More than 1,500 rallied in Edmonton, Alberta, alone, according to CTV News. (Photo: CTV News)

Idle No More Rallies Sprout Across Canada, Invigorating Grassroots

David P. Ball
12/11/12

Thousands of people across Canada took to the streets for International Human Rights Day on December 10, launching a grassroots effort for Native rights and recognition in the face of controversial federal budget legislation.

Taking up the banner “Idle No More”– a slogan launched by four Saskatchewan women for local events last month – the rapid spread of loosely organized protests were seen by many as a sign that Indian country is mobilizing against government policies. Rallies took place in several dozen cities, towns and reserves, in most provinces across the country.

Tanya Kappo, an Edmonton, Alberta friend of the four women behind the movement, coined the #IdleNoMore hashtag, which trended in popularity on Twitter across Canada.

“Yesterday was about making space for First Nation people to find their voices again and use them in protection of our lands and waters,” Kappo told Indian Country Today Media Network. “It was beautiful to hear our voices raised, our songs sung, and our drums ring out loudly and echo across the country (...) from coast to coast to coast.”

On the West Coast city of Vancouver, B.C., several hundred people rallied downtown, led by Native education students at a local college. One of the speakers addressing the crowd was Kat Norris, spokesperson for the Indigenous Action Movement.
 
“I'm quite amazed and very pleased, as an activist, to see this happen,” Norris told ICTMN. “Our people are coming together. This is something prophesied since time immemorial, that our people would come together. There's a lot of concern over (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper's plans to change a lot of things – taking away a lot of rights from our people, especially as regards our waterways and changes to the Indian Act.”

Demonstrators took particular umbrage with the omnibus bill being voted on this week by the Conservative federal government, as well as other changes to the Indian Act they say were undertaken without consulting aboriginal people.

Bill C-45, the government's omnibus budget implementation bill, contains hundreds of legislative reforms, including changes to land management on reservations which critics say would enable Canada to control reserves. According to Kappo, changes include “drastically lowering the threshold of consent for community's to designate or surrender lands.”

The bill also alters the Indian Act – long under fire from aboriginal activists and allies as an example of modern discrimination – and lowers environmental protection for waterways. It is the second omnibus budget bill to follow from this spring's federal budget; the first one gutted the Fisheries Act, which critics warn endangers marine habitat and traditional livelihoods.

“It is more than Bill C-45,” Kappo said. “There [is] more than a handful of legislation that the current government expects to pass that will affect the lives of people who live in communities in a very real way—and not to their benefit—contrary to what the government is saying.”

Norris said the omnibus bill “really forces the assimilation process,” while the Assembly of First Nations released a statement alleging the reforms may go even further: toward the outright “termination” of aboriginal rights altogether.

“First Nation peoples stand united to reject assimilation and termination policies, processes or legislation imposed by other governments to harness the energy of our peoples, to seize this moment as the time for change, and to act now for our peoples based on our clear rights and responsibilities,” said an AFN statement.

“All the changes are quite ominous,” Norris said. “Everything is so detailed—there's a lot of information to glean through. Now, with these new laws being implemented, we're going backwards in time; we're not going forward at all. As we're trying to gain independence, as we try to learn what our rights are, then Harper goes and kicks us in the head again.”

The cross-country rallies came the same day as the announcement of a hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence. The federal government seized financial control over her reserve last winter, after she declared a state of emergency over abysmal housing conditions and poverty. She insisted she will refuse food until a meaningful meeting takes place between between Harper, First Nations, and a representative of the Queen, in hopes of resetting the relationship between Canada and aboriginal people.

Norris described the rally in Vancouver, B.C. as a good example of new energy in Indian country—particularly young people.

“It was a great turnout,” Norris said. “What I noticed was that there were so many young people, and so many people who had never come out to a rally before. So many people are realizing the enormity of loss for our people should this act go through, and are seeing the reality of what the Harper government is doing to our people.”

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
It's wonderful to see so many peoples turn out for these rallies. It's long overdue exposing the policy changes Invader's government's that are trying to STILL make we First Nations people disappear & be absorbed into their culture. The lies have got to be exposed for all to see just what a evil thing is trying to be done to we native peoples. Turtle Island is for ALL peoples regardless of how many or how few a group of people are. We ALL have to help keep Mother Earth healthy. Stop the greed of these Invaders. They are destroying this world just so they can become more wealthy. These evil ones do not care that their destruction of the earth, water, air & the very foods we eat is ruined as well. When these areas being destroyed for greed then who will want to live in those areas? Who will want to drink the water that is now poisoned? Who will want to eat what is now poisoned? No one!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Stand Strong, and tall, for now your voices have been heard thru all standing together as One..Blessings to All of you...Nai'a

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Yes, Thank you for coming together. Indian Nations all over it is time to come together and stand together for what is ours, to take back what has been abused and not taken care of. This is our homeland, it is our country, we live and breathe here. Our lives are sacred through our spiritual ways and spiritual land, nothing can ever change what we have been give by the creator. Many prayers to all native people for strength and unity to protect above, middle, below, our country and all living things. Ha Ho.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Give a SHOUT-OUT to the MOUNTAIN TOPS!!!!!! in representation of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence. Help your Northern Brothers and Sisters Represent!!!!!

Della Boyle
Della Boyle
Submitted by Della Boyle on
If it was not for us.the native americans the white people would not survive the seasons and their chauges.people need to REMEMBER that we have a right to our tribal lauds. even if we are mixed and /or never lived there before. from baby mockingbird

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Our people have never been idle, but when we get pushed to the brink as the Feds repreadly trying to diminish our rights as they do every few years, it is good to see grassroots unity to fight against this.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
i am a white, anglo person and i whole heartedly support Idle no more here and around the globe!! I am fed up with the governments around the world treating indigenous folks like garbage, citizens like garbage and Nature like garbage. no more to the greed of the 1% and there brutal policies. Crystal

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
As a long time conservationist, I have formed the mighty groups of Green Peace, Sierra Club and others...but big government has big money to continually fight us "tree huggers".... So we rejoice in the true First Nations standing in front of the group and reminding us all, that none of us will survive if we do not take care and action for Mother Earth.....

Jim longbottom's picture
Jim longbottom
Submitted by Jim longbottom on
I guess we should start by cleaning up our reserves, it’s fine to say let’s take care of nature and all but lets look at our back yard first. we can’t make no changes till people can see we can make a difference. No one will take us seriously because we can’t clean up our own mess right now and the chiefs take all our money to go on these trips, stay in high end hotels and eat very well , wile the rest of us suffer.
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