These Idle No More drums are not just for us: they beat for you because the legislation we are protesting does not just harm us -- it hurts you and your children and your grandchildren. I cannot tell you what path to follow. I cannot tell you to join our protest. But I can tell you the story of what we know of these legislative changes and how they will forever change our relationship with the land and water. The circle of those dances is not complete until you join us. I know that it is up to you to know your own journey. I know, however, that many of you have hearts open to hear this call.
Today's "National Day of Action" gives Chief Theresa Spence another opportunity to declare a victory over holding the government to account and another opportunity to call off her "hunger" strike. By not doing so she risks further polarizing and dividing the movement and First Nations leadership. The government is left with few options. It must still negotiate with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and National Chief Shawn Atleo, as it has to be seen to be engaged and working to make change possible, sooner rather than later.
To suggest Harper has consulted with First Nations leaders because of the meeting on Friday is simply ridiculous. First Nations know the realities of what they are facing and the Conservatives' dishonest talking points, aimed at convincing average Canadians they are making progress, are further undermining what little credibility they have with Canada's indigenous population.
If the million or so aboriginal Canadians together realized their joint power, they could change Canada into a totally different society. And there are indications that a strategy is there. Idle No More need not be a confrontational force -- it can be the catalyst to bring about real justice and fairness for all the nations of Canada.
The Deloitte & Touche audit of Attawapiskat is a textbook outcome of the fatal weakness in Canada's current model of First Nations governance, which is coded to fail. There could be hundreds of Attawapiskats.
Does anyone know what the average First Nations chief's level of training and management experience is? Or the average training and experience of band councillors? How many building inspectors live within 50 miles of Attawapiskat? How about CAs, CGAs or project managers capable of supervising and maintaining records on multiple construction sites?
What makes this sideshow all the more embarrassing is that there's been a complete breakdown in the Chief's relationship with the one independent agency whose power actually does matter -- the press. The indifferent contempt in which she has so consistently held the press is beginning to return in kind. You can almost hear her 15 minutes ticking away. To put it bluntly, you can't just do this.
What we have here is a woman who bemoans the impoverished nature of her reserve while she is partly to blame for it; a woman who has the ability to make things better, but won't because not everyone has RSVP'd to her invitation. What was once a justified pursuit to better the pitiful lives of the disenfranchised in First Nations communities has become a circus in which there is no possibility of dialogue unless every single demand is met. Spence is not a symbol to be admired. She is but one of the myriad reasons why First Nation communities exist in the sad way that they do, and it's time for her to go.
My racism at the age of 10, although not acceptable, was somewhat understandable. But my daughter's? Why aren't today's youth more knowledgeable than I was? The expectation would be that after a thorough history lesson, our children should be horrified by the treatment of the aboriginal community, not rationalizing it.
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.
Centuries of racism and neglect have spawned a righteous anger amongst Canada's native people. The Idle No More protesters are simply asking that we respect the treaties signed with our First Nations. Damned if I can see how any Canadian can be against keeping our promises to the people who were here first.
By Harper agreeing to meet Spence, the first step has been taken. Whatever the outcome, the movement will not fade away. By seizing the moment, the AFN and the government have been handed an opportunity where they can make common cause to affect positive change for First Nations communities. It is in everyone's best interest that they succeed.
As we enter the new year, it is time for Chief Spence and Prime Minister Harper to pause and reflect about their on-going standoff. Both sides need to feel that they have won and both sides need to find a way to declare victory. Only then can the two sides proceed to the next step which should be fresh dialogue and agreed to solutions for key First Nations issues.
Chief Theresa Spence will continue her hunger strike until the Prime Minister meets with her to discuss her concerns. While the government that represents me is shameful, I'm very proud to be Canadian today as I see so many people speaking out. But nobody more than Spence who is showing the world right now what it is to truly care about the country you call home.