Idle No More lives on

Hello again everyone!

For the past couple posts, I have been addressing a social movement that I believe is very for Canadians to know about. The ‘Idle No More’ movement began in 2012 in protest of the Conservative Canadian government. Now it is six years later, and the movement remains more prevalent than ever. Although we may not see this hashtag as often as we did a few years back, we see its effects. The movement have got people angry, which is a good thing. Indigenous discrimination and marginalization is nothing new, and it is still a huge issue in Canada, but less and less are tolerating it. More and more Indigenous individuals have found their voice thanks to the ‘Idle No More’ movement, and they’re vocalizing their woes and complaints, and the harmful injustices they face.

With Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation last year, there was a lot of debate and discussion on what this date really commemorated. I myself did not end up celebrating, and I chose not to after seeing an art exhibit called Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience. It was created by a Cree artist named Kent Monkman who created the exhibit as a response to the Canada 150 celebrations. He showed what Canadians were really celebrating, and he showed how Indigenous are living in present day urban areas, but also how they were treated during the height of colonialism. This exhibit was the most powerful thing I had ever seen, and I continue to think of it daily.

Also, leading up to July 1st, I saw many posters and flyers around my neighbourhood in Toronto with an upside-down black maple leaf and the words “Colonialism 150.” This eerie mirroring of government-issued anniversary branding was a form of social marketing that really got me. One day as I was walking, I even stopped and took a picture of this poster stapled to a pole, and shared it with my 200 Snapchat friends. I too wanted to pass on this message; and I agreed with it. I thought to myself, “Yeah, what are we celebrating? What is so great about Canada? What does 150 years really mean?”

In 2018, there have already been numerous heavily publicized injustices against Indigenous. Two Indigenous youths, Coulten Boushie and Tina Fontaine were murdered a couple years ago, and in 2018, both of their murderers were acquitted. There was significant evidence against their murderers, but alas when a white person murders an Indigenous one, justice is not served. This was a major failing of the Canadian justice system, and once again we are hearing the cries and yells from Indigenous communities, just as we should.

There are numerous Indigenous activists, teachers, and lobbyists who are still actively fueling the movement, and fighting for Indigenous sovereignty. Following the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and even the death of famed Canadian musician, Gord Downie, there has also been a lot of talk regarding reconciliation and solidarity with Indigenous communities. Both men were and continue to be advocates for reconciliation, and towards the end of Downie’s life, most of his efforts went to support Indigenous communities.

A movement such as ‘Idle No More’ can come in waves, and can come in different forms, and this is what I believe is happening. While in 2012 and 2013, most of the discourse was on environmental exploitation, we are now hearing social exploitation as the focus of Indigenous issues. One this though is for sure, Indigenous communities are not being idle, and neither am I, and neither should you.

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Solidarity and Sovereignty

Blog Post 2:

 

Hey guys!

So in my previous post I introduced a social movement I have been actively researching, and a movement I deem very important in Canada’s current political and social climate. The ‘Idle No More’ movement was introduced to me in school, and I have discussed its implications and complexities with friends and family.

The movement is primarily based on teach-ins, protests, and rallies all over the country aimed to establish a nation to nation relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, and so ensure environmental and social sustainability. The movement especially opposed resource extraction or exploitation, and many of the rallies and protests that are under the ‘Idle No More’ movement resist pipelines, roads, deforestation, the building of factories, etc. These are both environmental and social issues for Indigenous communities, as it violates their visions of their land, and jeopardizes their intended uses for the land, but it also disregards their rights to the land and their wishes. The Canadian government blatantly prioritizes profits and economic opportunities over the rights of First Nations.

I think it is so humbling and amazing that our Indigenous neighbours protest and rally in peaceful ways, despite all the pain and suffering the Canadian government has caused them. The ways in which they resist are by doing hunger strikes (as mentioned in my previous blog post), by doing flash mobs of traditional Indigenous dances, and by simply living in their own ways. By this I mean that when the Canadian government wanted access to Anishinaabe land for logging purposes, the community members created blockade by gathering to protest while consequently displaying what the land means to the activists through celebration and day to day activities; this land was a space to come together as a united nation, practice one’s cultures and traditions, and appreciate the spiritual components of the land.

The ‘Idle No More’ movement gained international recognition and support, and many influential people stood by the movement. Individuals such as Naomi Klein, Sarah Slean, and Maude Barlow even gave back their Queen Elization II Diamond Jubilee Medals to show they do not support the Canadian government and its actions against First Nations communities.

Also, there were supportive movements and protests done in the U.S.A, the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, and Egypt. These protests outside of Canada were done in support of the Canadian ‘Idle No More’ movement, but also to highlight their own Indigenous and government issues.

While I support ‘Idle No More,’ a critique of the movement is that it is too broad and not focused enough. When I heard this critique from conservative senator Patrick Brazeau, I couldn’t help but agree to some extent, and when I was first researching the movement, the lack of definition of the movement made things unclear to me. Was this why I knew so little about the movement prior to my third-year university course?

