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The Idle No More movement for indigenous civil rights and environmental protection has spread like a prairie wildfire across Canada and around the globe, with a major impact on the political landscape of Canada, the largest trading partner of the US.

On Friday, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally agreed under pressure to meet with First Nations' leaders on Jan. 11, exactly one month to the day after the nation-wide rallies started. For a movement only several weeks old, Idle No More has clearly tapped into a groundswell of concern across Canada and around the world.

The most visible face of indigenous activism is Chief Theresa Spence who today is on her 27th day of fasting in a teepee on a traditional Algonquin island, just across the river from the Canadian Parliament. Massive concern about her failing health from citizens of all backgrounds, from civil society, and from an unprecedented coalition across the political spectrum is what finally led Harper to agree to the Jan. 11 meeting. Chief Spence is continuing her hunger strike until the meeting takes place and all parties commit to substantive change, and Idle No More has likewise stated that they expect actions, not just words, and will continue to speak up. The outcome of this Friday's discussions between the government and First Peoples will be a pivotal event for native civil rights, global warming and future Canadian politics.

Idle No More is a grassroots movement started by four indigenous women in Saskatchewan to organize teach-ins about the Conservative government's pending legislation. In early December the Harper government passed a sweeping omnibus budget bill C-45 in which were hidden numerous - largely undiscussed - changes to existing Canadian laws. Most notable is erosion of First Nations' treaty rights without the full consultation and consent required by the Canadian Constitution and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The bill also eviscerated the Navigable Waters Protection Act, weakening environmental oversight for over a million lakes and rivers and paving the way for pipelines and rapid resource and tar sands development, often on traditional First Peoples' lands.

Like the Arab Spring and Occupy, this grassroots movement has no leaders and its growth has largely been driven by social media. Many thanks to Fresno whose diary first alerted me to Idle No More at a time when no other media were covering it. The picture he posted also finally persuaded me to sign up at DailyKos after a decade of silence.

Blog Idle No More
Poster Art by Dwayne Bird - twitter: @DwayneBird
On Dec. 11, International Human Rights' Day, Idle No More rallies were held from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from remote northern reserves to the southern metropolis of Toronto. Since then, there are have been daily events across Canada, throughout the US and around the world. This map only shows some of the events held in the first two weeks of the movement since the Google limit is 200 markers. By now there have been many hundreds more and the movement is still growing daily.
Idle No More events around the globe

What began as teach-ins soon evolved into nationwide political rallies. On Dec. 17, a group of young people in Regina used Twitter and Facebook to organize a flash mob at a mall packed with holiday shoppers, and held a traditional round dance around the Christmas tree. Since then countless round dances have been held in malls, streets and parks all over the world and they're still happening. Here are some of the early events, including a solidarity dance by Australian Aborigines and a huge round dance attended by many hundreds at the Minnesota Mall of America, the second largest mall in the US:

The movement has also taken on other forms of peaceful and lawful protest such as
temporary blockades of highways and railroads. The longest railroad blockade was ended after over a week by a court injunction not only against the organizer, but also the Sarnia police chief who had refused to remove the protesters; one of the iconic videos of the movement is a Sarnia police officer drumming with reserve members in a tent next to the blockade. Yesterday several Canada-US border crossings and bridges were briefly closed for rallies and round-dances.

The movement has resonated so deeply and spread so quickly because it has a simple message: respect constitutionally and internationally protected indigenous human rights, and protect the environment. Here's a video from my favourite grassroots spokesperson for Idle No More: an 11-year-old girl, Ta'Kaiya Blaney from Sliammon First Nation in southwestern British Columbia. We can feel her channel the oratorical brilliance of her ancestors' traditions as she succinctly summarizes the goals of the Idle No More movement. If you can, please watch this video.

For those who can't access streaming video, here are some excerpts:

Everything we do to water we do to life, because water is life. It's not just us, we're all connected and we have to respect everything that lives on this earth, that shares the same earth that we do...

We have rights and we can stand and hold our ground and say and give our consent whether a development is going to go through or not, like the Keystone XL or the Enbridge pipelines, or pipe dreams as I like to call them. We are standing on unceded territory, and we have that right and that's what Idle No More is all about, it's about us standing up and speaking out. We've never really been asleep, and now more than ever we're awake and we're standing up.

It's so important with Idle No More that we're standing here today, because we're not waiting for our governments to change things, we're not waiting for the authorities to change things any more. Because we know now that if we keep waiting for the next day to come, we're denying the fact that if we keep waiting for change, it's never going to come. We stand united today to put an end to the pipe dreams and to the rights we're being denied. We stand united!

(Not transcribed but also worth viewing in this video are her blunt comments as an idealistic young delegate to Rio+20 about the Petrobras ads on the UN buses, the sale of diamonds at conference events and the spin given to the media that world leaders are working on sustainability by saving the polar bears. She reminds me of the child who finally blurts out that the emperor has no clothes.)

Both Canada and the US share what First Nations call Turtle Island. Below I explain the significance of Idle No More in the context of Canadian politics, a topic not often covered in US media. As well, because of treaty, constitutional and international rights, First Peoples have legal standing to contest the pipelines and tar sands development, and their assertion of native rights may be one of our last chances to halt exponential global warming. Please follow me after the fractal infinity sign.

