PARRY SOUND – A heated exchange between Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement and NDP riding association president Clyde Mobbley momentarily disrupted a peaceful Idle No More protest Saturday afternoon.
Mobbley and Clement.
Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement, right, gets into a heated discussion with NDP riding association president Clyde Mobbley, left, and other protesters during a peaceful Idle No More protest Saturday afternoon. Clement went outside to speak with protestors prior to his New Year’s levee, held at Wellington’s Pub and Grill, and was hit with questions and accusations by Mobbley and other members of the protest.
Stephannie Johnson/North Star
Just prior to his New Year’s Levee at Wellington’s Pub and Grill in Parry Sound, hosted along with MPP Norm Miller, Clement took a moment to speak with approximately 30 protesters across the street.
Almost immediately after the MP approached the group, Mobbley interrupted Clement.
“I’ve already started engaging in discussions with First Nations groups in that area and . . . “ said Clement referring to Friday’s meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Assembly of First Nations before he was cut off.
“The chief of the Manitoba First Nations stated that there’s been high-level discussions for 150 years,” said Mobbley. “This just looks like more high-level discussions; there’s no concrete changes. I’ll also have to add, the meeting yesterday dismissed the investigation to the missing aboriginal children.”
Clement vehemently disagreed.
“That is false. I was in the room. Were you in the room? You weren’t even in the room. You weren’t in the room, so you don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Clement said. “You get to write your letters, you’ve got an NDP leader in the House of Commons. You have your way to have your point of view respected – you can say your point of view, that’s fine...I didn’t come out here argue with my NDP friend. I’m here to assure you that I am listening and I will continue to listen and continue to find ways to find solutions.”
Johna Hupfield, one of the organizers of the event, interjected during the exchange between the men, to thank Clement for speaking to the group.
“Thank you for coming out, we weren’t expecting that, that really means a lot,” said Hupfield. “I’d like you to know that, we see your role in our country is really prominent now. I represent Wasauksing, I represent women, I represent the concern with our waters here, so although maybe not all of us may have voted for your position here in our communities, certainly we see you as somebody who represents a lot in Canada. So it means a lot that you came out to acknowledge that we’re here.
“I just want to plant a little seed within you,” she added. “We’ve got so many First Nations people who have their treaty rights – I’m the mother of five – I have friends here who are young and going to school here who really want to understand what’s going on with the First Nation’s people in Canada. I want you to remember that, we see you as a role model in our country. As far as I know, there’s no native blood in you whatsoever, but it’s so important to me, anyway – and I can only speak for me right now – that you remember that. There are indigenous people here, across the world who are looking not just to Steven Harper, but to you to represent us and make healthy, healthy choices for us.”
Clement said the Canadian government looks for responsible leadership within its First Nations communities as well.
“They’ve got to be responsible and you elected a national chief – Chief (Shawn) Atleo – and I would ask that you respect that, too. He’s there to represent national issues,” he said. (Atleo announced his resignation two days later, on Monday, citing health reasons.)
One protester asked Clement whether there was any Native consultation regarding Bill C-45.
“We consulted Canadians. We had a consultation called a federal election,” Clement answered. “What I find is there’s a lot of misinformation about (Bill) C45. C45 still maintains a respect for the environment-“
“It’s an anti-democratic act-“ Mobbley interjected.
“You’re very good at interrupting, aren’t you?” Clement fired back. “If you’re going to interrupt, you’re being very disrespectful, civil discourse is what people in Canada want. If you cannot participate in civil discourse that you don’t deserve to govern.”
At that point, voices were raised, one protester demanding Clement stop, “talking to us like we’re children, please!”
Apparently fed up, Clement wished the group a “Happy New Year.” Still being interrupted by one protester, he walked up to the man, addressing him face to face.
“I’ve got 56 per cent of the vote in the riding sir,” Clement said, then heading back inside the restaurant hosting his levee.
“You’re acting like a bully, typical Tory,” one protester shouted after him.
Following the exchange, Hupfield thanked the group for coming out, and said due to the loss of Wasauksing First Nations community elder Yvonne Tabobondung the night before, there weren’t as many supporters out as were expected.
“Certainly for myself this is about creating awareness, not just for First Nations people and treaty rights, but what’s happening to our water, our land, our air – we all share that. As far as I can tell, we’re all active participants in consuming what is left on this earth,” Hupfield said.
Inside the levee, Clement said he originally went outside to assure the protesters that he was listening and wanted to ensure them they were heard.
“They’re constituents of mine and I take my role as a Member of Parliament for the entire constituency very seriously, so I wanted to make sure that they understood I did not want to ignore them,” he said. “I understand that they have a right to protest within the law and that I had a message to them, that I was one of three cabinet ministers involved in the discussions the Prime Minister had with the Assembly of First Nations. That I feel that we can work together, we can resolve some of the issues, and we can move forward. I thought my message was a very positive one. Aside from the NDP, the actual representatives from Wasauksing were very respectful and I think we continued our dialogue here.”