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Organizers of Merritt’s latest Idle No More rally said their gathering outside of a reception for Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon on Friday was in support of her lifelong environmental work.
About 80 people gathered outside the Civic Centre while Guichon addressed a crowd inside. Rallygoers held signs and passed around pamphlets asking if the lieutenant-governor can stop the governor general from signing omnibus bill C-45, which the grassroots movement is protesting across the country for its amendments to environmental protection laws. The document needs royal assent to become legislation. The rally was Merritt’s largest yet in the nationwide movement.
Organizers said the rally was not a protest against Guichon, but in support of her work on sustainable ranching. Prior to taking up her post with the government, Guichon worked on a number of environmental causes, including the Fraser Basin Council of B.C., the Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C. and served as the President of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.
Many of the rallygoers were drummers who were also part of the entertainment bill to close the reception. Once inside the Civic Centre, organizers took to the microphone to present the lieutenant-governor with cultural items and explain their cause.
“[The rally] is in support of her lifelong work in protecting the land, water and the environment, and people’s rights,” organizer Dave Walker said before presenting Guichon with a handmade basket. He called the basket a “small token of appreciation for all the work she’s done and for working tonight to inspire us to be more aware of the sustainability of our environment.”
Rally organizer Nicola Campbell presented a Pendleton blanket to Guichon, which she said represents the relationship between the people of the Nicola Valley and the environment. She also likened Guichon’s environmental and sustainable agriculture work to the creed many First Nations are taught.
“As First Nations people, growing up, we are all taught that we’re also stewards of the land,” she said, referencing an article published in the Nov. 6, 2012 Merritt Herald that called Guichon a “steward of the land.”
“In the ranching community and for everybody in the Nicola Valley, we’re hunters, we’re fishers — this is how we live. This blanket signifies that relationship.”
During her speech, Guichon addressed the topic of sustainable agriculture.
“We’re all in this together, and we all depend on the health of our land in order to produce the quality of life that we aspire to,” she said.
“We must work to keep all parts of our community sustainable. I know that we, in this community, can do this. We can build carefully on our plentiful resources and learn from our past.”
Idle No More was started by a group of four women in Saskatchewan who opposed the federal government’s omnibus bill C-45 because of its amendments to environmental protection laws and for failing to consult the public before tabling the changes.