Chief Spence's Hunger Strike
After weeks of ignoring Idle No More, Harper was finally and urgently forced to schedule a meeting with First Nations' leaders because of massive public concern for four indigenous elders and chiefs, all well into their fourth week of fasting. As noted above, the most prominent is Chief Spence who came to national attention in the winter of 2010-11 when Canadians were shocked to learn of the third-world conditions at her Attawapiskat reserve on James Bay, the southern part of Hudson's Bay. Children without a permanent school structure for 12 years; young and old sick from mould and contaminated water; families entering winter in tents and plywood shacks.

The situation was all the more appalling because the reserve sits 90 km from a $1 billion DeBeers diamond mine on traditional Attawapiskat land. A year later, there is still no school and while there have been new homes for some, other band members were evacuated for lack of adequate housing. With all the amazing bloggers from Native Net Roots and the incredible community support for supplying winter propane and supporting women's shelters, I don't need to explain the desperate conditions on reservations throughout Turtle Island.

Chief Spence's hunger strike is not only about her reserve Attawapiskat, but about all First Peoples who include the First Nations, Inuit and Métis (descendants of fur trappers and First Nations who often still speak their native languages). Well over 4% of Canada's population is indigenous, they are the country's fastest growing demographic, but they are Canada's "invisible minority." Idle No More has finally created a powerful native civil rights movement, and for the first time in history it has united Canadian First Peoples together.

Support from Civil Society
Grassroots activism and the urgency of the hunger strikes explain in part why Harper reversed his position not to meet with Chief Spence and other native leaders. But further pressure on Harper was the growing activism and support for Chief Spence and the movement throughout civil society: environmental groups, Amnesty International, unions representing millions of Canadians (Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, National Union of Public and General Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada, and Ontario Federation of Labour), and churches representing over five million Canadians (United, Anglican/Episcopalian, Kairos.)

Canadian Political Context
Across almost the entire Canadian political spectrum, there were calls for Harper to meet with native leaders to address indigenous rights and poverty. The official Leader of the Opposition, NDP MP Thomas Mulcair, weighed in early asking Harper to address the situation and meet with Chief Spence. Two previous Prime Ministers - Conservative Joe Clark and Liberal Paul Martin - have met with her, as well as Justin Trudeau, the front-runner to take over leadership of the Liberal Party later this year and the son of long-serving PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau. To loosely translate this to the US political scene, it is as if Jimmy Carter, Richard Lugar, Nancy Pelosi and Ralph Nader were all actively advocating for the same outcome: meetings and consultation to address First Peoples' rights and concerns.

Harper has a majority of seats in the Parliament, but he only received 39.6% of the popular vote (the remaining ballots were split among the NDP, Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and Greens). Yet he continues to act unilaterally without proper democratic discussion, both in Parliament and with the general public, as if he had received some kind of sweeping mandate.

The Conservative party Harper leads only came into existence nine years ago, through a merger between the moderate Progressive Conservatives and the socially-conservative corporatist Alliance/Reform Party whose roots are in Alberta and its oil industry. At the time of the merger, Harper led the Alliance/Reform Party, and then was elected head of the new Conservative Party. Harper's home riding is in Calgary, the heart of the push to exploit the tar sands. So this history helps explain how Canada ended up with a far-right government that does not enjoy the support of the majority of Canadians, and why the coalescence of political opposition and public attention brought about by Idle No More is encouraging.

Right-Wing Press Encourages Racist Rhetoric and Misinformation
Traditional Canadian politics were characterized by moderation and tolerance. Canadians take pride that we are a "mosaic" of different cultures and peoples, rather than the US "melting pot." With the importation of hard-right ideology into the Canadian political environment, Canada has also seen its own versions of Fox news and Murdoch-style tabloids emerge. Like their US and British counterparts, these provide an echo-chamber for misinformation, prejudice and, in recent weeks, outright racist commentary.

All the Idle No More events have been peaceful, and there have been no arrests. So far the only violence related to this movement was the kidnapping, rape and attempted murder of an indigenous woman by two non-native men who hurled racist epithets at her and stated: "you Indians deserve to lose your treaty rights." She nearly became one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of missing native women and girls in Canada. Left for dead in the woods, she managed to return home. Her mother immediately made a public statement:

We felt it was important for us to get the word out because we are very concerned about the safety of our women in the community. And as well we want to tell people that even though this happened to my daughter, we are not the violent ones. We want to tell people not to get angry or to be violent. Its very important that the Idle No More movement to remain peaceful.
So far such ongoing and repeated calls for peaceful action have prevailed in the Idle No More movement. But a great deal of education will be required to correct the rhetoric and misinformation presented to the public by the tabloid press.

First Nations Have Legal Standing to Stop Pipelines and Tar Sands Development
In recent weeks, many Canadians have been writing about why Idle No More Is Not Just an "Indian Thing" (and not just a "Canadian Thing" either): "Aboriginal people may be the canary in the coal mine. If we overlook one section of the constitution does that mean others are in similar jeopardy?... [I]ndigenous environmentalism is significant since the crown has a duty to consult with Aboriginal people before natural resource projects proceed...First Nations are Canadians' last, best hope of protecting the land, water, sky and plants and animals for their future generations as well."

Another recent article, A Settler's Guide to Idle No More, states:

Although the aboriginal issues are at the start of the movement, the ... exploitation of the Tar Sands, for instance, threatens First Nations, Canadians and the world as a whole. NASA scientist James Hansen said recently:

"Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.” (May 9, 2012)"

I know this is not new information for Kossacks, but we have watched in despair as global leaders have remained idle in the face of catastrophic climate change, when even an 11-year-old child can see the consequences for our future. Canadian First Nations have the legal standing to stop the pipelines, which must pass through native reserves, and the tar sands, which are on traditional First Nation lands and therefore require consultation and consent under Canadian and international law.

Last month the Mayor of Vancouver, environmental groups and 130 First Nations reaffirmed the Fraser Declaration that "bans tar sands pipelines and tankers, as a matter of Indigenous law, from First Nations territories forming an unbroken chain from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean -- and spanning the entire length of B.C. from north to south.

While there have been some First Nations who initially welcomed resource projects, even communities that have seen new jobs are growing disillusioned. These mines and oil projects in the Canadian north are generally temporary "fly-in" sites, and do not contribute to capacity building in the local communities. Here's an overview of the problems, relating specifically to Chief Spence's Attawapiskat reservation with its third world conditions next to a $1 billion DeBeers diamond mine, but also more generally applicable: Unless  these fundamental issues are addressed, it is unlikely if not impossible for mining development in Ontario’s “Far North” to contribute significantly to community development of remote First Nations.

In addition to the lack of long-term economic development, another reason for such disillusionment is the environmental impact. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, downstream from a tar sands project, has seen an alarming rise in cancer rates and in deformities among the native fauna. “We live a very traditional life; we live off the land and the water. We have been told again and again that contaminants are naturally occurring, yet in the last 40 years we have seen the health of our community decline due to cancers and illness that we didn’t see before.”

The Upcoming Meeting between First Peoples and the Canadian Government
By observing the news and the twitter feeds, one can see that all sides recognize the historic significance of Friday's meeting, and the dangers should the meeting fail. All stakeholders also agree on the one core issue: the current relationship between First Peoples and the government is hopelessly broken. For decades, both Liberal and Conservative governments have produced endless commissions and recommendations and reports, but until now there was no political will for the hard work of implementing major systemic reform in full partnership with First Peoples. Harper tried to legislate change without consultation and consent, but Idle No More provided a wake-up call to the Conservatives and the Canadian public that their voices need to be heard.

The grassroots have pledged to continue until dialogue and consultation lead to new policies respecting First Peoples' rights and the environment. By the time the meeting occurs, Chief Spence will be well into the fifth week of her hunger strike. Much rides on the outcome of Friday's meeting for all the people of Turtle Island, and around the world.

Originally posted to SilentNoMore on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:11 PM PST.

Also republished by Canadian Kossacks, Inherent Human Rights, Native American Netroots, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks; My Wife Just Found Out an Hour Ago There'd (21+ / 0-)

    been a local event today.

    We'll look for more.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:17:55 PM PST

  •  Thank you for writing this! (15+ / 0-)

    Needed doing!!!

    Babylon system is the vampire... (Bob Marley)

    by sfinx on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:19:27 PM PST

    •  Ditto! Thank you for an informative, exciting, (6+ / 0-)

      and important diary.

      It's exciting to see indigenous peoples in Canada becoming such a strong force against the pipelines and for the preservation of life.  INdian nations in the US have also been key to the resistance to the XL Pipeline, and it's so important that native voices in both countries are being heard.

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 06:19:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for writing this in-depth diary! (16+ / 0-)

    I am a Canadian and have been supporting the Idle No More movement. Was pleased by the recent news that Stephen Harper has agreed to meet with Chief Spence and the First Nations leadership, though it is just a first step.

    I too am very pleased by the potential this movement holds to slow or stop the tar sands development. It's been horrible to watch Canada's 180-degree turn towards environmental destruction these past few years, under Stephen Harper.

    I will definitely keep following this (and am tipping/recommending this diary!)

    Let's make 2013 the year we take back our planet.

    by Eowyn9 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:32:29 PM PST

  •  I was just talking to my sister (9+ / 0-)

    (who lives in BC) yesterday and she was telling me a bit about this.  Glad to hear that this is becoming more known in the US

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:43:43 PM PST

  •  Thank you ! (25+ / 0-)

    I am in Ottawa and have been supporting Chief Spence with taking items to her camp and spreading the word about the movement and what she and those in camp need.

    I am appalled and ashamed as a Canadian at how long it took Stephen Harper to acknowledge her request and agree to meet with her and the other Chiefs. He does not speak for me.

               Standing with Chief Spence and Idle No More,

    Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

    by Chacounne on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:11:23 PM PST

  •  This could be Canada's "Arab Spring". (14+ / 0-)

    As you state, Harper's mandate is a fiction; he and his Cons are governing legally (although that might also be a fiction if the illegalities of the last election are proven), but without the support of the vast majority of the public.

    Idle No More may be the catalyst for grassroots political change in this country, away from the oil oligarchs and back to the people. The oligarchs have a slim hold, and can be defeated.

    It's worth noting that Idle No More was the topic on today's CBC Radio "Cross Country Checkup" show, and the callers I heard were very supportive. This movement is coming into the national conversation.

    I'm proud that my NDP has been backing the movement as you state. The movement has to be more than just what happens in Ottawa, but what happens in Ottawa is important, too.

    -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

    by Wreck Smurfy on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:51:02 PM PST

    •  Some call it Canada's "Native Winter" (13+ / 0-)

      Harper's mandate is a fiction, and it will be interesting to see how the judge decides on the robo-call case. To fill in non-Canadians, in the most recent election non-Conservative voters in six ridings received robo-calls informing them that their polling precinct had changed - when it hadn't. Sound familiar? GOP operatives have been finding off-election-season work advising the Conservatives up here.

      You're absolutely correct that the movement has to be more than just what happens in Ottawa, but that what happens in Ottawa is important as well. Some of the online debate about this issue reminds me of the discussions surrounding Occupy.

      However, there are big differences between the two movements because the actual catalyst for starting Idle No More was opposition to Ottawa legislation, namely C-45 and other bills impacting on indigenous rights, and Chief Spence's chief demand to end her hunger strike is a meeting and constructive dialogue with Ottawa and provincial governments. Moreover, the treaties are essentially a government to government relationship, and this has strong support among the grassroots.

      •  Grassroots vs Chiefs (9+ / 0-)

        I think grassroots vs Ottawa is actually less of an issue than grassroots vs the chiefs, and the question of which indigenous leaders really represent the grassroots and should participate in the meeting. Some First Nations people in the movement don't acknowledge the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Grand Chief Atleo. He is not elected by direct vote from the grassroots, but by the chiefs of the over 630 First Nation communities. Even these chiefs are viewed dismissively as "Indian Act chiefs" by some members of these communities. The debates about these issues have been long-standing, but have been brought to the fore by Idle No More and the upcoming meeting.

        There may also be personal politics involved. Pam Palmater is a key spokesperson for Idle No More with many media appearances on behalf of the movement, but she also ran against and lost to Atleo in the last AFN election. I hope both Atleo and Palmater will work together in the spirit of Idle No More which they both support.

        Harper made clear that Atleo would determine the invite list for participants at the meeting, so he passed that hot potato back to Atleo, likely because he knows this could become a divisive issue. There have been numerous online calls for Atleo to include some of the founders and/or spokespeople from Idle No More in the meeting, and I think he would be making a grave mistake if he did not heed that call.

        •  Yes, "grassroots" vs the Indian Act chiefs is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Leeloo, SilentNoMore, MuskokaGord

          a big deal. From warrior publications:

          it is due, in part, to the work of the Indian Act band councils that there isn’t a stronger grassroots Indigenous resistance in Canada.  They are tools of counter-insurgency, commonly used by colonial regimes throughout history.
          The middle-class reformists who started this movement, along with the Indian Act chiefs, are now attempting to impose greater control over what they perceive as a potential rebellion they will be unable to contain.   This is always the problem with arousing the grassroots people, but then that’s what the Indian Act band councils were created for, even if they sometimes use this threat as leverage in their disputes with the government.

          It may indeed be that the greatest achievement of INM is in mobilizing thousands of formerly “idle” Natives into the streets in opposition to government policies.  But this achievement will be tempered by the fact that it was exploited from the start by Indian Act chiefs, who will reaffirm themselves in the minds of some as genuine “leaders” of the grassroots.  Chief Spence will have played an important role in this co-optation, irregardless of the praise she has received.

          muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

          by veritas curat on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:58:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Another link on grassroots vs chiefs (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Thanks for that link. It seems the author is not just opposed to the AFN, but also raises questions about Chief Spence and the INM founders since they're also not grassroots. I don't think this represents a majority opinion since there's widespread respect for what these five women have done to push for change.

            You might be interested in this story from the CBC about an INM supporter who expressed concern about excluding activists from the process, rather than opposing the process itself.

            However, Sock said Harper's scheduled meeting with aboriginal leaders selected by the AFN is not enough. "If they're going to meet just with Indian Act chiefs, you know, I'm not really too impressed with that,” she said. ... But Sock said a process that doesn't include activists won't be widely accepted and won't contribute to long-term solutions.
      •  First Nations or First Peoples at Meeting? (5+ / 0-)

        Another issue to watch in coming days is whether Atleo will include Inuit and Métis in the meeting, since officially he only represents First Nations. Idle No More has support from all First Peoples, and there is concern among some participants that not including Inuit and Métis will amount to a "divide and conquer" strategy just as the movement has finally achieved solidarity among all First Peoples.

        The Métis activist âpihtawikosisân has been tweeting about this concern and will be a good source of information on this issue in coming days. In fact, I think she would be a great participant at the meeting! For those who need to refute the right-wing media echo chamber, her blog offers a wealth of information debunking all the myths.

        •  Enh... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Leeloo, SilentNoMore, Fresno, MuskokaGord

          There are significant differences between Inuit and First Nations when it comes to some of the issues that INM is concerned about.

          First is that Inuit are NOT covered by the Indian Act, the old one or any new one, so changes there are irrelevant. The changes to the various environmental regulations are a little more complicated. The land claim in Nunavut created a regulatory regime that, if anything, is stricter than the federal one and Inuit organizations have had the claim amended in recent years to specifically state that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act does not apply in the settlement area. The reason for this is that a federal review by definition takes power away from Inuit to make decisions regarding land use.

          So while Inuit in other jurisdictions may have concerns about the regulatory changes, the Inuit organizations in Nunavut support at least some of them and are indifferent on others.

          •  Thanks for the information (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fresno, MuskokaGord

            Thanks for your detailed information about the regulatory regimes for land use and environmental assessments in Nunavut, and how they've evolved and differ from other parts of Canada. I was surprised to read that Inuit organizations support or are indifferent to the regulatory changes, just as I remain surprised that Nunavut elected a Conservative MP.

            It was my impression there were some Idle No More events in Nunavut, for example in Iqaluit, in opposition to recent legislation. Do you have any further information on what recent regulatory changes are supported/opposed by various Inuit organizations in Nunavut?

            Yes, it's precisely because Inuit and Métis are not covered by the Indian Act and AFN only includes First Nations that Idle No More activists are wondering whether the meeting with Harper will also give them a voice.

            •  In answer to a few questions... (0+ / 0-)

              Nunavut has a Conservative MP because the the Liberal candidate was the former premier who used up any good will he had a long time ago and was disliked because it seemed like he couldn't do anything but bitch and moan about the fact he wasn't premier, while complaining about problems that were caused by and/or not seriously addressed his government. The NDP candidate, meanwhile, was a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing pompous git who wasn't well known outside of Iqaluit (the capital), and people who did know about him mostly disliked him.

              The Conservative candidate, meanwhile, was a generally respected former cabinet minister in the territorial government, and was the sitting federal health minister who'd been among the few Harper ministers who'd received acknowledgements about doing a good job, at least some of the time, from opposition critics.

              There's also the fact that for some reason Nunavut (now, and before the territory separated from the Northwest Territories) has benefited more under Conservative governments as far back as Diefenbaker in the early 60s than they ever have under Liberal governments. Conservative governments invest in infrastructure projects and support development in the north, which concretely benefits people (and it was the Tories who finally negotiated and signed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement). Liberal government, and it pains me to say this, typically do one thing when it comes to the north, whenever they get around to thinking about it: create a protected area.

              Low unemployment? Create a park. Infrastructure falling down? Here, have a bird sanctuary. High cost of living? What you need is a Marine Protected Area.

              The Conservatives could do a lot more, but the fact remains that they don't have to do much to have a better record than the Liberals did.

              As for IDM protests in Nunavut, there's always someone everywhere who will protest for something even though what they're protesting actually benefits them. A prime example is an Ink lawyer who campaigned for years to get Inuit covered by the Indian Act, even though anyone who looked at the Indian Act wouldn't in a million years want to be covered by it.

              Specific changes the Nunavut groups are in favour of? The "one project-one review" change in environmental assessment is one they like because, as I mentioned, the land claim already kicked out the federal assessment process, so providing greater protection against someone imposing more outside control through additional reviews is a good thing. The changes in the Navigable Waters Act are subject of some debate but mostly not of huge concern simply because the land claim covers water usage (in using water directly or effecting water) already in the review and licensing process, and many of the existing rules simply didn't work given the situation in the territory.

              The people most vocal about the NWA changes are, not to put too fine a point on it, people like southern adventure canoeists who regard the rivers as their private little fiefdom and don't want to share, even with local people who live on the rivers.

  •  1549 persons on Attawapiskat reserve, living in (7+ / 0-)

    abject poverty under very difficult geographic/climactic conditions. Money will not solve the problem.

    Maybe this time will be different.

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:33:06 PM PST

    •  Important Link (4+ / 0-)

      Thanks for that informative link. The article was written by âpihtawikosisân (Chelsea Vowel) whom I also mentioned in my above comment on First Nations vs First Peoples. She's been incredibly prolific in providing hard data and factual analysis to counter the high-wing media spin, as well as big picture analysis of the challenges faced by First Peoples.

      After last year's crisis at Attawapiskat, instead of working together to solve the housing crisis constructively, the Conservatives blamed the victims by appointing, at the tribe's own expense, a costly outside consultant to seize control of reserve financing. Many months later, a federal judge overruled the Harper government, stating that the appointment of the consultant to replace band leadership was "unreasonable," that there was no evidence of any improper spending, and that the problem was not mismanagement but the unaddressed lack of housing. But the damage to public opinion was done, since few people ever heard about the court victory once Attawapiskat was no longer front-page news.

      âpihtawikosisân has patiently explained in countless blog posts that because of the treaty relationship, education, medical care, infrastructure, police, fire departments, roads and other services are all paid by the federal government. Off-reserve, these costs are borne by provincial or municipal governments, and are certainly not viewed as a welfare payment.

      In reality, the federal government spends 20-30% less on the education for a child on a reserve than provincial governments spend for other Canadian children. Without proper education, what chance do these children have for their future?

      As you say, money alone will not solve the problem, but underfunding of vital services will certainly make it worse. Let's hope that this upcoming dialogue will lead to some real solutions.

  •  This is a BFD and we'd better join up (6+ / 0-)

    You can see TPTB marshaling their forces.

    It would be a great achievement if people of all nations could turn the tide toward clean energy R&D and production in a really big hurry.

    But until they are ready to make the switch, fossil fuel lords and their enablers are going to fight to the death to keep our engines running.

