12/28/2012 08:10 EST | Updated 02/27/2013 05:12 EST

#IdleNoMore: A Movement of Platitudes?


Justin Trudeau, minister of nothing and Liberal critic for "youth, post-secondary education, and amateur sport" requested a meeting with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and received one.

John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for the Government of Canada requested a meeting and has been ignored. #idletousefulmeetings? Currently on day 16 of her hunger strike, Chief Spence has also refused to meet with Patrick Brazeau, former national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples or government officials and their representatives.

Were this a complete blackout of all political parties it would perhaps carry substantive meaning (a condemnation of the Canadian system in its entirety) but Chief Spence has instead had no problem meeting with members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) or the Liberal Party for what appear to be little more than photo opportunities.

This is the same Liberal Party, mind you, that has had a federal majority government for the lion's share of the last quarter decade -- in other words, all of the time leading up to, and likely while, Attawapiskat was in tatters or on its way there.

#IdleNoMore has a temporary momentum, but unless it answers three basic questions its momentum has a very real expiry date:

1) What are the specific demands of the #IdleNoMore movement? Chief Spence has said that her strike is ultimately about "respect." Well, feeling respected is an emotion -- what specifics are the Idle No More movement looking to change? Repeal of Bill C-45? Removal of the Indian Act? Platitudes about "respect" require detail unless you are Aretha Franklin.

2) Why should the threat of self-harm be considered a legitimate tactic with which to obtain a meeting with the Prime Minister? If ambassadors from the Campaign Life Coalition decided to go on a hunger strike until the Prime Minister agreed to meet with them and discuss the prospect of rights for the unborn, I suspect that a large number of Canadians would be talking about "bad precedents" and "extortion." Idle No More may very well be somehow different -- tell us why.

3) Is this about improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians or using their suffering to improve the lives of aboriginal elites and score political points against the Conservative government?

There is an aboriginal poverty industry in Canada that makes money off the suffering of aboriginals just as there is an urban poverty industry in the United States that makes money off the suffering of black and brown people. Both are industries that always focus on funding or money ahead of initiatives that change behaviour or habits.

In both industries, the primary beneficiaries are bureaucrats who administer "programs" and people from poor communities who maneuver themselves into positions where they benefit from members of their community remaining poor and uneducated. If Idle No More is different, and perhaps it is, tell us why.

Conditions for aboriginals in our country must improve and the status quo is unacceptable. Including a status quo that trades on platitudes and empty words instead of concrete solutions.

Theresa Spence Rally on Parliament Hill