Goal: Bring national attention to the forced relocation of the people of the Sayisi Dene First Nation

After 10 years of waiting for an apology from the Canadian government, the people of the Sayisi Dene First Nation decided that if Ottawa would not come to them, they would go to Ottawa. More than 60 years have passed since 200 Sayisi Dene members were forced to relocate from their traditional territory around Little Duck Lake in Northern Manitoba to the shores of Hudson Bay, near Churchill.

By the time the Sayisi Dene moved back to the interior in 1973, almost a third of their population had been lost to disease, substance abuse, racism, and the elements. Although the Sayisi Dene received an apology from the Province of Manitoba in 2010, the Canadian government had made no similar offers.

We simply seek the same justice and respect that has been given to other communities who have been wronged in the past and who continue to suffer today,’ wrote Sayisi Dene First Nation Chief Jim Thorassie in a letter to Minister Duncan last week. Every other First Nation and Inuit community identified by the Royal Commission for Aboriginal Peoples as being relocated by government has been compensated.

– News Release, Sayisi Dene First Nation

Our team, working with the legal team for the Sayisi Dene, created a multi-faceted approach that would target the government directly and indirectly. We organized a number of events to draw public and media attention, in order to put more pressure on the Canadian government to apologize. This included a press conference and a well-attended briefing for parliamentarians in Centre Block, as well as a public vigil and readings of the names of those lost from the community on the steps in front of the Peace Tower. Our team produced a powerful slide show of images from the relocation as well as a two-page bilingual briefing note, and secured individual meetings with parliamentarians.

Results: A new relationship between the First Nation and their Member of Parliament was forged. NDP MP Niki Ashton pledged to continue to work with the group to keep the pressure on the government.

A number of stories were published, including coverage in the Manitoba Free Press, and the government was forced to respond to the issue during Question Period.