike MacTague, several FF and NFARC Board Directors, Aboriginal people from Council Fire, Native Women’s Resource Centre, Wigwamen Terrace and key speaker Anglican Archbishop Terry Finlay (Retired). Bus was also carrying our protest signs and miniature houses; replacement bus finally arrived at 1:20 p.m. for last twenty minutes of rally.
Following hand drumming and singing by Michelle Penney plus greetings and smudging by Odawa Native Friendship Centre’s Executive Director Micheal Lascelles, Event Hostess and MC Olivia Chow welcomed everyone with powerful words declaring wholehearted NDP support for our cause and her intention to prioritize it in the business of the House.
After opening prayers by Honorary Wasauksing Ojibwa First Nations Chief Rev. Charles Catto (English) and Ottawa Basilica Monsignor Peter Schonenbach (French), Flagship Speaker Frontiers Foundation President Lawrence Gladue CM told everyone how his grandmother saved him as a five year old child from the Metis shack fire that killed his mother and sister. As Senior Policy Analyst with Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), Lawrence spent twenty years implementing the Rural and Native Housing program completing over 100,000 homes, until it was axed by the Mulroney government. He also detailed the record of Frontiers Foundation’s Operation Beaver in building and/or renovating thousands of aboriginal homes both on and off-Reserve homes far outlasting government housing. He also described Frontiers “ Standing Tree to Standing Home ” activity combining new housing construction harvesting local timber, milling the logs on Frontiers’ Woodmizers with onsite tradeskill training.
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett shared her Party’s priorities concern for the housing plight of Canada’s first citizens and assured all present of Liberal solidarity with Frontiers cause. Carolyn has visited First Nation communities on Island Lake, Manitoba and testified accordingly.
Regional Chief of Ontario Angus Toulouse representing National Chief Shaun Atleo and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) declared the far-beyond-Attawapiskat immediate need for 50,000 First Nations homes nationally and 18,000 in Ontario alone. At this point Andrew Cash, MP for Davenport took over MC while Olivia Chow honored a deadline in the House.
Then Tony Belcourt, Founding President of the Metis Nation of Ontario and former President of Native Council of Canada described aboriginal housing conditions off-Reserve as even more serious and demanding government attention.
Last speakers The Most Rev. Archbishop Terry Finlay (Anglican Church) and Rev. David MacDonald (United Church of Canada) commended Frontiers Foundation for nearly forty-five years of productive partnership in aboriginal housing activity and appealed to the federal government to redirect budget from F-35 warplanes to Canada’s #1 social need – safe, warm, healthy homes combined with appropriate employment and training.
Meanwhile Peter Julian M.P. posed with a scale model of the infamous warplane F-35, each of which costs Canadian taxpayers $ needed to build 1560 new homes.
Additional photos of the protest can be viewed here