Frustrated with a lack of consultation on treaty problems and seemingly unilateral federal government decisions on natural resources and the environment, indigenous peoples are suddenly saying they will no longer sit idly by while these things are being pushed through.
We are witnessing a fast-growing, grassroots movement from First Nations people across Canada that is gathering world wide attention. The above quotation is from an article by CBC reporter Waubgeshig Rice that you can find on the CBC website here. In it he interviews Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiscat First Nation located in Northern Ontario. They are the James Bay Cree. Rice’s article is very thoughtful. What Chief Spence lacks in articulation she makes up for in guts. She is in day 9 of a hunger strike.
The movement started in Saskatoon and, to give you a good idea what it looks like at its most enthusiastic in a place with good acoustics, here is a YouTube clip from a mall in central Saskatoon today.
Demonstrations in solidarity with this movement are being held this week across North America, but places in Europe and beyond are aware that there is something afoot – the Idle No More movement. This movement was started by First Nations peoples who do not want to lose their way of life and their spirituality of oneness with nature.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is bringing in laws that erode the protection of Treaty lands from the exploitation, pollution and destruction caused by mineral extraction and other anti-environmental activities that do little or nothing for first nations and line the pockets of corporate welfare bums that get handed the rights to invade and exploit native lands, waterways, forests and territorial integrity. He is bringing them in cloaked and lumped in with huge omnibus legislation that passes through parliament with each issue given woefully inadequate time for debate and amendment by the powerless opposition parties. Harper is destroying Canada despite only 25% of Canada’s eligible voters supporting his Conservative Party. Due to Canada’s primitive first-past-the-post voting system, this hijacking of the national agenda is made possible. This is nothing new in Canadian politics. What is new is these powers being in the hands of a ruthless set of neo-conservative politicians who do not care a whit about the environment.
It seems that treaties with our first nations mean no more than do contracts between governments and corporations with organized labour. It seems that Parliament, the obsequious servant of the corporate interests of both local and foreign corporations, has now the ability and the will to commit many dishonourable sins.
The pernicious argument that is being made to defend this Conservative agenda is that native people should have the right to do what they want with their land. Some native people would like to sell their land, presumably to the highest bidder.
But, hidden in all this sanctimonious sounding rights talk, is that it would destroy the very people who can still stand as a group that knows, or used to know, what oneness with Mother nature really means. Following the Canadian Government’s agenda would destroy very quickly what little clean and pure environmental capital still exists. It is an unsustainable policy that will, unchecked, ruin our air, land, our fresh water and our oceans.
One has to hope that this movement will grow, prosper and be supported by the federal and provincial governments. If this does not happen, the native peoples want the Crown, that is the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, to step in and force parliamentarians to honour the treaties that the Crown made when this country was being carved out.
“Fat chance,” you might say. But I hope this initiative has sufficient meat and skeletal tissue, maybe even legs, to survive and grow.