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The Natives are restless. Wondering why?
December 25, 2012 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Idle No More. (Note: music autoplay.) A year after the housing crisis in Attawapiskat (previously), Chief Theresa Spence is on the 14th day of a hunger strike. In a teepee close the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, she waits for a meeting with Prime Minister Harper in order to address ongoing poverty on reserves and the implications of Bill C-45, which strips protected status from thousands of miles of Canadian waterways, as well as ongoing plans for oil pipelines across the North and Harper's plans to bring legislation allowing for the privatization of reserve lands. An international surge of support from Indigenous Peoples, organizing through social media (including Facebook and Twitter) has seen demonstrations across North America, including thousands of First Nations activists marching on Parliament Hill, a rail blockade in Sarnia, Ont., and an open letter from Canadian academics, an open letter from The Assembly of First Nations, and other actions.

A year ago the Harper government began floating the possibility of private ownership of land on reserves, which critics see as a step towards a sell-off to corporations eager to exploit the natural resources in the land. It is opposed by the Assembly of First Nations. Idle No More began with four First Nations women, including âpihtawikosisân, whose blog A Plains Cree Speaking Woman in Montreal has been instrumental in acting as a voice for this growing movement (essential post: The Natives are Restless. Wondering Why?)

Naomi Klein writes: "All Canadians should offer our deepest thanks that our indigenous brothers and sisters have protected their land rights for all these generations, refusing to turn them into one-off payments, no matter how badly they were needed. These are the rights Mr. Harper is trying to extinguish now... During this season of light and magic, something truly magical is spreading. There are round dances by the dollar stores. There are drums drowning out muzak in shopping malls. There are eagle feathers upstaging the fake Santas. The people whose land our founders stole and whose culture they tried to stamp out are rising up, hungry for justice. Canada's roots are showing. And these roots will make us all stand stronger."
posted by jokeefe (22 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Detailed information the legislative plans to dismantle the status of First Nations can be found here and Faye Morning Bull's summary of the implications of Harper's proposed legislation here (note: PDF); âpihtawikosisân's blog post of December 11th, also entitled Idle No More, lays out the issues: "[I]n cities and communities all across the country, indigenous peoples are rallying together to speak out against a rash of hastily shoved-through pieces of legislation created without First Nations consultation. Legislation that promises to have serious implications for aboriginal rights. However, that is not the sum total of the issues being addressed. The ongoing and unhealthy colonial relationship Canada has with indigenous peoples is at the root of this, and finds expression in so many problems from environment to health to incarceration to suicide to education to violence and so on."
posted by jokeefe at 12:52 PM on December 25, 2012


I'm generally in favour of fee simple on reserves, as long as it's the result of decisions made by bands themselves. But the Conservative government, as usual, has botched it. And the idea that fee simple will fix all that ails Aboriginal communities is just ridiculous.
posted by smorange at 12:57 PM on December 25, 2012


How can Harper address a hunger striker on this issue and not wind up with thousands of others doing the same thing for every other issue? I am sympathetic as hell but ...
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:58 PM on December 25, 2012


And just one more link: a Google map showing planned Idle No More demonstrations worldwide.
posted by jokeefe at 12:59 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been following this closely and signing petitions right and left (the Native Studies community is buzzing over Idle No More right now).

Thanks for the FPP. Godspeed, Theresa Spence.
posted by spitbull at 1:18 PM on December 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just to note in the interest of accuracy that the Google map shows both planned demonstrations and those which have already taken place. It is being added to continuously.
posted by jokeefe at 1:36 PM on December 25, 2012


How can Harper address a hunger striker on this issue and not wind up with thousands of others doing the same thing for every other issue? I am sympathetic as hell but ...

I can't imagine people hunger striking for thousands of different issues. It is a tough thing to not eat (or heavily restrict your diet) for weeks at a time and I seriously doubt that many people would have the resolve and conviction that is required. In any case, it is not like having a meeting with someone is an arduous task. I'm sure Prime Minister Harper had plenty of meetings with the people who are going to be making money from the oil pipelines being built across reserve lands.
posted by kiskar at 1:39 PM on December 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's a good thing for Harper that Canada is the land where nobody gives a shit about anything.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:49 PM on December 25, 2012


When Toronto needed a hand shoveling snow, they sent in the army. When the North needs help to feed, shelter and warm its people, they get the cold shoulder. The pipelines carry the wealth in one direction only.
posted by Evstar at 2:46 PM on December 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


smorange writes "I'm generally in favour of fee simple on reserves, as long as it's the result of decisions made by bands themselves."

