Idle No More was founded by four women in Saskatchewan who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects First Nations people, but all Canadians.
The movement has been quickly building for nearly two months, with round dances, rallies and teach-ins taking place across the country. PSAC members have embraced the movement, attending events in Regina, Winnipeg and throughout the Prairies in support and solidarity.
PSAC members understand that this movement is about them, as well. It’s about all Canadians and building relationships to strengthen our country. The ideals that are underlying this movement are ones that we all can stand behind, including education, environmental protection, effective democracy, and solidarity.
At the heart of the Idle No More movement is education and building consciousness in all Canadians about inequality, injustice, and the environment. Through teach-ins, social media and events, we can empower Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to help shape the kind of future we all want for our country.
Though some of the issues can be complicated and the information sometimes overwhelming, we need to expand awareness. All Canadians need to learn and understand the issues, and help others understand them better, too. These are very human issues and this is a human story.
DEFENDING OUR DEMOCRACY
Bill C-45 legislated cuts that resulted in more than 2,000 PSAC Prairies members receiving notices that they could lose their jobs. But we weren't the only ones impacted by this sweeping legislation. The same omnibus budget bill also changed the Navigable Waters and Protection Act, the Indian Act and so much more. A good deal of the nearly 900 collective pages of legislation had nothing at all to do with the budget and will have a detrimental impact on the environment and the well being of all Canadians for generations to come. We are all affected by an irresponsible government with blatant disregard for worker's rights, Indigenous rights, environmental rights, and overall democracy.
Democracy is about hearing a wide range of voices and trying to build a path forward among them, and it ‘s only successful when well-informed people are engaged and make their voices heard. But this government isn’t interested in democracy. It has no time for consultation, or working together, or respecting proper parliamentary procedures. Instead, Harper wants to suppress debate and rush decisions through the back door.
PROTECTING OUR LANDS
The Idle No More movement is about pressuring government and industry to protect the environment, including water, air, land and all creation for future generations.
The Conservative’s hurried Bill C-45 through to stifle debate and deflect attention from the fact that this bill and other proposed legislation affects Indigenous people, as well as the lands, water and the rest of Canada.
This government is trying to pass various laws that enable them to sell off reserve lands to big companies who profit from our resources, with little care for our environmental standards. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned. Animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada because of this and like them, we cannot live without the land and water.
The Navigable Waters Protection Act has been changed to reduce its scope to less than one per cent of Canadian waters, providing quick development access to resource extraction industries, a great number of which operate on First Nations land. The changes to the Fisheries Act further undermines Canada's ecology and removes legal barriers to oil, pipeline and other developers, who will no longer be responsible for protecting the environment and habitat they damage.
What almost everyone carrying the Idle No More banner is calling for is meaningful consultation between the federal government and First Nations people. We need to look at ways to improve and rebuild our nations to nations relationship, by looking at how the problem began.
This is a big issue, and one that many Canadians don’t understand. There is a lot of racism, ignorance and fear around this issue––evidenced in the comments section of news articles about Idle No More. The movement aims to establish allies, build relationships and create understanding to help combat this.
There is a history of why poverty exists among Indigenous peoples in urban areas and on the reserves, it’s systemic, institutionalized and controlled by the Canadian state. The Indian Act, still used to this day as the main law to regulate the government’s relationship with First Nations peoples, is a colonial relationship that has kept Indigenous communities in poverty, prevented them from enjoying the benefits of traditional lands and resources, and excluded them from decisions that impact how their reserves are managed.
This government needs to work with Indigenous communities in a more fair and equitable way, instead of the colonial way it has become so accustomed to. That means giving up control over First Nations' lands and the undue influence it has on vulnerable communities. It’s also about rethinking what it means to build healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities
First Nations peoples have put this on the global radar, but now it’s up to all Canadians to keep the momentum moving forward. The people have been awakened and we must work collectively to secure the kind of future we want for future generations and ourselves.
Everyone can get involved in the Idle No More movement in their own way, and that will look different for everyone. It’s about bringing individual skills and strengths to help build the movement and change the consciousness of Canadians.
Make signs, participate in the days of action, and share photos through social media networks. The best way to visibly show solidarity is to attend rallies and participate in ceremonies in a respectful way.
Voice your opinions by contacting your MP, MLA and City Councilor, or by writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. You can also leave supportive comments on news articles or share your positive messages through social media.
Most importantly, get educated so that you can educate others, challenge stereotypes, and confront racism during this historic movement and for years to come.
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples
- Harper’s First Nation Termination Plan 2012
- The Idle No More official website
- YouTube, “Idle No More. - Priscilla Settee and Sheelah McLean mp4”
- The Tyee, “Eight Ways to Take Part in Idle No More”
- Public Service Alliance of Canada, “PSAC wants Bill C-45 opened up to public debate”
- YouTube, “Breaking Down the Indian Act with Russell Diabo”
- The Huffington Post, “Idle No More is not just an ‘Indian thing’”