“We have had enough. Our young people have had enough. Our women have had enough ... the Idle No More movement has the people, it has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees. It can stop Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s resource development plan.”
- Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
So, how about that Idle No More?
As a veteran organizer and activist, I feel that just being able to mobilize people by the tens of thousands, especially at Christmas time, is an achievement in itself.
Political observers and no doubt government politicians themselves are scratching their heads trying to figure out how this happened.
It all began with four women in Saskatchewan: Nina Wilson, Sheelah McLean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon, who say they shared a common vision for protecting Mother Earth and humanity from destructive government initiatives.
Their concerns soon focused around the recently passed Omnibus Budget Bill C-45, the so-called Jobs and Growth Act.
Critics argue this bill would impact First Nations’ control of their land and undermine the protection of bodies of water previously provided by the Navigable Waters Act.
This would, they argued, make it easier for extractive industries like mining and forestry to proceed with their operations on or near First Nations land.
Soon, these four women started organizing public events to educate the public about the legislation.
In short order they were networking with mostly youth organizers in cities across the country.
In a few short weeks, the core networks were established and the movement put on its first major cross-Canada event.
The Dec. 10 National Day of Solidarity and Resurgence was geared toward asserting the inherent rights of sovereign First Nations across the country, including a rally outside the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg.
This was the day that sparked the flames of a new and unprecedented resistance in Canada.
Adding fuel to those flames was, of course, the hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.
Started immediately after the Day of Solidarity and Resurgence, on Dec. 11, Spence began her action outside Parliament Hill.
She took on this desperate and dangerous gambit in order to pressure the prime minister and the Governor General to meet with First Nations leaders and resolve the crises afflicting First Nations across the country.
Raymond Robertson of Cross Lake First Nation and other sympathisers have also joined the fast.
The bad news for the movement is that C-45, the bill that instigated the unrest, has been passed by Parliament.
Likewise, the hunger striking chief and a significant following of First Nations leaders boycotted the planned Jan. 11 meeting with the prime minister.
This meeting turned out not to be the requested “nation to nation” dialogue that should have included not only the prime minister but a representative of the Crown, with whom the original treaties were signed.
Thus, not much has changed in terms of dealings with the Canadian government.
The good news, from the standpoint of Idle No More, is that the prime minister’s obstinacy, together with the passionate expression of Idle No More’s concerns and the social networking tools that facilitated Occupy Wall Street, has brought us close to a revolutionary opportunity for meaningful and positive change.
It is not just a political revolution, but a spiritual one as well.
Everyone I’ve met and spoken to who has taken part in these Idle No More flash mobs and round dances speak
of the empowerment and unity they feel listening to the sacred drumming, and holding the hands of strangers as they dance in occupation of a public space.
Not only is the movement not showing any signs of slowing down, it is spreading beyond Canada’s borders. During the holiday period, Idle No More solidarity actions took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Cairo, among others.
If there is a Canadian story making international headlines, it is this one.
And while the press might try to distort the issues in play, they cannot ignore this movement.
As a long-time activist in the Winnipeg community, I see this sea change as a welcome development, and am eager to see how it plays out.
Ancestors, guide us!
Michael Welch is news director at CKUW 95.9FM and host of the Global Research News Hour.
Published in Volume 67, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 16, 2013)