    It will take many of us literally standing together to enact a change.

  •  Thanks for this diary SNM. (6+ / 0-)

    I, too, have been following this story with great interest--surprised that it's gotten so little attention in the US. The round dances have been cropping up everywhere--amazing sights to see.

    Had to chuckle a bit: On Thursday--after Spence issued an ultimatum, saying the meeting had to take place w/i 72 hours,   I wrote a letter to my local Consul General "urging" them to support Idle No More and push for the meeting. Got an email back with the text of Harper's announcement of the 1/11 meeting. A friend in Ottawa wrote me saying, "See, all it took was a one little scolding from you!" ;-)

    Anyway, maybe you or Heather (Chacounne) can help me out on this: Cultural Survivalis one of the few US-based venues that's been covering the story--they have a running update feed on their site.

    There is an upcoming deadline (Jan 31) for their Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award  

    I plan to nominate Theresa Spence, but am somewhat undecided about this--maybe the four FOUNDERS of INM should be nominated? Only catch there is that the award is supposed to go to an INDIVIDUAL, not a group--but four individuals who started a group/movement, may also be fine.

    Beyond that, I need more "bio" information and, um, a contact address for Spence ("teepee on Victoria Island" is not likely to be sufficient for this purpose!)

    I wrote Cultural Survival to inquire about a couple of things: whether Spence has already been nominated (she hasn't). Whether she may be scheduled to be on the panel of judges and therefore ineligible (she isn't). Whether it would be better for the GROUP "Idle No More" to submit the nomination (that would not be a bad idea). Whether letters of nomination from "big name" folks (like Winona LaDuke?) would carry more wait than from "no namers" like Grumpelstillchen ;-). That, too, would be good.

     I've got a couple folks trying to reach out to Winona--I've met her on a number of occasions, but am sure she would not remember and/or know me from "Tonto" ;-). It would be great if someone (Cacamp?) who knows Winona better than I do could reach out to her. Buffy St. Marie might also be a good candidate to write--but I don't know her at ALL.

    I think I'm just going to go ahead and write the nomination letter for Spence--what's missing for the "Bio" portion of the letter--is more information about Spence BEFORE Idle No More. Any idea where I can get that?
    Here's the only info I have on the nomination process (from the site above):

    Nomination Process
    Nominations for the award may be received from any individual or group from November 20, 2012 to January 31, 2013. Nominations should include a letter about why a person is being nominated, a bio of the nominee, and contact information for the nominee.
    Once the letter is complete, I'll probably post it on the Idle No More FB page and seek signatories.

    It's not about the money (though $10,000 could go a long way, especially in the Northlands), it's about the acknowledgment....Any info you or others may be able to provide would be great. Cultural Survival is already supportive of the movement, so it seems that Spence would have a very good shot at getting the award....

    •  Great Idea (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leeloo, grumpelstillchen, MuskokaGord

      Great idea to nominate Chief Spence. And thanks for the link to CulturalSurvival, looks like a fabulous organization.

      On the bio, maybe Heather can help you as she's been visiting the camp regularly. Although with the upcoming meeting, the request likely should wait until afterwards.

      Maybe you could submit the nomination, but ask for letters of support from people like Winona LaDuke and Buffy Ste. Marie. Both have spoken out for Chief Spence and Idle No More.

      Winona LaDuke posted a letter of support for Chief Spence a few days ago. Found this link to contact Buffy Ste. Marie. Given that she's already spoken out, you might not need a personal introduction to get her support.

      A few days ago #idlenomore had a link to Johnny Cash's Drums about the reservation schools. Hadn't realized he did an entire album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, and came across this great video of Buffy St. Marie with Johnny Cash. It's such vintage 1960's, her voice is fabulous but most of all they look like they're having such fun! Thought you might enjoy it.

      •  Damn! Thank you so much--just what the doc ordered (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SilentNoMore, MuskokaGord

        My mother wore a pair of those white patent leather Buffy boots, and I actually use Cash's "Drums" as an example of the ballad form in my classes, but WOW! Thank you so much for this link--that's going on the syllabus, now. ;-)  heheheh

        Old proverb, btw: When Drums speak, laws are silent.

        Yeah, the drums are a big part of this, but let's not get me started! ;-)

      •  Oh and also thanks for the Winona/Buffy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        links--I'll probably just get my own letter drafted, then send it to them with pertinent info on the nomination process--then they can use my ltte as a template or write their own, etc. Just trying to save everyone some time by getting one template letter together....if I have it done by week's end, that still gives everyone two weeks to submit the nominations.

  •  Idle No More is an amazing and awe-inspiring (8+ / 0-)


    Here in WI, we'll be participating in another Idle No More action day (Friday 11 January) and a big rally with many Wisconsin tribes on Sunday in Madison.

    We are expecting very bad legislation about a terrible mine in Northern Wisconsin that threatens sacred tribal lands. We want to get ahead of it, and are blessed to have not only our own WI people but Idle No More to help organize around.

  •  Great Diary - January 11th ! Global Action (5+ / 0-)

    Found this announcement on Twitter:


    Everyone should support this movement!

