Idle No More protests and demonstrations have been erupting across Canada and the world in the past few weeks. This country is motivated to stop the environmentally and culturally devastating consequences of Harper’s Bill C-45, and not often do we stay so dedicated for so long. Canadians tend to be pacifists. A movement, if it lasts at all, only lasts among a niche group of citizens concerned about the issue.
Idle No More, however, is growing. Much of the media coverage has been pretty negative and let’s be honest, the comment feeds are a black hole of racist idiocy. These reactions are precisely because the movement hasn’t fallen apart. The fear-mongering government is afraid of a successful protest. Harper and the Ministry of Indian Affairs are scared shitless of anything that represents the power citizens have to rise up and overturn a system.
However, it’s not only our leaders who are afraid, but our neighbours. Those who close their curtains if they hear noise outside. The ‘me and mine’ Canadians. These people rely on the sort of pacification that keeps them behind the locked doors of their cars. These are the people who make racist comments about the Idle No More movement, who believe that if anything went any differently from how it’s going now, it would be catastrophic. Sure, things aren’t perfect, and our Aboriginal people are suffering, but they always have been, and always will be, and our tax dollars can’t solve that, right?
It’s an easy view to have as long as you’re not on the suffering side. Some even go so far as to call the actions of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation – who has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11 to urge Harper to meet with First Nation leaders – acts of terrorism. Take the editorial by Christie Blatchford where she says, “it is tempting to see the action as one of intimidation if not terrorism: [Spence] is, after all holding the state hostage to vaguely articulated demands.”
Calling a hunger strike an act of terrorism is exactly the sort of thing I’d expect from fearful Canadians. A hunger strike means that someone cares so passionately about an issue that they are willing to die for it. And nobody wants that blood on their hands. The same way anyone who’s opposed to Treaty rights or making Indigenous Studies mandatory course material will say, “I didn’t mistreat Aboriginal people. My ancestors aren’t from here. My hands are clean.”
Guess what, colonialist: You pay your taxes and live on this land by choice. Your hands and mine are soaked in blood. As are those of our government. So, rather than addressing the concerns and honouring treaty rights, it’s much easier to pass off the actions of a protester as terrorism. We all know how that buzzword turns all North Americans into pitchfork wielding villagers screaming “burn the witch!”
Theresa Spence isn’t holding the state hostage, she’s holding it accountable for 146 years of broken promises and systematic racism. The basic understanding of a democracy is that there’s a dialogue between people and government. When citizens have been cut off from this, it’s not undemocratic to challenge the government through protest, strike, or violence. It’s using a megaphone when your government takes away the microphone. If hunger strikes, protests and social activism are ‘terrorist acts,’ I am wilfully and dutifully a threat to national security.
Photo courtesy of rabble.ca