How Shawn Atleo and Idle No More will benefit from divisions among the chiefs

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I wonder if some national Canadian journalists have ever given a thought to how social movements operate.

Over the past 24 hours, we've been treated to a steady stream of negative commentary about how the First Nations community is "divided" over its dealings with the federal government.

Some have speculated that the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, could be facing a mutiny because some chiefs refused to attend yesterday's meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The doom-and-gloom tone hints that this Idle No More movement might be on the rocks.

The reality is that when people work together to advance change, they will disagree over tactics and strategies.

And this can enhance the likelihood of success. That's because governments are often eager to negotiate with "more reasonable" people over the hotheads.

Smart leaders in social movements—and I include Atleo in this camp—will take advantage of this to gain concessions.

Mohandas Gandhi wouldn't have been as successful in the Quit India movement had it not been for violent freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Subhjas Chandra Bose.

The British knew that followers of Singh and Bose were willing to engage in armed struggle, so it was easier to deal with Gandhi and the Congress Party.

Similarly during the U.S. civil-rights movement, the existence of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers made the demands of Martin Luther King Jr. look reasonable in comparison. That enhanced King's standing in the eyes of the public and the mainstream politicians.

If there are divisions within the First Nations community, this could prove very useful to Atleo.

It's already gotten him and other chiefs a long meeting with the prime minister. And it's put aboriginal issues at the top of the national political and media agenda for the first time since the Oka crisis.

Social movements—and I include the more recent struggle for LGBT rights in this—are multsegmented entities swimming in a similar direction. They are often characterized by differences within.

These divisions can be beneficial if channelled properly. It's time that the national media recognized that there is enormous strength in diversity.

Atleo's position has been enhanced by the fact that some chiefs wouldn't meet with Harper.

He's going to be seen by the media, the public, and the government as the "good chief", just as Gandhi was the "reasonable" Indian leader and King was the "reasonable" African American leader.

Harper is smart enough to know that if he doesn't deal with Atleo, he'll likely face much bigger challenges from the Idle No More movement.

First Nations are making progress. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but that's always the case when people are bringing about major changes in any society.

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Ralph 'cleesemeek' Fulber

Jan 12, 2013 at 12:45pm

Harper doesn't represent all of Canada. No leader can. The difference between Atleo and Harper is that Harper rules as a bully for his camp while Atleo has a different function. The AFN is an advocacy group of extremely diverse interests and there is an obligation to fascilitate the expression and interests of all. It is not in our best interst to homogenize the political process but rather to encourage diversity, support dissent and bring as many people into the fold as the bus will hold.

West Van Guy

Jan 12, 2013 at 1:39pm

I’m going to propose something to all blood Indians in Canada. Since the Indian internal governments and councils rob rest of the Indians of millions/billions of dollars and continually fuel the ‘they are killing our culture and rights’ BS (just look at how the East Indians from India and Chinese come to these lands, become Canadian and also hold their beliefs and cultures close for the most part. It is not impossible and is possible without being given billions of dollars) we do things differently for generations coming and to maybe help all Canadians and Canada. Here it is – every true blood Indian is given a onetime payment for everything and anything of $1,000,000.00 and they agree to step away from the Indian Act, the special rights and become Canadian citizens (look at what the tsawwassen band signed in BC, very similar). All reserve lands are now free titled and divided equally amongst the living members to do as they wish individually as well as a community if they choose. Each person would be given basic financial planning and management training before the funds would be released so they would have the best chance at making the most of it. This would bridge the gap between all Canadians, Indians would have their culture and beliefs and be able to move forward with their lives free of the suppressive nature of the Indian Act and their own corrupt leaders/councils (for the ones that live on such reserves). I hope to one day live in a united Canada where we all are happy, prosperous and on the same page as much as possible with no outrageous land claims, protests or acts of terrorism under the laws all Canadians have to abide by. Change is needed on all sides though, here’s to an interesting 2013 I’m sure.

Stephanie McDowall

Jan 12, 2013 at 2:05pm

Atleo and all Native Bands need to keep in mind there is much interest on the part of this Government in dividing the First Nation's people. There is also a wish to instill negative views about First Nations amongst main stream Canadians. This Government does not wish to fairly share the resources that First Nations are entitled to. They want to ensure the Corporations reap the benefits and wealth from these resources. ...not Natives or the Canadian tax payers either. Bands mired in poverty has been deliberately caused as an attempt to drive the people off their land and into the cities where they are almost always discriminated against. Poor nutrition, poor health care, poor education will ensure those remaining on their lands will succumb to a form of "soft genocide" Don't believe for one moment Government policies have not been made with this in mind. It is time to call a spade a spade. Soft genocide is the name of the game. How can anyone with a grain of intelligence not recognize this......and it has been going on for the past century. Admit this and advocate to change things so that First Nations finally receive what they are entitled to. A fair and equitable agreement as to resources needs to be put in place.
Matters will soon change on Reserve land. The Provinces must come last re what they have been taking and what they now believe is their fair share and their right.
CANADA MUST LIVE UP TO THEIR TREATY AGREEMENTS. This has never been done.

DavidH

Jan 12, 2013 at 5:13pm

Gee, look at all the comments that Charlie deleted.

No, wait. You can't look at deleted comments.

Oh well. Free speech is fleeting.

Martin Dunphy

Jan 12, 2013 at 5:49pm

DavidH

Charlie didn't delete any comments. I did. Yours was, unfortunately, deleted because it was in response to a comment that had nothing to do with the article, was mistakenly posted, then removed.
Free speech had nothing to do with it; relevance did.
My apologies.

A guy on the rez

Jan 12, 2013 at 6:12pm

If there is no significant change in one year.....I`m going leave my homeland forever and never look back. Leave the land my people have lived on for thousands of years. I don`t want to live in a country where my people and I are living in poverty and oppressed. I cannot stand what has been happening to my people...yet there is nothing I can do. I will just leave everything I`ve known and leave this horrible country.....and never come back.

Aldc12

Jan 12, 2013 at 6:17pm

Maybe atleo has been bought out by the govt and his stance isn't quite inline with many other people. And perhaps because his stance is more inline with the govt, is why he is allowed so close to them. Ask him his stance on copper mining and fish farming in clayoquot sound?!

CMax

Jan 12, 2013 at 7:14pm

But INM is a peace movement, and that is still the essence. Obviously its just a political move to divide; it's using AFN who are just homeboys, to moreover usurp the real drive of native people and that's their voice. In other words its a false peace!

Jon S

Jan 12, 2013 at 7:16pm

And if the "reasonable Indian" publicly gloats that so much has been accomplished because Harper agreed to "high level discussions" (whatever that means) and proceeds to sell out First Nations in exchange for empty platitudes (and a future with the Conservatives), what then? Atleo is certainly no Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

Vancouver island boy

Jan 13, 2013 at 12:05am

United we stand divided we fall. Would the government rather have our people united or divided? Lets not forget the big picture!

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