Daniel Tseghay: Idle No More revolution deserves support

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      “I knew then I was watching the beginning of a revolution,” wrote NDP MP Charlie Angus, reflecting on the first day of Chief Theresa Spence’s her hunger strike. Since December 10, as the cold winds lay siege on the teepee in which she’s residing not far from Parliament Hill, Spence hasn’t eaten. She wants to talk with Stephen Harper about what troubles her people. “I am not afraid to die,” Spence has said. “If that’s the journey for me to go, then I will go.”

      She’s not alone in her fight. December 21 marked the Idle No More day of action across Canada. From the West to the East Coast, people are marching, singing, and hitting drums. Roughly 400 hundred protesters shut down a road in Edmonton. Despite the major snow storm in Ottawa, hundreds descended upon Parliament Hill. On Sunday afternoon, about 500 gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. There were 25 speakers, the Oceanside Dakota drum group played, and there were four Jingle Dress dancers.

      Together, they’re protesting their mistreatment. “We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power,” former prime minister Paul Martin recently said, referring specifically to the First Nations.

      Last week, Amnesty International Canada released a report entitled Matching International Commitments with National Action: A Human Rights Agenda for Canada. The report notes that “the fundamental right to water within First Nations communities continues to be cavalierly disregarded across the country.” Most of the water and sewage systems used by First Nations are contaminated, “with 39% of systems having major deficiencies that potentially threaten human health and the environment.” Over a hundred aboriginal communities have tap water unsafe enough that it has to be boiled—which is incredible in a country with the world’s largest supply of fresh water. Their land and resource rights are going unrecognized and unprotected. If the Enbridge pipeline receives approval, for instance, it “would lead to pipeline construction across roughly 1000 rivers and streams in the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples in Alberta and British Columbia; the transport of bitumen, oil and industrial chemicals over these territories and through coastal waters vital to other Indigenous nations; and ultimately contribute to increased demand for oil sands extraction on Indigenous territories in Alberta.” A fifth of our country’s prison inmates are aboriginal people, even though they make up only about three percent of the population. And the list of social ills runs on.

      The omnibus budget bill C-45 recently withdrew the protection of waterways and helps sell reserve lands without consultation. “When corporate profit is privileged over the health of our lands and waters, we all suffer,” wrote Jeff Denis, assistant professor of sociology at McMaster University. “When government stifles debate, democracy is diminished. Bill C-45 is just the latest in a slew of legislation that undermines Canadians’ rights. In standing against it, the First Nations are standing for us too.”

      In response, the government has ignored Spence and the movement, and has chosen to instead shift blame, claiming that the poor conditions on First Nations lands is due to the corruption and mismanagement of their leaders. This is untrue. Their communities are subject to strict accounting and control by the federal government. “Many people seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that First Nations have self-governance and run themselves freely,” wrote Chelsea Vowel. “Most First Nations have to get permission before they can spend money....Bands are micromanaged to an extent unseen in nearly any other context that does not involve a minor or someone who lacks capacity due to mental disability.” The narrative of entitled, wasteful freeloaders is borne of little more than prejudice and the unwillingness of the government to accept responsibility.

      The Idle No More movement and Theresa Spence’s courageous stand should be taken seriously and supported by all Canadians. In the face of such deafening governmental indifference, their struggle for respect and recognition, livable conditions, and the possibility of a better future, speaks to the power of peaceful revolution.




      Dec 24, 2012 at 2:24pm

      Idle No More has taken the first stand and is leading the way. Now the rest of Canada needs to stand with them and make these wrong right for all of us. If we don't do it now, then Harpper wins and it will only get worse. Stand up Canada and be heard.


      Dec 24, 2012 at 8:03pm

      I believe every Canadian should support The Idle No More revolution.

      It seems the timing, however, is very challenging. Getting the message out and communicating to draw in support during Christmas activities may fall , largely, on distracted ears.

      Our PM is one person who should respond in some sincere way. He will not. Don't expect him to change his demeaner: that of an Icicle. Harper is politically cold-hearted, even at Christmastime.

      Instead, it is more important for him to pander to the First Nations vote, ie - a Commemorative coin promoted in TV commercials. So very pathetic and sad, it seems to me.

      Chief Theresa Spence cares so very deeply for the plight of First Nations People; there can be no doubt.

      I am Red River Metis. If I could meet with Chief Spence I would plead with her to save her life for her people and live to fight another day.

      I would tell her "Please don't waste away waiting for a cold-hearted politician like Mr. Harper. He is definitely not worth it. "

      Chief Spence's leadership is principled. Our PM's leadership is unprincipled, I believe it is fair to say.

      My Christmas message to Chief Spence: "Live to lead. People need you." [Prime Minister Harper? ...not so much.]

      Michael W. Gerson

      Dec 24, 2012 at 10:46pm

      The soft bigotry of low expectations...

      Arthur Marriott

      Dec 25, 2012 at 11:25am

      Most people don't care if the "chief" starves herself to death ... its time to make all people equal .. and dismantle the reserve system ... treaties are not going to be "honored" the way the FN envision... and the minor social unrest will do little to change that ... I mean ... geez .. look at what Occupy Wall St. got accomplished ... lol ... nuthin .... well .. a lot of press.. but that's about it...


      Dec 25, 2012 at 10:30pm

      Idle No more has blocked the C.N.R. rail for 5 days in Ont. The railway is likely just rerouting it around on the C.P. tracks so maybe it's time to block the C.P. main line also. Then it will causing a back log of freight. Then maybe Harper will take notice that the people mean business and he may sit down and talk.

      Rob Viereck

      Dec 26, 2012 at 11:37am

      ...it is completely appropriate that the most oppressed people in our society are leading the way... they have lost the most and still have the most to lose... until a realization occurs that the concerns of indigenous people coincide with the concerns of the majority of people in Canada and the middle class of all regions decides to support them in their cause because they see that it is to their benefit... nothing will change...

      J Sturdy

      Dec 26, 2012 at 10:09pm

      Willing to support them, but how?