December 20, 2012

Idle No More sweeps Canada

Canada's First Nations protest heralds a new alliance

The grassroots IdleNoMore movement of aboriginal people offers a more sustainable future for all Canadians

By Martin Lukacs
Canada's placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government's budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.

It has seen rallies in dozens of cities, a disruption of legislature, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls, a flurry of Twitter activity under the hashtag #IdleNoMore and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, in a tepee minutes from Ottawa's parliament. Into her tenth day, Spence says she is "willing to die for her people" to get the prime minister, chiefs and Queen to discuss respect for historical treaties.

The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has dismissed the escalating protest movement, saying "that's social media, so we'll just have to see where that goes." He told international media that relations with First Nations are "very good". If only that were the truth. What remains unspeakable in mainstream politics in Canada was recently uttered, in a moment of rare candour, by former Prime Minister Paul Martin:

"We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power."

The evidence–and source of the current anger and unrest–is hard to dispute. While Canada has the world's largest supply of fresh water, more than 100 aboriginal communities have tapwater so foul they are under continual boil alert (pdf). Aboriginal peoples constitute 3% of Canada's population; they make up 20% of its prisons' inmates. In the far north, the rate of tuberculosis is a stunning 137 times that of the rest of the country. And the suicide rate capital of the world? A small reserve in Ontario, where a group of school-age girls once signed a pact to collectively take their lives.

Such realities have not stopped politicians and pundits from prattling on about the sums supposedly lavished on aboriginal peoples. The myth that aboriginals freeload off the state serves to conceal the real scandal: that most money pays for a sprawling government bureaucracy that keeps aboriginals poor, second-class, and dependent. The widespread notion that First Nations mismanage and squander what funds they do receive is simple prejudice: government reports acknowledge that communities are buried under a mountain of strict accounting; they are no more corrupt than non-native municipalities.
Two examples of flash mobs:

Flash Mob Idle No More Round Dance Takes Over Saskatchewan Shopping MallThere are hunger strikes. There are highway blockades. And now, the Idle No More protests have arrived at the mall. The Cornwall Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, that is.

Watch this rousing video of a round dance that erupted in this shopping center amid milling Christmas shoppers. It is one of many ways that aboriginals across Canada are taking their ire at the omnibus budget Bill C-45 and others like it public. First Nations are livid over the legislation, which they say undermines basic rights and all but nullifies treaties. It was passed in the Senate and will become law as soon as it’s signed by the Governor General.

Thousands take over Saskatoon mall for Idle No More protest

By Charles HamiltonThere were periodic eruptions of cheers and yelps as a massive group of protesters shutdown parts of the Midtown Plaza. People held hands as they danced in an enormous circle to the beat of drums and a chorus of traditional First Nations' signing. There were no political speeches or organized chants, but the estimated 2,000 people who attended this flash mob on Thursday are all part of a national movement that is sweeping the country.

“People are walking up,” said Jenn Altenberg, who came downtown for Thursday’s Idle No More protest. “People showing up here is a powerful statement. Our young people are finding their voices.”
Comment:  For more on Idle No More, see Origin of Idle No More and Idle No More Is Just Beginning.

No comments: