I have to say, the first time I heard the slogan I was a little disappointed... it's so awkward. Then, like many Canadians, I assumed it was a strictly First Nations movement.
Which it kinda is... and it kind of isn't.
As an Acadian, I've always felt a bit of a cultural connection with First Nations Peoples- our histories have coincided: the Mi'kmaq people welcomed and supported my ancestors, the Acadians, with whom the created a peaceful and collaborative friendship (unlike the English settlers who came afterward). Many of my family can trace First Nation heritage. We both struggle to keep our culture, language and heritage (although not to the same degree).
Idle No More was created by four women: Nina Wilson, Sheelah McLean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon who were looking for a way to bring together all people in order to protest and protect our natural ressources and the health of our citizens.
Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally agreed to meet with First Nations Leaders... but only a select few... and after over a month of Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike.
Why does the IdleNoMore movement matter to regular Canadians (and non-Canadians)?
Firstly, it's important to understand what the Idle No More movement is actually protesting.
The main area of contention is the MASSIVE omnibus bill that was passed this October, Bill C-45. This 400 page long bill was passed quickly, with minimal citizen and First Nations consultation... and it has a whole slew of environmental regulation changes that are extremely concerning.
Changes in this bill includes:
- Removing protection of over 99% of Canada's rivers and lakes: allowing companies and municipalities to simply build dams, bridges, pass pipelines without approval or regulation of any sort. This will impact water flows, water quality (as environmental regulations have been drastically cut already) and fish stock.
Major pipelines and power lines can be built through Canadian water ways without having to prove that they could damage the habitat or pollute the water systems. (Navigable Waters Protection Act)
- Changes to the Fisheries Act allowing companies to opt-out of commitments to protect local fish habitat as well as opt-out of promised compensation if they do damage habitat.
- Elimination of the independent body: "Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission" that protects citizens from toxic chemicals in the workplace.
- Changes in the Indian Act: decreasing voting regulations on how reserved Aboriginal land is leased; which the IdleNoMore movement contends will allow leasing to nuclear, oil and manufacturing companies without regard to local First Nation Peoples or their health and community.
This comes after the drastic overhaul of Canada's environmental protection laws through omnibus bill c-38- another massive and sneaky bill passed quickly with minimal consultation with Canadians and First Nations Peoples; which many are contending violates treaty laws.
How can you support the Idle No More movement?
- Attend local rallies, teach-ins, events and gatherings
- Write to your local MP or better yet to Stephen Harper, voicing your concern and displeasure on being left out of crucial changes to our environment and natural resources protection.
- Sign petitions
- Wear a Red Feather in support of the movement. I know I will.