The four founders of Idle No More didn't start out famous. Until flash-mob round dances, prayer circles, and blockades spread across Canada, few people knew Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean, and Nina Wilson. But today, Idle No More is emerging as a powerful movement for the rights of native peoples to protect the lands and waters.
All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to Chief Theresa Spence's and Elder Raymond Robinson's hunger strikes. These individuals are calling attention to an intolerable situation among First Nations communities. They are also highlighting concerns common to many Canadians about dangers posed by unilateral government.
In the wake of the Idle No More protests that have blocked railway lines and have hinted at more mischief, multiple grievances have been advanced in place of clear-headed analyses. But none of the slogans, clichés and guilt-tripping get to the bottom of why some aboriginals, especially on reserves, are in a sorry state. Fundamental problems with how reserves are run — and the unsustainable nature of some of those rural collectives — is what protesters should ponder.
Bloopers have always been fun. A good collective laugh is a healthy thing for a society. This would be a perfect year to start the "Democracy Blooper Awards." Here are my favourite anti-democratic moments of 2012. Even at its best democracy has proven to be an out-of-control PR performance where points are given for best spin, rather than outcome.
Chief Theresa Spence hasn't eaten in over 11 days. The weather has taken a big turn for the worse and her tent home on Victoria Island is far from ideal. This was a serious business and she told me she wasn't backing down. I knew then I was watching the beginning of a revolution. Chief Spence has put her life on the line. This is not a game. This is not a stunt. Every day that Mr. Harper tries to wait out the crisis, the stakes rise higher. Mr. Harper has a very short window to show leadership. He needs to come the table and begin to address the issues that have driven so many First Nation communities into poverty and despair.
What is "Idle No More"? To me this conversation is more than just an "Indian Thing." It is one that Canadians of all backgrounds should pay attention to, if not participate in. The ideals that are underlying this action are ones to which we all aspire, even if we may disagree on how exactly to pursue them.
"I'm willing to die for my people because the pain is too much and it's time for the government to realize what (it's) doing to us." We should all be ashamed that these words were uttered in Canada, and that a First Nation leader has put her life on the line to be heard. A hunger strike in Canada is a sign of imperfect democracy.
Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat did not launch a hunger strike over a single piece of legislation. In short, this is what we have always been talking about. Whether the particular focus has been on housing, or education or the environment, or whatever else. What lies at the heart of all these issues is our relationship with Canada. And Canada? This relationship is abusive. We have been backed into a corner and we are literally fighting for our lives. We are literally dying, in so many preventable and unacceptable ways. I'm not being poetic or hyperbolic here and I don't just mean culturally. We are dying. I need you -- WE need you, to see the forest and not just the trees.
The Harper Conservatives are ramming another "omnibus" budget Bill (C-45) through Parliament. Coupled with "closure" to kill debate, it's all designed to be so humongous, convoluted and fast that no Parliament could possibly scrutinize the details and expose all the mistakes. (Sort of like the inspection system the Conservatives are responsible for at XL Foods -- a lot of contamination got through.)