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First Nations to protest omnibus budget bill Sunday

Vancouver First Nations are planning to protest the Harper government's recently passed omnibus budget bill Sunday. The protest is part of Idle No More, an indigenous movement that is utilizing social media to organize across the country.

The movement's goal is to have First Nations recognized as sovereign stakeholders in decisions affecting land and resources.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who raised the alarm on appalling housing condition on her reserve last year, has become a leading voice in the movement. She is in the second week of a hunger strike in Ottawa and is calling on the government to show more concern for aboriginal treaties and for Prime Minister Harper to meet with First Nations leaders.

The prime minister has not agreed to meet with Spence, though a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan told Maclean's magazine that Duncan has tried to organize a meeting with her.

Lisa Yellow-Quill, a Vancouver Idle No More protest organizer, said protesters are mainly concerned with two parts of the Bill C-45.

She said changes to the Navigable Waters Act that will remove thousands of rivers and streams from federal protection could have serious repercussions on the health of the environment.

She also said that a change to the Indian Act that will change land-use policy on reserves will "reduce the collective power of First Nations people."

But Sunday's protest is about more than just Bill C-45. For Yellow-Quill, it's about standing up to a "dictatorial" government that refuses to consult with First Nations.

And, though she's optimistic that the Idle No More protest movement is picking up steam. She said that media has largely ignored it.

The last Vancouver Idle No More protest, held Dec. 10 and attended by 200 people, didn't receive any media coverage, she said.

"Unless you're breaking a window," she said. "You don't get any media attention."

The Vancouver Idle No More protest will be held Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Vancouver Art Gallery and then march to the government of Canada offices on Hastings Street.

Joel Barde and Emma Smith are completing an internship at The Tyee.

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