Thousands of people from across Canada made their way to the Parliament Hill to show their support for the need to address unjust education for First Nations students on September 23, 2010.
Kitigan Zibi Annishinibeg First Nation and the Assembly of First Nations have identified the week of September 19 to 24 as National Week of Action on First Nations Education and the rally on Parliament Hill on unceded Algonquin territory was part of these activities.
The week began on September 19 with a walk from Kitigan Zibi Annishinibeg First Nation in Quebec to Ottawa’s Victoria Island to Parliament Hill on September 23 – a 135-kilometre trek.
In an ongoing unwritten commitment between the two organizations, the assembly of First Nations invited the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to attend and say a few words at the rally. CUPE was also a sponsor of the event and were joined by members of the Canadian Federation of Students and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Don Moran, CUPE Senior Officer for Aboriginal Issues, said, “The energy in the crowd was just amazing - that’s what you call solidarity and united on an issue!”
The crowd of people ranged in age from infants to elders and many carried signs that said “Education is a treaty right”, “Help eliminate the employment gap”, “The current system is under-funded, under-supported and unfair” and “We have a right to an education”.
The crowd roared with cheers after politicians from all parties and chiefs from across Canada spoke about the importance of quality education.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo attended the event and said all First Nations people need to be united in the “hunt” for education, which calls for access to an education system for all First Nations members with programs and services grounded in First Nations languages, values, traditions and knowledge.
With many CUPE flags flying in the background, Brian Barron, CUPE Diversity vice-president, vowed that, “CUPE will continue to push for the need to address unfair, unjust and inequitable education and push for a guarantee for education for indigenous young people across Canada. We will send a strong message that now is the time to invest in our future. Canada depends on it.”
After the rally, the largest Pow Wow event on Parliament Hill continued with drummers and singers making it loud enough so the government could hear the event as they were in session.