THUNDER BAY – Editorial – The federal Conservatives appear to have not taken Aboriginal protests very seriously. Across Canada, and reaching across the world, the Idle No More movement is gaining momentum. The Conservatives are looking very hamfisted in figuring out how to handle the situation.
There was an Idle No More sign showing up on CNN during their New Years Eve show from Time’s Square. There have been Round Dances at Mall of America, outside embassies, consulates and on the streets across North America. There are supporting protests in London in Great Britain, in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.
What is the real problem?
The Prime Minister remains unwilling to meet with Chief Theresa Spence.
The Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Duncan along with other federal ministers are trying hard to convince the Attawapiskat Chief to halt her protest. Those pleas are falling on deaf ears.
The federal government is having a great deal of apparent difficulty in figuring out exactly how to deal with Chief Spence, Idle No More, and with the leaders of Aboriginal organizations. The government is in some ways perhaps learning the hard way that a grassroots movement in the era of social media moves at a speed faster than they can.
[sws_pullquote_left] The Conservatives are getting a crash course, and failing it, in how fast social media works as a communications tool [/sws_pullquote_left]
What the government is seeing as well is that people who, in many cases have never been political, are now getting political, and many for the very first time in their lives. That political freshness means that people are going to do things and move on things immediately.
The passion of Idle No More is hitting full force on the Prime Minister who is looking un-emotional, and dispassionate. The contrast to youth across Canada stating that they are fighting for their future is a stark one. It is one that political strategists should be telling the Conservative Party to get this issue out off of the front page and dealt with.
Many Aboriginal people are viewing the actions, not the words of the federal government and judging them on their actions. The federal Conservatives have taken the potential of solid political capital and tossed it under the bus.
Across many national news websites, the comments from Conservative supporters are coming across intolerant. While some media coverage is balanced, there is some that is a little over the top. That is to be expected.
For the Conservatives, likely they will view the Idle No More movement as another movement fueled by people from the political left.
At some of the events, especially early on, support from labour organizations had been front and centre. Over the past several weeks, the Round Dances by flash mobs at shopping malls, the efforts along roadways, and the blockades at roadways and railways have been far more grassroots based.
Idle No More is catching on with more and more Canadians. The Conservatives by their continued inaction are showing themselves as less interested in doing what they have promised at the Crown First Nation Gathering last year. While many felt that the Harper Government was not likely to be soft on the issue, most likely didn’t expect they would be so heartless either.
Idle No More, when it started, likely was seen by the Conservatives as not growing legs. Today, over two months since the grassroots movement started, it is growing faster than ever. For the Conservatives, having tried to ignore Idle No More, catching up might be almost impossible.
The Prime Minister is now boxed into a fight where he can not win. If he meets with Chief Spence now, he won’t gain any sympathy or support from Aboriginal groups. If he doesn’t as time goes along he shows himself as a heartless leader without empathy.
It is a sure recipe for political action. The longer the PM and the Conservatives sit back, the more the Idle No More movement grows.
The Conservatives could have ended this months ago, and now it is out of his hands. For a leader who prides himself on having control, that in itself must be very frustrating to the Conservatives.
It was their choice. Now the smart move would be settling the issue.