Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

IDLE NO MORE: WHY ALL CANADIANS MUST SUPPORT THIS MOVEMENT

Posted by strattof on January 3, 2013

THE BACKGROUND

Idle No More began in Saskatchewan, the idea of 4 women – 3 Indigenous and 1 non-Indigenous. Concerned about the implications of the Harper government’s second omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45, they wanted to educate their fellow citizens. 

So, in November 2012, they held a teach-in at Saskatoon’s Station 20, calling the session Idle No More.

Under Indigenous leadership, Idle No More quickly became a fully fledged political movement, demanding change from the federal government. Adopting an array of non-violent creative actions, including rallies, protest marches, flash mobs, and round dances, it has spread from coast to coast to coast – and beyond.

Idle No More is supported by Indigenous communities and leaders, the environmental movement, some national unions, including the Postal Workers Union of Canada, as well as many non-Indigenous Canadians. It calls for justice for all peoples in Canada.

STANDING UP FOR DEMOCRACY

Idle No More started as a response to the Harper government’s second omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45. An omnibus bill is a proposed law that packages together a number of different bills or measures into one piece of legislation to be accepted in a single vote.

Omnibus bills are not illegal. However, if an omnibus bill is lengthy and puts together many unrelated measures, it becomes an affront to and an assault on democracy. 

Bill C-45 is 457 pages long and combines 60 different measures. As a result, MPs – not to mention ordinary Canadians – will have had difficulty knowing what is in the bill. The scale and scope of the bill also means that the measures were not subject to the usual detailed clause-by-clause analysis by committees or parliament.

In short, omnibus bills, such as Bill C-45, are a stealthy way to slip legislation past the Canadian public and to force it unscrutinized through parliament. 

PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

Bill C-45 radically alters the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canada’s first environmental law, passed by Parliament in 1882. The changes drastically weaken the environmental protection of Canada’s waterways, excluding 99% of Canadian lakes and rivers from federal environmental oversight. The bill also exempts pipelines from the act.

These changes will have a negative impact on all Canadians:

  • They put clean drinking water at risk.
  • They will negatively affect fish and fisheries.
  • They violate First Nations Treaty rights. Waterways were never surrendered. The changes were made without consultation or consent.

Who will benefit from these changes? Natural resource industries. Projects, such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, will now have free reign to disrupt and impact Canadian waterways with no regard for the environment or human health.

Bill C-45 is not the Harper government’s first attack on environmental regulations. Since 2006, it has been working to dismantle environmental monitoring systems that stand in the way of resource development.

Every resource development project in Canada has a First Nation next to it.

First Nations are Canadians’ last, best hope of protecting the land, water, sky, and plants and animals for their future generations.” – Pam Palmater, an Idle No More spokesperson

SAFEGUARDING INDIGENOUS LAND TITLE

Bill C-45 makes changes to the Indian Act. In particular, it alters some of the regulations around land title, making it easier for First Nations to lease land for commercial development.  

These changes are part of the Harper government’s plan to bring in legislation allowing private ownership of land on reserves and the sale of reserve land to members and non-members alike.

Reserve land is traditionally communally owned. The changes to the Indian Act were made without consultation. The main aim of such land title legislation is to weaken Indigenous rights to land in favour of non-Indigenous resource industry interests.

As the Idle No More Manifesto puts it, if reserve land can be bought and sold, “We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.”

HONOURING TREATIES

All Canadians, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, benefit from the Treaties. For example, the Cornwall Centre and Taylor Field are situated on Treaty 4 land.

First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty agreements. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its Treaty commitments.

These failures include:

  • Education: A child who attends school on a reserve receives on average 25% less in government funding than other Canadian children. Education is a Treaty right.
  • Housing: On-reserve housing is a Treaty right. Reserve housing has been chronically underfunded since at least the 1950s.
  • Resource sharing: Much of Canada’s wealth comes from the exploitation of natural resources, many of which are on First Nations land. Wealth derived from these resources is not being shared, as spelled out in Treaty agreements.

These failures are the reason for the shameful conditions in so many First Nations

WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE

CHIEF THERESA SPENCE

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now into the 4th week of a hunger strike. She is asking that Prime Minister Harper and the Governor General engage in a meaningful dialogue with First Nations leaders and commit to fulfilling Canada’s treaty obligations.  

Chief Spence first came to national attention in 2011 when she declared a state of emergency in her community because of the poor state of housing. Prime Minister Harper’s response was to accuse Chief Spence of financial mismanagement and to place Attawapiskat under third party management. This was an embarrassing blunder. Chief Spence took the government to federal court and won.

Chief Spence has said she is willing to die for her people. As of January 1, the Prime Minister had not scheduled a meeting.

BE IDLE NO MORE: TAKE ACTION

  • Learn more about the Idle No More movement by visiting the website: http://idlenomore.ca/
  • Contact Stephen Harper and urge him to end Chief Spence’s hunger strike by agreeing to meet with Chief Spence, along with other Indigenous leaders and the Governor General. 

   Email: pm@pm.gc.ca or Stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

   Tel: Ottawa-613-992-4211; Calgary-403-253-7990

  • Sign a petition to help Chief Spence stop her hunger strike. Google “Chief Spence avaaz petition.”
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