THUNDER BAY – Idle No More has not been in the headlines as much as it was in January. There are likely many who feel that means the grassroots movement has worn itself out.
That would be to make a major mistake.
Quietly and in growing cases, effectively, Idle No More has been planning for more action.
Here in Thunder Bay, Idle No More shifted gears in January.
There have been many meetings hosted with a solid core of volunteers. Local organizers have been in communication with Idle No More founders and the overall planning and strategies are being co-ordinated.
Idle No More – Thunder Bay
The movement has offered support for protesters at Lakehead University here in the city who have been on a sleep-in protest outside the office of University President Brian Stevenson.
Additionally, the local Idle No More organizers have been hosting teach-in sessions across the region and here in Thunder Bay.
Indigenous people across Northwestern Ontario are standing up for their rights on a growing level. There is a solid base of frustration that many people from First Nations across the region feel in how they are perceived. Nishnawbe Aski Nation leaders are seeking to end the stereotyping that hampers opportunities for the people.
There are many ways that stereotyping harms the relationship between First Nations people and the rest of Thunder Bay. It can be as simple as landlords in the very tight apartment market not renting to Indigenous people, to employers choosing not to hire a person.
None of these moves would, in most cases be attributed to race by those making the decisions. However what many people seem to ignore is that people are talking more than ever.
Building and Re-building Relationships
Across Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario building, or in many cases re-building the relationships is a critical step forward. As Indigenous people realize their growing economic power, the decisions that they make are going to impact our region’s economy.
Politically, Idle No More can have an impact. Across Northwestern Ontario, there is an unrealized political resource in the voter turnout rates in Northern Reserve communities. In the Kenora riding, voter turnout in the North was extremely low. Thousands of voters stayed home on election day. Based on the voting trend in the North, incumbent MP Greg Rickford was re-elected only because the people in those northern communities didn’t vote.
Dryden Ontario recently hosted a hockey tournament with hundreds of players, coaches, and families coming from across the North to attend. The impact on the local economy was massive. Dryden Mayor Nuttall realizes the importance of building solid relationships and friendships with the people from across the North. Dryden hosted the hockey tournament after it had been held in Sioux Lookout for years.
In Thunder Bay, Mayor Keith Hobbs has also invested a great deal of political capital in building solid relationships with communities across the North.
Those are the moves that demonstrate leadership.
The hand of the past is racism
Stereotypes, racism and prejudice are the hands of the past. They belong in the past. Incidents of apparent racism in today’s ever connected world of viral social media can take what some might think are ‘funny’ incidents and harm our entire region’s reputation.
Our communities across the Northwest have to start embracing new, stronger and better relationships. To do anything else would be short-sighted and wrong.
Idle No More is continuing to grow in our region, and grow across Canada. It is establishing a solid footing based on teachings from the past with a solid eye to the future.
Idle No More
Idle No More state the movement “Has sparked an awakening of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples internationally in support for democracy, human rights and environmental protections. In three short months, the movement has succeeded in raising global consciousness through education, cultural resurgence, and democratic political activism. We have shaken the foundations of inequality in Canada, and invited communities to join in a movement for social and environmental justice. We now need many more people to stand with us”.
Social and environmental justice are goals we should all be striving for. Don’t you agree?
Content and News Director