Canoe Lake, December 16, 2007
Open letter to the Liberal Party of Canada from Joseph "Butch" Iron
Dear Mr. Richardson and the Liberal Party of Canada,
My name is Joseph D. Iron. I live in Canoe Lake with
my wife Dianne and family. When I heard that Gary
Merasty was stepping down I was worried. It was a very
close election last time. Gary won by only 60 some
votes, I think, and we don't like Harper and the
When I heard Dave Orchard was running I felt good. I
said I'd help right away. I joined the Liberal party
with my wife and two boys. I paid 40 dollars for a
family membership. This is the first time I paid for a
membership in a political party. It's the first time
I'll be voting in a federal election.
Each of my girls also paid for their memberships.
This is the first time I ever saw that. It's the first
time they took any interest in politics. They did that
because Dave is well known and because we know him in
We had a blockade in 1992 when they were
clear-cutting our forest. Two hundred police were coming
in that time with guns and dogs and everything. The
police put a perimeter, a 50 mile radius all around our
camp, so nobody could come in to help us. The elders
phoned Dave to ask if he would help us. He came up from
his farm in his truck and got through 3 police
roadblocks to our camp. They arrested 31 of us, my wife
and I included, and put us in a bus, handcuffed behind
our backs. We were almost all Aboriginal. Dave stood
with us. Two of the women arrested were pregnant. Dave
told the police to take the handcuffs off at least the
pregnant women. In the end, they moved the handcuffs
from behind their backs to the front so it was a little
less painful. At the police station in Meadow Lake they
took all the Aboriginal people off the bus and left Dave
alone and handcuffed inside. Then about 8 RCMP took out
their sticks and went to the bus for Dave. We all
thought he was going to get a bad beating but a head
RCMP ran out from the office and the police talked a
while. Then they just threw Dave into the cells with the
rest of us for the night.
The next day they let us out. They later dropped the
charges. Dave and his adopted brother Tyrone Tootoosis
contacted David Suzuki and the three of them came up in
an airplane to support us. There was lots of media there
that time. We have the photo of David Suzuki, myself,
Dave Orchard, Tyrone Tootoosis, Irene Durocher and
others. Quite a few families in Canoe have that photo.
Our elders say that we were right. The courts have
now ordered that there is a duty to consult First
Nations. We were protecting our forest, our land, our
rights and Mother Earth.
My oldest daughter was 17 then, she remembers Dave
coming. My other girls were 6, 7 and 9 and my boys 2 and
3, but everyone still talks about that. One of the
pregnant women was Irene Durocher. After her baby was
born she and her husband Joe named him Tyrone David
because of Dave. He is now 15 and his whole family
bought memberships to help Dave. The people here still
talk about how the RCMP treated Dave that time.
When we heard about two months ago that Dave was
running, our community put on a soup and bannock for him
and lots of people bought memberships. They paid from
their own pocket. Forty dollars for every family is not
easy to find on the reserves. Joe Iron Sr. was there. He
is about 93. He bought a membership. Leon Iron is about
80. He was the first one at the hall. He was there
before Dave got there. He took out his money and bought
the first membership.
Now lots of young people want to buy memberships for
Dave. Some cannot afford 10 dollars. They are asking if
they can put in one or two dollars, as much as they
have, and pay more as they get it.
My wife said to me "what other white person would
have went to jail with us?"
I saw one of the chiefs from north of Meadow Lake the
other day. He gave me forty dollars. He told me to give
it to Dave to pay for a membership for him and his
family. He is a long time chief, very well liked. He
told me "we're going to send a white guy to Ottawa this
time. He knows our issues, he's a strong voice and he is
a fighter." Several of his councillors bought
memberships too. "We like that white boy," one told me.
On that chief's reserve they remember that Dave came
up over 10 years ago to warn them about the plan to bury
American nuclear waste in our territory. Dave came and
spoke in their band hall that time. That plan was
stopped. And they want to take memberships to help him
The other day I heard people saying that some big
people in the Liberal party are going to try to stop
Dave, that they are going to appoint an NDP woman who I
never heard of over top of Dave. We were in a restaurant
in Meadow Lake. I said Dion is not stupid. One other guy
said, Dion appointed his friend in Montreal and he lost.
If they do this and they hurt Dave I won't bother with
the Liberals anymore. I will go with the NDP. And my
family too. I think the chiefs will have something to
say about this too. And that is without even talking
If the NDP woman wants to run she should sell
memberships just like everybody else.
The people bought memberships because we believe in
Dave. If they block him I think we will organize for a
refund of our money.
But right now, this just makes me want to go out and
sell memberships for Dave. Lots of people want to buy
them now. We sold 11 memberships this afternoon.
Joseph D. Iron
Canoe Narrows, SK