Idle no more

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The movement is growing despite opposition

The Idle No More campaign has gained worldwide recognition of the abysmal human rights record of Canada and a few of our allies around the world. With every passing day, the movement is attracting our attention as it exposes the cultural inaccuracies many people have adopted as traditional Canadian values. Open-mindedness, equality and rights for all, economic opportunity, and freedom are all ideas we use to define and differentiate ourselves from the global community.

However, this illusion is quickly unravelling as Idle No More exposes the colonial roots of Canada. Our colonial roots are not a secret, yet our society struggles to come to grips with understanding why the Idle No More movement continues to gain momentum and what the movement represents. The honest truth as to why we as a ‘civilized’ society cannot comprehend is because our collective mentality has never moved past our colonialist mentality. Time has moved on, our collective conscious has not. We have failed to connect to this movement and enter into appropriate discourse in any meaningful way.

The obvious example of our failure to understand is the overtly race-based arguments presented as a counter-discourse to the movement. What is interesting about it is the validation these opinions receive through the irresponsible main stream media. Even funnier is the idea that these arguments are not racist. Let’s make this clear: when your arguments are based on generalities and ethnicities, while lacking context and facts – you are making a racist argument.

For example, calling for “transparency” of the so called tax dollar spent on Reserves. What is left out of this argument is context. Anyone making this type of generalization fails to understand the facts that the Federal dollars spent on Reserves are highly scrutinized by the Federal Government. Furthermore, we fail to account for the hyper-inflated cost of living on Reserves, a residual effect of residential schools and other forms of colonialism.

The most comical part is we do not ask for the same accountability from our own governments. In fact, the Federal Government spent over $110 million in legal services for the Department of Indian Affairs in 2011-2012. We only spent $36.8 million of the public prosecutor’s office over the same time period. It makes me wonder how much was spent in the pursuit of accountability, and how much was spent finding ways around honouring Treaty Rights.

Another concern, and perhaps more dangerous, is regarding the Idle No More sympathizers. These are the supporters that come with bad advice disguised as good intentions. This soft paternalism is the bane of every social movement’s existence. These sympathetic voices stress the need to identify with Prime Minister Harpers perceived stakeholders, or abandon any potential disruption of the lives of everyday Canadians in order to win friends to the movement. Despite these warnings, it is important to keep up pressure on the government and to bring attention towards the movement. Non-violent resistance may provide short-term discomfort for some Canadians, but they must realize that the oppressed cannot simply adopt the ideas of liberation, tactics, language, and strategies of the dominant group. If the oppressed could, they would not be oppressed. To truly support the self-determination in the Idle No More movement, we have to support the movement by first listening to those involved in Idle No More.

This brings use to why the Idle No More protests started. The Second Omnibus Bill, C-45, is the primary reason but not the only reason. Firstly, Bill C-45 will change 44 federal laws without any Parliamentary debate. Furthermore, this bill does not recognize Aboriginal fishing rights, while removing several fish habitat protections. The biggest impact this bill has is the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The number of lakes and rivers removed from the required federal environmental assessment program from 32,000 to 97 lakes and from 2.25 million rivers to 62.99 per cent of our water ways have lost any required environmental protection without any consultation with First Nations or with the general Canadian public.

On top of C-45, there are eight more bills either passed or in the house that make dangerous deregulations and undermine not only Aboriginal rights, but everyone’s rights and are based on racist assumptions about First Nations people. If we are serious about living in a country that promotes freedom, democracy, and civil rights for everyone, then we, as a society must ensure that these values apply to everyone without condition. 

Shaadie Musleh
Business Manager

Cartoon by Edward Dodd

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