THUNDER BAY – Editorial – At the Idle No More rally in Thunder Bay, one of the speakers said, “The seventh fire is lit”. The grassroots movement is likely to impact many of the directions between First Nations and provincial and federal governments over the coming months if not years.
The real question might be will the Prime Minister roast moose meat over it, or will he get burned?
Another speaker in Thunder Bay said, “We have had implied support from political parties in the past, and look at where we are today”. The movement may have people from opposition parties supporting it, but likely this movement is far more non-partisan than partisan. It is from the start looking like it is Aboriginal First. The problems that grassroots First Nations members face range from racism, poverty, unemployment, and what appears increasingly over time to be lots of words and little real action from governments.
There is support running across Canada, and it ranges from rallies, to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence starting a hunger strike to protest the implications of the plans by the federal government. However the movement is not targeting just the federal government. There were protesters at the Ontario Liberal Leadership Debate in Thunder Bay on Sunday.
The comment that there has been political support in the past from political parties and “look at where we are” is a serious statement. If you think about it, through the entire disgraceful Residential Schools issue, the Liberal Party was the government of the day. The apology issued to start to close the door on that sorry chapter in Canada’s history came through discussion between Jack Layton and Prime Minister Harper. While many have raised the former NDP Leader to near political sainthood status, it is likely that his efforts toward building that determination on the Residential Schools apology is likely his finest moment in his federal political career. I digress.
For First Nations youth, the Idle No More is awakening them via Social Media. They are getting and sharing information at a speed never seen before. Likely the federal and provincial politicians have little idea of how effectively Aboriginal youth are using the Internet. It is not as if they have never seen the youth use the power of the Internet before. Shannen’s Dream grew online from the small isolated community of Attawapiskat to the world stage. Shannen’s Dream was passed by the House of Commons in a rare vote where all MPs stood together.
What should be factored into this movement is that already there are participants stating that they are “prepared to lay down their lives for their people”. Erin Bottle in Thunder Bay made that statement in a quiet yet forceful voice. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has said exactly the same words as she plans a hunger strike.
The Canadian government in the minds of Aboriginal people ‘sown the wind’ and are about to ‘reap the whirlwind’. The depth of frustration is very apparent, and is not likely to be easily solved by mere words alone. The Conservative government is going to, if it hopes to build a solid relationship with Aboriginal people, start to engage more and listen more before acting.
Likely the seeds to this grassroots movement were watered into life with actions from the government to pass legislation, like the Clean Water Act. The legislation is great, it just doesn’t have the funding in place to be actually put in place according to Aboriginal leaders.
They were further sprung into life over what can only now be called the ham-fisted handling of the housing crisis in Attawapiskat. Think of it from the perspective of a year’s distance. The community calls for help over a housing crisis. The federal government sends in an accountant to fix it. Weeks go along in Parliament with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and others claiming there were ‘apparent financial problems’ and they were to get to the bottom of them. Then months later, with no audit performed, and not one piece of proof offered the Conservative’s pulled their manager without notice.
It remains an open wound for many.
Canada is likely over our continued treatment of our Aboriginal People, to get international black eyes. Solving the situation is likely to take some serious political work on the part of all parties, perhaps a committee of federal and provincial leaders who work together with Aboriginal leaders.
Seeking to solve the problems of today with the same approaches that are not working now is a sure path to failure and to what by this coming spring could be a ‘Canadian Spring’ with blockades of highways, railways, and widespread protests across the county.
It all comes down to making the right choices. One can hope that Prime Minister Harper is pragmatic enough to see the wisdom of making the right choices.
Content and News Director