    "The real difference between democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth. Wherever men rule by reason of their wealth, whether they be few or many, that is an oligarchy, and where the poor rule, that is democracy". Aristotle

    by MuskokaGord on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 07:08:28 AM PST

    •  Global Action Day (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grumpelstillchen, MuskokaGord

      Nice picture and message:
      Global Day of Action
      Jan. 11, 2013
      Reason: Solidarity with Idle No More
      Location: Worldwide
      What: Anything, everything, anywhere
      Why: To demonstrate your support for the rising global Indigenous People's Movement by taking action in your community

      There have been INM events with thousands, and those with just one person so I really like the "Anything, everything, anywhere" message. One of my favourite pictures was two people holding a sign in Mongolia!

  •  This is a VERY "newbie" question (4+ / 0-)

    I am interested in helping support this movement, but I'm not an Indigenous person.  My great-great grandfather was reportedly Blackfoot (and spoke no English), but he's not on the tribal rolls (and I really have no experience with any tribal events or tribes.)

    Are there ways for "mutts" like myself to become involved as a useful ally, or is it more useful for me to just share news articles on Facebook and the like?

    •  Everyone is welcome, everyone is appreciated (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FishOutofWater, MuskokaGord

      and blood quantum don't say or do diddly in this: whatever kind of "mutt" you may be--get out and bark!

      Woof, woof! :)

      Too few folk understand that it's not just about First Nations and indigenous people worldwide. It's about the land, the water, the planet.

    •  Blog Tweet Post Defend (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Totally second Grumpelstillchen's great response - it's also about the land, the water, the planet.

      Sharing news on Facebook and other online media is at the top of Idle No More's list of activities so that's a useful way to help. It looks like their site will also start listing events, plus twitter and Facebook are good sources of info, so you can find out if there are rallies or dances in your area.

      Since you mention you have no experience with tribal events but have a Blackfoot ancestor, maybe you can find some cultural events, pow-wows and drumming to attend. That's a part of Idle No More as well, and you'll have a great time!

  •  There is a lot of ignorance (6+ / 0-)

    regarding Canada'a role in the US energy industry (myself included).  I think it would surprise many Americans just how much control and influence Canada has or Canadian energy companies have over parliament and US congress.  Oil, natural gas, hydroelectric among other sources are exported to the US en masse.  Canadian politicians and Canadians to a degree get big financial reward for supporting gluttonous US energy consumers.  Even Canadian universities receive financial aid for producing reports that are favourable to the energy industry.
      I would prefer that Canada still owned its oil companies, at least then the profits would be shared by its citizens.
      I like this movement, I want it to succeed in changing the political landscape to something more responsible and fair.  People before profit!

    •  Canadian Energy Industry (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontario, MuskokaGord

      Right now the energy industry is completely driving Harper's legislative agenda. Didn't realize Canadian energy companies also have significant influence on the US Congress, but makes sense given the huge exports of energy resources to the US.

      Likewise hope this movement will change the political landscape and create pressure for urgent need to change our energy and environmental policies.

  •  Here's another very good link (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentNoMore, MuskokaGord
    •  Fabulous Link (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grumpelstillchen, MuskokaGord

      Thanks so much for the fabulous link. This is an amazing source of information - the best I've seen so far. So glad you found it.

    •  Tar Sands Pollution 90 km away; No FN Consultation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Just found an article at the rebelmouse link you sent about a new tar sands pollution report:

      Due to "the absence of well executed environmental monitoring in the Athabasca oil sands" Environment Canada researchers cored the sediment of six lakes ranging from 35 km to 90 km away from the project... In the sediment of boreal lakes researchers discovered that airborne pollutants from the tar sands production were now two to 23 times greater than levels deposited in the 1960s.

      The study conclusively shows that bitumen pollution "is not natural, is increasing over time and the footprint of the industry is much bigger than anyone thought," says John Smol, one of Canada's leading freshwater ecologists, a Queen's University professor and a contributor to the study.

      Consultation with First Nations has been totally unsatisfactory in the oil sands, and the term is near meaningless. This treatment flies in the face of Canada's claim to be multicultural. We cannot even deal with our own first culture.

      The timeframe of this study, testing from the 1960s,  parallels the 40-year changes in cancers and other illness observed by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, as I noted in my diary.
  •  Thanks for writing this! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentNoMore, ybruti, meralda, MuskokaGord

    I was hoping you would. :-)

    •  Thanks for your diaries! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fresno, ontario, meralda, MuskokaGord

      And thanks so much for your diaries! It's how I first learned of Idle No More, and after too many years of reading finally started posting. It's great to be here and many thanks.

      It's amazing how quickly the movement has grown since your first diary the day before the Dec. 11 rallies started when you wrote:

      There's something happening in Canada, perhaps the beginnings of a broad Indigenous movement. It's getting almost no coverage in mainstream Canadian media, and zero or subzero attention here in the U.S. But social media are on fire over nationwide protest events today, and some Tweeps and bloggers are saying that this, as we head into winter, could be the start of a Native Spring.
      Your intuition at the time was absolutely correct. There's definitely something happening here!
      •  You're welcome! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SilentNoMore, ybruti

        I appreciate the "hat tip" you've given me, and it's an honor to know that my diary helped motivate you to sign up for DKos.   I think you are the diarist I've been waiting for -- someone who can give this topic the comprehensive treatment it deserves.

