National Aboriginal Day food protest marches along
Feeding My Family sparks second wave of demonstrations
Iqaluit sounded more like midtown Manhattan June 21 as a thundering chorus of honking vehicle horns roared out in support of the second food price demonstration led by the viral Facebook group, “Feeding My Family.”
The protest brought about 40 people out marching in front of the North West Co. retail store in Iqaluit, Northmart, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. June 21 on a sunny National Aboriginal Day.
Similar protests were planned throughout Nunavut, and in Ottawa where protesters in front of the Parliament buildings were joined by retired members of the United States’ military who were stationed in Resolute Bay in 1950s.
Leesee Papatsie arrived 10 minutes early in Iqaluit, however, where motorists were already sounding their support for the protestors. She voiced her usual message of raising awareness of the cost of food prices in the North.
“I hope more people will be talking about this, to bring more awareness to it,” said Papatsie, creator of the Facebook group.
She said that while she is proud, all credit shouldn’t be given to her for the movement.
“I’m more proud of Nunavummiut, because they’re the ones who are moving this forward. Anyone can create a Facebook [group]. But it’s Nunavummiut that took it, and ran with it,” said Papatsie.
Someone who’s running along side her is her son, Nuka Fennell.
Fennell, 20, wouldn’t look out of place in a Montreal student protest. He was decked out in a red shirt and red shorts bearing a sign saying “Hungry Student” that pointed downwards.
He had been living in Ottawa while attending school, and is now back home living with his parents.
“Now I’m essentially living off my parents, which is a problem because they can barely afford to live off their own money paying for their children and my student fees,” said Fennell.
“I’m also a vegetarian. Even that is much more expensive. I paid $2.50 for a brick of tofu in Ottawa, and it’s about $5 to $7 here,” he said, adding that he admires his mom for her involvement.
Israel Mablick, 34, had a bigger, double-barreled sign that read ‘True North Strong and Expensive’ on his back.
“We’re supposed to be Canadians, yet we’re treated like a Third World country,” Mablick said.
“I’ve got four kids here. It’s tough. Even though I have two jobs, I still don’t make enough to buy groceries. Right now my two younger ones don’t have Pampers because we can’t afford them right now,” he said.
Mablick can’t afford an apartment on his own, so he lives with his mother in a two-bedroom staff housing unit. He said there are seven people living in the house, soon to be nine when his sister and her son move in.
He’s noticed a slim adjustment in food prices and acknowledged the Government of Nunavut’s stance on food prices.
But he says this is just a start to what governments and corporations, should be doing for people in Nunavut.
“It’s the very top of the iceberg. Not even a tip, just the top,” he said.
Shortly afterwards he grabbed a megaphone and bellowed: “The government is building a bridge to the U.S.A. and doing nothing for Nunavut,” and “I’m almost ashamed to be Canadian.”
Even though the crowd was noisy, fewer people attended than the last June 9 demonstration.
An RCMP barbeque featuring a free lunch and a news conference involving Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq occurred at the same time as the protest.
There has also been a bit of lull in people being added to “Feeding My Family.” The group has been holding steady at just over 21,000 members for a few days now.
“I’m just happy with the crowd right now,” said Papatsie when asked if there was less interest in the group.
Not everyone in the Facebook group is happy, however.
Mike Cunning, posting from Ajax, Ontario, had sent $200 to a family in Arviat as he said they were “begging for food for their children.”
He later found out that they bought golf clubs and golf balls.
“It’s too bad. It’s sad actually that it happened. But it did bring out a good message. Don’t send cash until we figure something out,” said Papatsie.
“One thing I should say — Nunavummiut, please don’t abuse this. This is for you.”