What is #IdleNoMore?
On October 18, 2012 an ominous bill was first read in the Canadian Parliament. This bill, The Jobs and Growth Act 2012 (or Bill C-45 informally), was put together by the conservative party under direction from Prime Minister Harper. C-45 gained controversy for two reasons. First, the bill was over 450 pages long. And secondly, sections of the bill dealt with things unrelated to the actual purpose of the bill.
For example, part 4, section 8 of the bill is called “The Indian Act.” The so-called Indian Act is summarized like this: “Amends the Act to modify the voting and approval procedures in relation to proposed land designations.” “The act” it is referring to is Bill C-31. C-31 was passed in 1985 and – although not completely supported by First Nations—had been the standard to which the crown and Canada negotiated with First Nations.
Part 4 of C-45 stands to alter this regulation, ultimately taking away the right of First Nations to be involved in plans or negotiations about use of their lands. Parliament word can be the end-all-be-all. Also, Bill C-45 overhauled the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) of 1882, renaming it the Navigation Protection Act (NPA). The NWPA had mandated an extensive approval and consultation process before construction of any kind could take place in or around any water which could in principle be navigated by any kind of floating craft. This is very important to nations that still travel by waterway. But there is even more to this “alteration.”
Under the new NPA, the approval process would only be required for development around one of a very delimited list of waterways set by the Minister of Transportation. Many of the newly deregulated waterways pass through traditional First Nations land.
While the NWPA had originally been intended to facilitate actual navigation, the ubiquitousness of waterways in the Canadian wilderness has given it the effect of strong environmental legislation by presenting a significant barrier to industrial development of any kind. This was applied especially to projects such as pipelines which crossed many rivers and into indigenous territory.
The government had by this time been engaged for some years in a campaign for approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, a proposal to build a pipeline for connecting the Athabasca tar sands with the Pacific Ocean, facilitating unprocessed bitumen exports to China. The Enbridge and Keystone XL have been widely protested. Now C-45 and P.M. Stephen Harper looked to undermine those protections, as well as many other provisions.
Many people feel this was an deliberate act of greed on behalf of the Canadian government, while also veiling an attack on First Nations. Some believe this is a “raping of our Mother Earth through legislation.” Bill C-45 passed in December 2012. The Idle No More movement has listed 10 such bills as having direct effect on First Nations.
On December 11, 2012, Chief Theresa Spence declared a hunger strike. Her hunger strike consists of a liquid diet of sips of lemon water, medicinal teas, and fish broth. These provide basic nutrients. She said, “I will die for my people.” She engaged in this hunger strike in attempts to shed light on the economic status of First Nations and her people, the Attawapiskat. Mass media has been critical of her strike. Canada is still suffering from the effects of their “Jim Crow” type laws. Effigies of First Nations people have been burned in protest of her and the Idle No More movement. (For more on this read any comment section under Idle No More news links.)
Shortly after Chief Spence began her strike, people began doing acts of direct action in solidarity. At first it took the form of flash mobs. Someone quickly coined the name Idle No More as a hashtag via Twitter. The movement grew quickly. Road blocks were formed. Marches were held. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Harper left the country. He apparently cared very little about this issue. Chief Spence released a statement saying she would continue her hunger strike until P.M. Harper met with a delegation of First Nations representatives.
After two weeks of her strike and growing direct actions, Harper proposed a meeting on January 11, 2013. Idle No More had become a social media-led movement. Immediately a call to action was released. #IdleNoMore had become a worldwide movement. #J11 came. The meeting fell through. Chief Spence continues her strike.
What does this have to do with you? You don’t live in Canada. You may not have indigenous blood.
Soon after its inception, the movement took a turn. Originally the movement was over C-45 and bills like it. Rallies and marches began to see an underlying reality. This isn’t just an indigenous issue. This is a civil, human, and environmental rights message.
Governments the world over are continually, blatantly, showing their real interest. It is in their pockets. Using Indian lands without consent is bad enough. Add the fact that it is obviously being done for the gain of a few, so they can make money excavating, pumping, and transporting harmful substances. One of the last hopes in blocking such pipelines is the First Nations. Now, Canada can bypass them.
This sort of action sets a precedent to other governments the world over. Not only are direct actions in solidarity but they now allow people a stage for their testimonies of injustice. (Police brutality, economic justice, civil rights, clean energy, etc.)
The next #IdleNoMore Global Day Of Action is January 28, 2013, not long from today. A solidarity event is scheduled from 12pm to 5pm in between the museums in downtown Raleigh. We plan to show our solidarity with #EnbridgeNoMore and to bring attention to the proposed mining of uranium in Virginia. Studies show mining will effect the waterways of North Carolina heavily. A short amount of research shows that NC stands to profit from lifting the current uranium mining ban in the state.
For the aboriginal tribes of Virginia and North Carolina, this movement gives us a voice we haven’t had before. YOUR VOICE CAN BE HEARD! The land is our Mother. She is/can/will be perpetually sold off and poisoned for profit. We can stop this. This is our time to talk about institutionalized racism. Lack of Federal Recognition. Acquisition of Indian land. Poverty. Lies.
#IdleNoMore press releases always say some form of this: THIS IS NOT JUST AN INDIAN THING! IT IS A HUMAN THING!
For more information on #IdleNoMore: