Jacqueline Rockman left Montreal for Ottawa on foot Thursday to deliver a petition signed by 7,832 people to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The petition was posted on December 19 on the community action website avaaz.org, and calls on Harper and Governor General David Lloyd Johnston to accept the demands made by Chief Theresa Spence, which would have ended Spence’s hunger strike.
Spence, who was on a liquids-only diet for six weeks while calling for a meeting between Harper, Johnston, and Aboriginal leaders, ended her strike on January 23 after a list of commitments supporting Aboriginal issues was backed by members of the Assembly of First Nations and the Liberal and New Democrat caucuses.
“I really feel [the petition] is still valid, that to let these men know they weren’t instrumental, we were watching and were hoping for a different outcome from them. Maybe they’ll understand,” Rockman told The Daily in a phone interview two days before her departure for Ottawa. “They didn’t respond to Chief Spence, they didn’t do what was needed to its fullness. These are people who are being victimized. I don’t want to call all First Nations [people] victims, but they have been treated atrociously.”
Rockman left from outside John Abbott College, in Sainte Anne-de-Bellevue, at 7 a.m. She was planning for the trip to take four days, first arriving at Victoria Island,where she said she would be saying her “own prayers.” She then planned to continue to Ottawa to try to meet with the Prime Minister.
“I am hoping to get to Ottawa in four days, hoping to arrive on the 18. [In Hebrew] the number 18 spells life…I feel that love will rise on a day that spells ‘life’,” she said.
The march has been dubbed the “Voice of Thousands March” by Rockman. When the petition was first posted, she had originally said the petition would be hand-delivered were it to obtain ten thousand signatures. “There are almost 8,000 people who signed the petition,” she told The Daily. “I think that is still a valid number to be brought…It’s not about me, it’s about everyone.”
Rockman asked community members to join her on the walk, and to support her with food and camping supplies.
“I’m really impressed with the community support. Occupy Montreal jumped in and loaned equipment to people who needed it. They loaned me a tent and a sleeping bag and other stuff like that,” she said.
Rockman was adamant that her actions upon arriving in Ottawa would be peaceful. Upon arriving, she would “go in peacefully and respectfully, I’m not going to be banging on doors, yelling or screaming everywhere, at all. I’m not bringing a whole contingent to be noisy,” she told The Daily.
Rockman, who is “just a regular, everyday Canadian,” told The Daily that her action was meant as a wake-up call for other non-Aboriginal Canadians. “I have the feeling that Canadians need to wake the hell up, and really need to take a stand and be heard and fight,” she said.