With the main vision and goal of the movement as “all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water,” the true intent or measurables of the movement can be open to interpretation, and many allies are unfortunately not aware of what Indigenous sovereignty looks like. The movement could definitely be restructured in another way so to get more people involved. The main website of the ‘Idle No More’ movement even says it wants to gain more allies so “to reframe the nation to nation relationship, [and] this will be done by including grassroots perspectives, issues, and concern.”

The outcomes of the movement are very individual and specific. There will not be an overall goal met, but rather small victories for Indigenous communities. As I mentioned before, the Anishinaabe were successful in preventing the logging road, which was a great achievement for that one community. It is one small step towards the greater issues of overall sovereignty for Canadian Indigenous peoples.

It is also important though not to put my Western, white views on this, and maybe the First Nations communities involved with the protests and the movement are content with their way of projecting their messages and beliefs. Maybe there are reasons for certain reservations against specific tactics. This is not my movement, but it is something I would happily and passionately support. What do other people think about this ongoing movement?

 

Willow, A. J. (2011), Conceiving Kakipitatapitmok: The Political Landscape of Anishinaabe Anticlearcutting Activism. American Anthropologist, 113: 262–276.

Canadian Development matters too!

Hello bloggers!

Last term I had to take a mandatory course for my International Development degree called Development Agents, which explored the interrelationships between organizations, institutions, agencies, and individuals that are involved in development activity. This class covered many different topics, such as cities with troubled dynamics, social media as a channel for social movements, and how native populations are portrayed and seen as wayward. This “unruly natives” unit showed me many new perspectives, and I was exposed to a social movement called the ‘Idle No More’ movement. This movement is a peaceful protest that aims to protect and honour Indigenous sovereignty, land, and water, and it was founded, and primarily based in Canada.

I recall seeing the hashtag #IdleNoMore around, and I had heard this phrase before, but before this class I never knew what it was or what it meant, (a clear illustration of my white privilege). This movement did not directly affect me, and so when I heard it on the rare occasion, I did not feel the need to research it or even inquire about it. It was not until this class last term that I was finally required to learn about what ‘Idle No More’ meant. When I sat down to write a paper on Indigenous resistance against the Canadian government, I felt ashamed and embarrassed when I had to look up what ‘Idle No More’ was, where is began and why, and what it meant. I wanted to be a responsible and caring Canadian citizen, and an ally to Indigenous peoples, but ignoring their pleas and only focusing on my own issues is not responsible or caring. When I did look up what this movement was, I made sure to know everything about it. I looked up the background and history of the movement so to be sure I did not once again fail my Indigenous Canadians and First Nations; I did not want to give a cursory glance at what the movement was.

I think the Idle No More movement deserves more attention and a bigger spotlight in Canadian culture and media.

This movement began in 2012 in response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government’s proposal of Bill C-45. This bill proposed major changes to existing acts that affected the Indigenous population, such as the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the Navigable Water Protection Act. The proposed amendments to the Indian Act would give the government authority to surrender First Nation land whenever they wished, ultimately revoking any control and sovereignty the Indigenous had. Further, the bill dropped the number of protected waterways in Canada from 2.8 million to 100, and it wants to privatize reserve lands. Foreign and direct investors are looking to make profits off of Indigenous land. This is a direct violation of treaties, and of the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

To protest and resist these unjust proposals of the omnibus bill, a brave and fierce chief of Attiwapiskat named Theresa Spence declared a hunger strike. She said she wouldn’t stop her strike until Prime Minister Harper “sit down and talk about Canada’s treaty relationship with First Nations leadership.” Her six-week hunger strike gained national recognition and media attention, and it helped propel the ‘Idle No More’ movement all throughout the country. Strikes in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, etc. occurred with the goal of getting provincial, regional, and municipal government attention on the issue of Indigenous sovereignty.

The ‘Idle No More’ movement relies on social media and grassroots organizations to self-organize and self-educate so to learn and understand about Indigenous rights and responsibilities.

I’m so glad I looked into the Idle No More movement, and since learning about what the movement is fighting against, I have taken it upon myself to be a better ally to the Indigenous communities in Canada. It is not up to them to do all the heavy lifting and hard work in trying to regain sovereignty and their rights. And they should not have to educate white people about their hardships and discriminations, it is up to me to educate myself and educate other white Canadians about the injustices happening around us. I will be discussing the Idle No More movement in my next two blog posts, as I believe I have a civic and social duty to articulate the movement’s message, and make the injustices in Canadian policy-making known. Thanks for reading, and I hope whoever is reading this also does their own research on Bill C-45 and the ‘Idle No More’ movement, and what it is protesting and how you too can help with the movement.

Until next time!

Emma

“Idle No More’s Vision.’ Official Idle No More Website. Retrieved April, 1, 2018.

Smith, Teresa (December 26, 2012). “Justin Trudeau meets with hunger striking chief Theresa Spence”. National Post. Retrieved April 1, 2018