My fellow Non-Aboriginal Canadians (henceforth to be referred to, for the sake of simplicity, as “Settler-Canadians”) can be forgiven for not yet appreciating that this country is in the midst of a revolution. Indeed, it would seem that the Settler Media has gone out of its way to downplay the recent spate of protests and online activity amongst First Nations people, going by the has tag #IdleNoMore; the Globe and Mail in particular (Canada’s somewhat laughably self-declared “National Newspaper,”) has included nary a mention of ongoing mass protests against the Government in every major Canadian city in its print edition–an echo of its shameful attempt to bury the Robocall scandal a few months ago.
Right now, this movement is still small enough that the media can get away with ignoring it. This is not going to last; the protestors have cleverly taken to demonstrating in major shopping centres, knowing that that’s where the people are likely to be found this close to Christmas, and this movement is not like Oka, or any other standoff that has taken place between First Nations and the Federal Government over the past twenty years. This is not a territorial dispute over some parcel of land; this is a challenge to the entire system of Colonialism in Canada over the past one hundred and thirty years, which has been brought to a head by Harper’s recent attempts to underhandedly crush treaty rights and environmental protections with his vile new “omnibus budget bills.” Moreover, #IdleNoMore is no mere fad; there are people who are willing to stake their lives on achieving its objectives, among them Chief Theresa Spence of the Attiwapiskat First Nation, who has been hunger-striking in the Ottawa cold since December 11th, demanding to meet with the Prime Minister. Stephen Harper, true to sociopathic form, has declined. If Chief Spence dies, then it seems very likely that things may become ugly, and do so very fast.
That’s why I’m writing this entry now; I am writing it, first of all, in the hopes that things do not become ugly, but also in the knowledge that if they do, the Settler Media will suddenly start paying attention. And if the media behaves true to the Harperite spin it has exhibited in recent years, there is no reason to expect that it will be broadcasting the complete story. I suspect, in fact, that Harper is counting on this; that he is planning to deliberately let Chief Spence starve to death in order to provoke such ugliness, knowing that doing so will discredit the movement amongst the Settler mainstream; a few pictures of rioting Natives in the streets, and then he can just let our ignorance and racism do the rest.
So as a sort of Public Service Announcement for my fellow Settler Canadians, I am going to say this: #IdleNoMore is not our enemy. There is nothing threatening about any of #IdleNoMore’s goals or objectives, and it is very important that we not be decieved if things do get ugly.
Anyone who is skeptical is encouraged to read the movement’s own literature: on the second page of their pamphlet, you will find a list of the stated aims of their movement. I have paraphrased their demands as follows:
1) That the Government of Canada acknowledge its responsibility for all of the horrible things that it has done to Aboriginal people since the Indian Act was enacted.
2) That the Government of Canada respect its own Constitution and all of the treaties that it has ever signed and therefore acknowledge the sovereignty of First Nations (which presumably includes either the repeal or the Indian Act or its radical redesign
3) That the Government of Canada should allow Reserves to take charge of their own laws and economic development; essentially, that they be allowed to operate like every other town and city in Canada, without needing to have the Federal Government breathing down their neck to approve new developments.
4) That the Government of Canada provide financial assistance to First Nations to facilitate their economic development, with this assistance falling off as self-sufficiency is gradually attained.
5) That the Government of Canada stop trying to put up legal barriers to prevent Natives from accessing their treaty rights.
These demands, if enacted, would constitute a radical redesign of the relationship between Ottawa and First Nations; I hope that will you agree with me, though, that none of them are particularly onerous.
Not particularly onerous, that is, unless you are planning to abuse Prime Ministerial authority in order to confiscate land for corporate interests.