        Idle No More is indeed growing, broadly and internationally. On Twitter today, Taiaiake Alfred mentioned that after what are shaping up to be massive protests on January 11, #INM should stand for "Indigenous Nations Movement."

  •  What a wonderful young girl that is. Thanks for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fresno, SilentNoMore, MuskokaGord

    letting us know about this movement. Incredible.

    Thanks for finally joining the community and writing this! Do more, please.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 03:28:09 PM PST

    •  More on Ta'Kaiya Blaney (4+ / 0-)

      Yes, she's remarkable and even more so when you learn what else she's done. Yesterday's late night diary was about: Why climate change won't wait for the President. So I posted this video since that was her concluding message.

      Meteor Blades responded that he and Navaho wrote about Ta'Kaiya last year, and it turns out she's also an accomplished actress, singer and songwriter. He reposted their writing about her last night here. It has a video of her singing, and you can find more at the link to her site which Meteor Blades had in his comment.

      Thanks for your warm welcome to the community!


  •  Bad news for Chief Spence's credibility today. (0+ / 0-)

    This had been hinted at, but it certainly seems financial controls, on federal funds of $107 million in recent years,  were completely lacking in her band. She and her partner rec'd $270,000 taxfree, per year, as co- band managers. He said on radio tonight he thought it was a very low cost for their work. She is incommunicado tonight, in Ottawa, preparing for her meeting with other leaders with PM Harper.

    More about the Deloitte, Touche audit.

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:04:31 PM PST

    •  Responses to the leak of the audit are starting (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontario, MuskokaGord

      to come in, like this one at the Sixth Estate, which makes three main points:

      Spence has only been chief since August 2010.... Yet the government audit started in April 2005 and ran to November 2011. So the new outrage seems a little bit like claiming that Stephane Dion or Justin Trudeau are responsible for the sponsorship scandal.
      Second, and more importantly, this is a more obvious instance than most in which “anonymous leaks” are a very dubious way to operate the free press. Who leaked this story? It seems hard to imagine it was anyone other than a member of the government hoping to embarrass a political opponent... Harper had already conceded to a meeting. This leak will probably only further polarize Canadians, which may well have been the intention.
      And, finally,
      ...unless you are an Attawapiskat Cree, what Spence’s government has been doing with federal grant money is irrelevant to you. It’s not your money. That money was given to the Attawapiskat First Nation, prior to the  housing crisis, and it would have been provided regardless of who was in charge. The Attawapiskat now need to take up with their own government the issue of serious fiscal mismanagement, and act accordingly. The rest of us do not have a horse in this game. Sorry.
      •  was waiting for that shoe to drop. ;( (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ontario, Fresno

        am always amazed at the western world and its worship of the almighty dollar: they squander, poison and destroy the natural and human resources of entire continents, then treat fiscal mismanagement of chump change like a federal offense....puts a whole new spin on the idea of "capital crimes" doesn't it?

        Can we talk about the current property value of Manhattan?

      •  I don't disagree with some of what you have said. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        While it has been termed a leak, the audit is on the  Government of Canada website. With some experience in these things, I believe all that happened is one news agency released it before the embargoed hour.

        More and more now  we see breathless TV anchors saying, 'In an exclusive, CTV or CBC News has learned tonight from sources that Minister X will announce tomorrrow morning that the government will........" They are just using cute language to beat the embargo.

        In this case, a final audit report by an outside firm is a completed audit. It exists. The info in it it is attested to by Deloitte Touche.

        It is just a shame to think so much money destined for those in need did not seem to find its way to them. It is simply not possible that so little would have been accomplished for 1500 souls with that much money.

        "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

        by ontario on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 05:23:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Prior to the release of the audit report (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the Federal Court found that financial mismanagement was not an issue in relation to the housing crisis in Attawapiskat:

          The judgment speaks to the issue of financial management a number of times:

          p.24,"Despite the [Prime Minister's] comments about management, the Respondent has not produced evidence of incorrect spending or mismanagement.  In fact, the reference by the Prime Minister as to the $90 million could not have related exclusively to the funds made available for housing repair or reconstruction."

          p.21, "At no point prior to the appointment of the [Third Party Manager] did department officials indicate there was any problem with Band management.  The Band was already under a co-management regime and no issue of Band management or financial administration was raised."

          Over and over again, the Federal Court states that financial mismanagement was not the issue, and never had been.

          Maybe this is why Chief Spence has characterized the Harper government's early release of the audit report as a "smear" and a "distraction," and others have dismissed it as irrelevant.
  •  Interesting CBC article, re OWS- Idle (0+ / 0-)

    I think I made this point in another diary here a couple of weeks ago. New momentum for both movements. OWS and Idle have so much in common, and once the majority realize it, it will make the 90% even stronger.

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:23:37 PM PST

  •  Federal Court grants rights to Métis, non-status (0+ / 0-)

    Indians in Canada today.

    Change is coming more quickly all the time. Good for activist judges, not stuck in the mud of yesteryear.

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:28:26 PM PST

  •  More of today's coverage (0+ / 0-)     She does not understand, he cannoto attend any event that has a political, policy overtone, nor can the Queen.

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:30:10 PM PST

  •  Still more coverage (0+ / 0-)

    "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

    by ontario on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:00:48 PM PST

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