WE ARE IDLE NO MORE
Even a cursory review of this particular article provides essentials to understanding what is a centuries old contest coming to yet another assertive and perhaps crowning moment. It is unmistakably resonant of the peaceful marches decades ago in the United States as the African American community articulated its solidarity with millions of marchers. Equal rights and opportunities transformed all areas of American life, government, sports, education and entertainment. Perhaps the steadfastness of First Nations will have an outcome that honours them and uses their lands and resources in ways that benefit Canada for everyone living and generations to come.
|PHOTO CREDIT: HUGH WESLEY|
1. The indigenous peoples of Canada were never a ‘conquered’ people.
2. Canada was created through necessary negotiation between the Crown and indigenous nations.
3. Negotiations resulted in treaties customized to jurisdictions across the land.
4. Wording of each treaty expresses degrees of peace and friendship and are based upon a core treaty promise that we should all live together peacefully and share the wealth of the land.
5. For decades First Nations have contended that only one treaty party, the Crown, saw prosperity.
6. Specific First Nation arguments include these.
a. Canada failed to share the lands and resources as promised.
b. That injustice plunged First Nations to the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum.
c. That placement pertains to health, lifespan, and educational opportunities.
d. First Nations have been subjected to purposeful, chronic underfunding of all basic services, water, sanitation, housing and education.
e. In contrast indigenous lands and resources have subsidized the wealth and prosperity of Canada and the high-quality programs and services enjoyed by Canadians.
7. The approach to and treatment of early indigenous peoples is directly connected to the present-day situation of First Nations.
8. The stated mandate of Canada’s Indian Affairs is ““to improve the social well-being and economic prosperity of First Nations.”
9. In the government’s mind, the dissatisfaction of First Nations and recurring protests have redefined the federal ‘Indian’ policy as the ‘Indian Problem’ of which the government wants to be rid.
10. First Nations claim Prime Minister Harper’s aggressive legislative agenda, is his Conservative government’s way or doing this.
11. Evidence to which First Nations point is Harper’s own words at the January 2012 Crown-First Nation Gathering. His speech focused on unlocking First Nations lands and integrating First Nations into Canadian society for the “maximized benefit” of all Canadians.
12. First Nations maintain that all 14 pieces of legislation that comprise this proposal document were drafted, introduced and debated without the consent of the First Nations.
13. Even though Harper and the federal government appear to have been surprised by the sweep of the ‘Idle No More’ movement during the December holiday season, it should not have come as a surprise at all.
14. The surprise is not the issues but rather this time it’s the most sustained, coordinated and national native protest Canada has witnessed in 50 years.
15. The last time something of this magnitude occurred was in 1969 when the federal government presented an assimilation plan that natives aggressively defeated.
16. Harper’s latest aggressive legislative assimilation plan appears to be generating and is being met with resistance.
17. Surprising is not even an apt descriptor for the movement but shocking might be for something that originated with indigenous women and has been joined by First Nations leaders, other Canadians and now the world.
18. The movement began as a means for opposing Bill C-45, which is the omnibus bill that impacts water rights and land rights under the Indian Act.
19. The protestation grew to include all of the legislation as well as the spending cuts to First Nations political organizations because this has been interpreted as the government’s way to silence the advocacy voice.
20. The early activities of this movement included letters to MPs and ministers, teach-ins, marches and flash mobs, rallies, protests and blockades.
21. These, it was hoped, would give Canada, the Crown, reason to and opportunity to sit down to address with First Nations the enduring issues.
22. Escalation would only occur if Harper ignored the call to dialogue, so when he disregarded the opportunity, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began her hunger strike. Harper has ignored her as well.
23. Her hunger strike is at a crisis point because she is slowly dying and in her act there is a dramatic symbol of the death of the First Nations, both as an entity and individually since their lifespans are 20 years shorter than average Canadians.
24. Spence’s self-sacrificial act while risky and emotionally coercive, merely asks for the Prime Minister to come to speak with her. Then she will end it.
25. Idle No More demands go further. It demands that Harper withdraw the legislation and restore funding to Indian communities and then after that good faith display to negotiate with First Nations the true sharing of First Nations Lands and Resources.
26. Idle No More sees the First Nations not as an expendable people who can be silenced because it has constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights, and therefore as Canada’s last and best hope to protect lands, waters, plants and animals from entire destruction.
27. Finally, Ms. Palmater, the chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University and an indigenous activist with Idle No More, is not confident that the Conservative government will sit down to work peacefully to solution. She is however, optimistic “about the power of our peoples and know that in the end, we will be successful in getting this treaty relationship back on track.” She says, “Thus, I fully expect that this movement will continue to expand and increase in intensity. Canada has not yet seen everything this movement has to offer. It will continue to grow as we educate Canadians about the facts of our lived reality and the many ways in which we can all live here peacefully and share the wealth.”