The face of racism is familiar to Camosun College student Simka Marshall, and the daily struggle with stigmatization is one reason she hopes the Idle No More movement will change the perceptions of Canadians.
“We need to end social stigma, which is really damaging,” said Marshall, a member of Ahousaht First Nation and one of the student organizers of an Idle No More rally and march that drew more than 250 people to the B.C. legislature on Saturday.
She hopes the Idle No More movement will help lead to that change.
“I would just like indigenous people to be recognized and respected, and for others to start to treat us like people,” the 19-year-old said in an interview.
Marshall said she was shocked when she first started studying at Camosun College to find people instantly assumed she came from a background of poverty and alcoholism.
“There’s so much generalizing,” she said.
Those stereotypes are reinforced by inequalities, said Megan Marshall, the aboriginal students liaison for the Canadian Federation of Students B.C.
“In Canada, only eight per cent of aboriginal persons hold a university degree, compared to 23 per cent of non-aboriginal people,” she said.
“Access to education is just one example of the many challenges aboriginal people in Canada face.”
There is a need to empower indigenous women as Idle No More heads into its next phase, rally organizers said.
Women and young people will take the movement forward, said Cole Sayers, a University of Victoria student.
“A lot of times, because of the Indian Act, patriarchy has really decimated the role of women,” he said. “We need a nation-to-nation relationship, and the role of women is so important.”
Demonstrators waved signs, ranging from Omnibus Bill C-45: Confuse Us To Control Us to comments about Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and appealed to the government to recognize and act on the Douglas Treaties — which cover approximately 925 square kilometres of land around Victoria, Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo and Port Hardy — and turn around the history of colonialism.
Demonstrators also urged supporters to not listen to predictions that the Idle No More movement could falter.
“Our weapon of choice is the drum,” said speaker Donna Cook.
Another Idle No More event is planned for today at noon. A flashmob will march down Government Street from Centennial Square to the legislature, reading passages from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
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