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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 Conservatives.

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 the north.

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 now.

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 about democracy.

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
Dianne Iron
Box 46
Canoe Narrows, SK
S0M 0K0
Tel 306-829-4528

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