What began with a ‘teach-in’ by four teachers (Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean) from the province of Saskatchewan has grown into an indigenous movement which has taken North America by storm. Concerned about the effects of the Bill C-45, the four women took it upon themselves to educate people, and their teachings have appealed to indigenous people all over the world who declare that they will be idle no more.
Bill C-45 was passed by the Harper government on December 14th 2012 without any consultation of the indigenous peoples that would be affected. The Idle No More movement is particularly concerned about changes to the Indian Act, Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. The proposed changes would allow “for easier opening of treaty lands and territory”, would remove protection for 99.9% of lakes and rivers in Canada, making it easier for major pipeline and power line projects to be introduced, and would provide a faster approval process for such projects. Basically, it will weaken the protection of Native lands and territories, making them more susceptible to environmentally damaging projects.
The movement itself gained international media attention when Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario began a hunger strike during the National Day of Action in December last year. Chief Spence declared that her hunger strike would continue until the Prime Minister and the Governor General (the Queen’s representative in Canada), agreed to meet her to discuss Aboriginal rights. Speaking to Harmony King, one the organizers of the movement, she said:
“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. Somebody asked me if I was afraid to die. No, I’m not afraid to die. If that’s the journey for me I will go and I’m looking forward to it.”
Reading articles about this movement and especially the comments posted online has really demonstrated to me that racist and colonial attitudes towards indigenous people remain a pervasive problem in America and Canada. Ultimately, the problems which are being brought to light by the Idle No More movement are not only the problems of the indigenous people of Canada, or the problems of Canadians or Americans in general. These are problems we should all be concerned about, as citizens of this world.
If you want to learn more about this movement you can visit their website: http://idlenomore.ca/