December 29, 2012

Idle No More's goals

Idle No More Gaining Momentum and Forming Plan of Action“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty and which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water, which affects all people,” an Idle No More press release states. “Idle No More calls on all of us to repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, protect Mother Earth, and create sustainable, healthy communities.”And:“There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals–Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals, and particularly encourages youth to become engaged in this movement, as the leaders of our future,” the press release states. “[Idle No More] also recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.”

The group, in an effort to unify its fronts, have released a plan of action:

-- Support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and responsibilities to Native nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media.

-- Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada.

-- Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the United Nations to raise awareness to the conditions indigenous people have been subjected to and assert sovereignty in the international arena.

-- Acknowledge and honor the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work towards these goals and are the true inspiration.
Those are rather broad, amorphous, and unquantifiable goals. They may take decades to achieve to everyone's satisfaction.

A column makes similar points:

Lakritz: Idle No More long on rhetoric, short on action

By Naomi LakritzThe Idle No More movement should be specific about what they’re demanding. Otherwise, they’re doomed to go the way of the Occupy movement, which engaged in rhetoric akin to that emanating from the Idle No More folks, but in the end, faded away because they couldn’t delineate precisely what results they wanted to see happen.

On Idle No More’s website, a woman named Tami Starlight alluded to this problem when she wrote in part: “Indigenous actions have been taking place since first contact. We need to build our own capacity as nations and confront the colonial systems we are all mired in. Rallies are just that—rallies. The same with petitions. Most have no bearing on anything and are not legally binding ... Promoting the false sense of accomplishment is problematic at best.”

Idle No More’s action plan states: “Support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media. Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada. Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the UN to raise awareness to the conditions Indigenous people have been subjected to and assert our sovereignty in the international arena. Acknowledge and honour the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work toward these goals—you are our inspiration.”

These are not goals. This is talk. And talking should not be mistaken for action. Or, as another online poster commented below Starlight’s post: “What is the Plan beyond the points above? We need one.”
Lakritz goes on to blame Natives for their own problems. I don't agree with that, in general, but she has a point about the lack of specific goals.

More specifics

A later posting is a bit more specific:

First Nations chiefs contemplate “breach of treaty” declarations, indefinite economic disruptions

By Jorge BarreraFirst Nations leaders have discussed plans to launch country-wide economic disruptions by the middle of January if Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t agree to hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s demand for a treaty meeting, APTN National News has learned.

During three days of meetings and teleconferences, chiefs from across the country discussed a plan setting Jan. 16 as the day to launch a campaign of indefinite economic disruptions, including railway and highway blockades, according to two chiefs who were involved in the talks who requested anonymity.

“The people are restless, they are saying enough is enough,” said one chief, who was involved in the discussions. “Economic impacts are imminent if there is no response.”

Chiefs were still finalizing details of their plans Monday evening and it remained unclear to what extent their discussed options would translate into the official position.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo is expected to write Harper a letter outlining the chiefs’ position.

Spence launched her hunger strike on Dec. 11 to force a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General David Johnston and First Nations leaders to discuss the state of the treaties. Spence said in a statement issued Monday that the aim of the meeting was to “re-establish” the treaty relationship and finally put First Nations people in their “rightful place back here in our homelands that we all call Canada.”
And:During the discussions, some First Nations leaders suggested individual communities and treaty regions issue “breach of treaty” declarations beginning Jan. 1 and leading up to Jan. 16. Aside from blockades, chiefs discussed stepping up rallies at MP’s offices, continuing letter campaigns and launching Twitter bombs.

“All we are doing is reasserting our own sovereign right and inherent right within this treaty,” said a second chief, who was also involved in the discussions. “The time has come that they need to see we are a sovereign entity, we have and always will be because of the relationship of treaty that was entered into by the Crown and numerous nations.”
"Re-establish the treaty relationship" is a big goal too, but it's more finite and measurable than the previous goals. It's matched by a relatively clear threat: to issue "breach of treaty" declarations and back them up with more rallies, blockades, and other disruptions of everyday life.

Finally, here's a much clearer statement of Idle No More's grievances and objectives:

Idle No More: What do we want and where are we headed?

By Pamela PalmaterThe Idle No More movement is part of a larger Indigenous movement that has been in the making for several years now. Indigenous activists all over the country have been monitoring the political and legal scene in Canada at both the federal and provincial levels and making a concerted effort to help inform First Nation community members and leaders about any potential threats. We noted a clear assimilation agenda that emerged within the Conservative government and we started planning on how we could address that if Prime Minister Harper insisted on putting his plan into action.

We of course worked very hard to try all the usual channels to address our growing concerns, which included lobbying, letter-writing, testifying before Senate and Parliament, endless meetings with MPs, Senators, Ministers and others--all to no avail. The Harper government was not interested in talking to us, let alone consulting or getting our consent. Harper decided instead to use the Assembly of First Nations as his primary vehicle to call all the shots. Harper's government set the agenda, they drafted the joint action plans and they alone decided what was and was not on the table. In other words, Harper managed to bully his assimilation plan onto the First Nation agenda with hardly a squeak of opposition at the political level.

At the co-called Crown-First Nation Gathering (CFNG) last January 2012, Harper promised First Nations his government would not unilaterally amend or repeal the Indian Act. After the CFNG, he broke that promise and proceeded with an aggressive legislative agenda that will include upwards of 14 bills that will devastate our First Nations in various ways. It is the White Paper 2012 with a twist--instead of it being a policy, like the 1969 White Paper, which wanted to assimilate Indians, Harper's plan will be law. This is the spark that ignited the Idle No More movement into action.

We always knew action would be required at some point, but the legislation posed an imminent threat and required immediate mobilization. That is how a movement was born. In the early days, some were calling the Idle No More movement, some calling it an Indigenous rights movements, but we all agreed that we needed to immediately oppose Harper's assimilatory legislative agenda. So many of the early activities included teach-ins which helped explain the legislation's potential impacts on First Nations and more importantly, what we could do to oppose it.

Early protests started out as opposing the massive omnibus Bill C-45, but later came to include the whole suite.
And:When asked what do we want, that question can be answered in two parts:

(1) In the short term, Canada must withdraw the suite of legislation impacting First Nations, amend those omnibus bills which threaten our lands and waters, and restore the funding that was cut to our First Nation advocacy organizations and communities;

(2) In the long term, Canada must set up a Nation to Nation process whereby First Nations and Canada can address many of the long outstanding issues related to the implementation of treaties and sharing the lands and resources.

Ultimately, we want to be free--free to govern ourselves as we choose; free to enjoy our identities, cultures, languages and traditions--i.e., to live the good life as we see fit. This means Canada must respect our sovereignty and get out of the business of managing our lives. Given that Canada has worked hard to put us in the situation we are in, Harper will have to come to table with some good faith and offer some solutions to address the current crisis facing many of our communities in relation to the basic essentials of life--water, sanitation, housing, and education. If Harper can do no more than appear at a meeting on January 24th as requested by the AFN, our most vulnerable citizens will not see justice.
Withdraw the legislation and set up a nation-to-nation those are concrete goals.

For more on Idle No More, see Racism Against Idle No More and Idle No More in Los Angeles.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Idle No More only sounds vague. Let’s talk specifics