Council of Canadians expresses solidarity with Judy Da Silva and Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group

Da Silva speaks outside the court house, April 16.
Da Silva speaks outside the court house, April 16

The Council of Canadians joins with those who are calling on CN Rail to lift its court injunction against Judy Da Silva and other members of the Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation.

Earlier this month, Da Silva and the Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group announced they would be hosting a Water Ceremony on April 10 on the railroad tracks that pass directly by several lakes and river tributaries along the southern boundary of their traditional territory. The Water Ceremony was intended to protect these local waterways from tar sands bitumen, natural gas and toxic chemicals transported by rail through their territory. It was also to be held in solidarity with the people impacted by the oil-by-rail derailment that spilled crude oil into the Makami River near the Mattagami First Nation on March 7 and the April 11 Act on Climate march in Quebec City.

But CN Rail refused to accommodate the Water Ceremony that would have required only a brief delay on the tracks. Instead, it threatened a preemptive injunction and arrests if the Water Ceremony were to take place on the tracks.

The decision was then made by a Grassy Narrows Elder to go ahead with the Water Ceremony, but not on the tracks.

Despite this, CN Rail showed up at the Water Ceremony, conducted by Anishinaabe Water Protector Josephine Mandamin, and served an injunction to Da Silva.

The Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group says, "This is a threat to everything we have fought for: our ceremonies, our right to be on our land, and the right to be treated with respect." Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says, "CN Rail is wrong if they think this is an issue of the courts—instead, it is a matter of First Nations’ ability to exercise their Inherent and Treaty Rights... Canada and CN Rail cannot any longer get around the fact that rail lines are on Treaty lands."

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow adds, "Attempting to silence the voices of those who want to protect our waters through court injunctions is unconscionable."

A Facebook event page encourages people to go to a nearby train track on April 19 with a sign that says, "Hey CN? This is Indian land." and wait for a train to go by. The page says, "That is all you have to do. Do not set even one foot on the track because then this action is completely legal and nobody can stop us or harass us in any way! This is a peaceful protest that will interfere with nobody but it will send a strong message."

NetNewsLedger reports, "On Thursday [April 16], the CN injunction was extended with another court date set for May 14."

Da Silva has commented, “I don’t care about the injunction. I don’t care that I’m in the court room that’s foreign to me. What I do care about is our ceremonies. As Anishinabeg, I guess our strength as people, we need to stand up for the water in any way that we can, even if it’s a ceremony."

This past September, Da Silva joined a global water justice gathering in Toronto organized by the Blue Planet Project.