At heart of today's protests is frustration with First Nations education bill
More than 1,000 people rallied in Ottawa today to protest the federal government's approach to aboriginal Canadians.
They are calling it a day of resistance. While aboriginal people and supporters arrived by the busload on Parliament Hill, protesters also took to the streets in Kahnawake, Saskatoon, Sudbury and Winnipeg.
The protesters said they are frustrated about the federal government's proposed education reforms for First Nations, and about Ottawa's refusal to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
"When people are starting to be desperate, you see people like this turn out on the street," said Ontario Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Stan Beardy.
"I think we'll see more and more of that. People are getting very desperate."
The protesters are determined to be listened to, something they say the Conservative government isn't doing. The poverty, social and health problems continue for many, both on and off reserve.
For Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck, change will happen if Canadians realize one thing.
"When First Nations are doing better, Canada is doing better," he said.
First Nations education
This morning, dozens of Kahnawake Mohawks marched along Highway 138 toward the Mercier Bridge, before heading to Ottawa to join the protest on Parliament Hill.
They carried signs that read "Kill Bill 33" and "Protect our education." Many of the protesters were students who say the bill is an insult.
"It's our culture and I don't think they should take that away from us," said Rihanna Dibo, a Grade 9 student at Kahnawake Survival School. She is afraid the proposed changes would take away her language and culture classes
Diane Beauvais is also worried. Her mother was instrumental in introducing culture and language classes in schools
"It was very important to my mom to bring the culture and the language back and it did come back, people know who they are and this bill is gonna do the exact opposite," said Beauvais. "It's going to turn it around."
She said schools in Kahnawake are constantly improving their graduation and literacy rates, and what they need from the government is financial support ... without interference in their curriculum.
Chiefs from across Canada are in Ottawa to craft an official response to the proposed First Nations control of First Nations education act.
For his part, AFN Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard said the bill is unacceptable.
"It's one ideology imposing its way to another one," said Picard.
Chiefs plan to unveil their formal position on the legislation at the end of the month.