I'd be more open minded on the issue if corruption wasn't rampant on reserves and in First Nation governments. As it stands private ownership is sure to bring great wealth to a minority while making things worse for everyone else.
posted by Mitheral at 5:09 PM on December 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know, Mitheral. I'm not in favour of reserve land being privatized (seems just an obviously bad idea) but not because of corruption amongst reserve governments. I'm not convinced they're any more corrupt than small town governments in general, plus they're not actually sovereign or self-governing even the way a municipality is. They're answerable to the federal government down to much smaller details than we're generally used to. I'd like to see some kind of hard evidence of corruption compared to other forms of governance before I'd be willing to accept the general wisdom of what "everybody knows" about this.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:09 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your right; they aren't any more corrupt than a lot of small town governments. Sadly small town government have a poor track record too. Really anyplace that is small enough to get away without much oversight is at risk of having some one come in a loot the place.

Heck it's part of the reason I'm against school boards being able to sell their property
posted by Mitheral at 9:20 PM on December 25, 2012


So the Canadian government has to protect Aboriginal governments from making choices because they're too corrupt to govern themselves? With self-government comes risks. I'm aware of that. But so does autonomy.
posted by smorange at 9:45 AM on December 26, 2012


Your right; they aren't any more corrupt than a lot of small town governments. Sadly small town government have a poor track record too. Really anyplace that is small enough to get away without much oversight is at risk of having some one come in a loot the place.

It's a good thing that the federal government has never been corrupt or false in its dealings or been known to loot reservations or anything.
posted by jeather at 10:23 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to note that âpihtawikosisân has addressed claims of reserve mismanagement both in the particular, as in this blog post about the Government's own report on Attawapiskat (after a third-party manager was temporarily put in place over the objections of the tribal government) where she writes that "[o]ver and over again, the Federal Court states that financial mismanagement was not the issue, and never had been. The fact that the public dialogue about Attawapiskat was almost wholly concerned with allegations of such mismanagement, demonstrates just how intensely events can become hijacked by misunderstandings"; and in general in her Aboriginal Issues Primers. âpihtawikosisân is a lawyer, so her focus can be quite technical on matters such as treaty rights, but reading her Primer is essential for an understanding of the relationship between the First Nations and the Federal Government.
posted by jokeefe at 2:33 PM on December 26, 2012


And I apologize for threadsitting, but Mitheral's comment ("I'd be more open minded on the issue if corruption wasn't rampant on reserves and in First Nation governments") represents a common attitude which can be easily fact-checked. The Assembly of First Nations has a number of PDF documents available on the Accountability section of its website, of which the most important (and quick) to read is the Fact Sheet--First Nations and Accountability. If you don't want to click the link, here's the takeaway:
As of March 2004, INAC [Indian and Northern Affairs Canada] had followed its policy to intervene with third party management due to financial, political or other management problems in a total of 34 cases (approximately 5% of 633 band councils). This is a cumulative rather than annual figure as resolution often takes several years. Interventions are brought on by a range of matters that would be dealt with internally by non-aboriginal managers, such as carrying greater than 8% debt load, something municipal governments, businesses and individuals do frequently with no intervener.

An investigation through the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Resource Development in 2003, showed that 96% of First Nations had no accountability issues of any kind, meaning that they were fully compliant with all rules and regulations.

First Nations government reporting greatly exceeds that of comparable institutions.

First Nations provide a minimum of 168 different financial reports to the four major funding departments (INAC, Health Canada, HRSDC and CMHC). That’s three per week. The majority of these communities have less than 500 people.

INAC alone receives over 60,000 reports from First Nations annually.
posted by jokeefe at 2:50 PM on December 26, 2012 [8 favorites]






I've spent a good while reading that report. The news is basically SHOCKING: A small local government that doesn't have very good record retention?! IN MY CANADA?

Stop the fucking presses.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:02 PM on January 7, 2013


Pamela Palmater's speech on the motivation behind IdleNoMore.

The Omnibus bill C-45 was basically the straw.
posted by anthill at 8:35 PM on January 10, 2013


I don't think the audit is unimportant, but I do think it is a distraction from the real issue, which is not Chief Spence, but the shocking condition many First Nations people live in (Although, can we really still say shocking after all these years of knowing it?) and the Bills being passed that change their rights in terms of resources.

I also find the movement to link the Quebec student movemnet with a "First Nations Spring" to be cool. (Scroll down for English text]
posted by chapps at 2:32 PM on January 12, 2013


More links that are useful to understanding Idle No More.
posted by salishsea at 11:06 AM on January 15, 2013


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