After Completely Ignoring Them, Harper Agrees to Meet with First Nations Activists
Powered by passionate members of Canada’s First Nations, Idle No More is a movement currently gathering speed across Canada. The grassroots effort formed in response to the recent and troubling anti-environmental policies being championed by Prime Minister Harper in Canada’s government, and it may already be experiencing success.
The rights and desires of Canada’s indigenous peoples have been a constant point of controversy throughout the country’s history. Although there’s no reversing the official colonization of the country, Idle No More activists claim that the theft of their land continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. On December 10th, 2012, Canada’s First Nations joined together in solidarity to protest this ongoing violation of their sovereignty and the Planet.
From the group’s website:
All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities. We encourage youth to become engaged in this movement as you are the leaders of our future. There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals – Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals. We recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.
Although Idle No More is focused on widespread resistance, its formation was inspired by the recent passing of Omnibus bill C-45, which among other things, weakens Canada’s Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Indian Act. These changes make it easier to redesignate native reserve lands and strip environmental protection from thousands of lakes and rivers.
The fact that such irresponsible, industry-serving legislation was passed by those charged with acting in the best interests of all Canadians is troubling enough. But coupled with the fact that the government has completely omitted native groups out of talks/legislation that will directly affect their water and land, is beyond offensive.
In the past few weeks, protests, marches, and hunger strikes associated with Idle No More have captured headlines around the world. The pressure already seems to have had an impact on Prime Minister Harper. On January 4th, Harper announced that he would participate in a working meeting with a delegation of First Nations leaders coordinated by the Assembly of First Nations on January 11, 2013. According to Harper’s statement, the working meeting will focus on two areas flowing from the Gathering: the treaty relationship and aboriginal rights and economic development.
Despite this announcement, Idle No More has no plans of disbanding, even if the meeting goes well. According to the official website, “Idle No More activities will not stop until we reach our two goals: Indigenous sovereignty (Nation to Nation relationship) and protection of the land and water (Social and Environmental Sustainability). Once we reach these goals, we will continue to work to protect them. In essence, Idle No More is here to stay.”
Image via Idle No More/Aaron Paquette