Idle No More: National Day of Action

On Wednesday, 16. January, the indigenous grassroots uprising called “Idle No More” has called for a comprehensive National Day of Action against recent legislation passed by the Harper government that infringes upon aboriginal Treaty Rights, as well as being an affront to due democratic process. I will be responding to that call and will participate.

Idle No More is snowballing and fast becoming Canada’s own version of the Occupy Movement. Comparisons of it to the Arab Spring are probably puffery and overblown — at least at this stage. What that comparison intuits, nonetheless, is that there is a global movement in formation — from Tunisia to Egypt to Syria to Russia to the United States to Canada to China — that is attempting to become conscious of itself as a global movement and which is beginning to look like the foreshocks of a global social earthquake.

Like elsewhere, the role of social media in driving this protest forward is quite notable. It is, in effect, a leaderless — even anarchistic — movement. Hundreds of spontaneous demonstrations against the Harper government have been staged in the last month or so across Canada, largely aboriginal but gathering together also non-aboriginal allies. These previously randomly organised protests, nonetheless involving tens of thousands, are about to cohere and become focussed in a National Day of Action this Wednesday.

Idle No More had its beginnings a few weeks ago when four aboriginal women lawyers organised teach-ins in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (my home province) to explain the legal implications of the Harper governments Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, called “omnibus bills” because they bundled together so many pieces of new legislation that they blurred the boundaries of law and became essentially undebatable as separate pieces of legislation. It was Harper’s way of saying “either my way or the highway.” In effect, Mr. Harper was declaring “I am the law”, much like Louis XIV’s l’etat c’est moi). Many of the changes to existing legislation, particularly the removal of environmental protections of land and waterways, directly affect long-standing aboriginal treaty rights, and they constitute, in effect, a breach of contract in the relationship between the Crown and First Peoples.

(Some background and context to the emergence of Idle No More was provided by an old acquaintance, Murray Dobbin, in a recent article posted in The Tyee called “The Power of Idle No More’s Resurgent Radicalism“).

This isn’t going to go away soon. For aboriginal peoples, this is a life and death issue. For non-aboriginals, it has become a question of the survival of their democracy.

But there is already a politically reactionary formation emerging to deny them the streets. “Winning the streets” is, in political terms, the name of the game.

13 responses to “Idle No More: National Day of Action”

  1. The Scarecrow says :

    Reblogged this on THE SCARECROW.

  2. Damon says :

    Reblogged this on Awakestate and commented:
    This is so perfect for my blog! Spontaneous and Anarchistic

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    Back on the pages of TDAB, I learned about and later read a fascinating and an almost clairvoyant novel by Jack London called the “Iron Heel.” If Harper or “the system” senses real threat from the Idle No More movement, the system of government is going to play it pretty much like what London described in his book.

    I’m totally ignorant about the Canadian society, but I realize that the movement will need to preserve its ‘unity’ in order to achieve its goals. I hope things work out to the benefit of the people of Canada.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ll have to get that book. I’ve heard of it.

      And you are quite right. Harper is already manoeuvering to sideline the grassroots protests, and quite possibly in collaboration with some of the chiefs, although some chiefs refused to meet with him. There is that danger that politicians of all stripes will water down the wine — and blunt the pointy end of the stick which is the indigenous awakening — finally. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I hope it doesn’t get sidelined or side-tracked. It has to keep its head, its clarity, and its sobriety, even if everyone around them is losing theirs.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        It definitely sounds like Harper is playing it by the book that all malicious, spiteful, anti-populace politicians take their lessons from — collaborating with chiefs and leaders — making favorable deals with them personally, while undermining the spirit and aims and success of a movement.

        In the US, the fate of striking Kentucky coal miners’ movement back in the 1960s was determined for the worse when “union leaders” secretly began to collaborate and play ball with state politicians and the corporate elite. This is pretty much how Jack London foresaw a class struggle against corporate capitalism would unfold in his book “Iron Heel.” Any well intentioned wealthy businessman who was on the side of the poor in the class struggle mysteriously began to lose business and clients. A prominent “Bishop” who sided with the ordinary people and cause was threatened so much that caused him to act irrationally. Then, the newspapers got involved and dubbed the Bishop as “crazy” or “mentally ill” so he lost followers. And finally, any unyielding intellectual rebel leader was targeted for killing. So, it’s all about targeting leaders and getting them out of the way with one tactic or another.

        Personally, I have seen this sort of backstabbing many times and it is the main reason why I’m turned off by most activism. But history shows that, at some point, if governments don’t stop limitless exploitation of their people and resources, the gloves will come off and that won’t be pretty for either side.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          “So, it’s all about targeting leaders and getting them out of the way with one tactic or another.”

          And if I may add to that…getting them out of the way with one tactic or another by either dealing favors or dealing threats.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Harper’s strategy relies on driving “wedge issues” — very divisive. Then afterwards, he calls for “unity”, even after he has engaged in the politics of divisiveness. The hypocrisy of course is pretty evident… and pretty galling. I’m not even sure he’s actually aware of what he’s doing. He seems to be the quintessential Jekyll and Hyde type.

          A friend and I were discussing this at supper on Sunday. We agreed that Mr. Harper is shrewd and cunning, but not very intelligent. Most people would, I think, confuse such things. Some native people have called him “Trickster”, which is perhaps something many non-aboriginal people won’t quite get the meaning of, but it comes close to the meaning of “fork-tongued devil” in some ways. Jung often has some interesting things to say about the symbolism of the trickster figure in mythology.

          The walk today, which I attended, was very disappointing. Turnout in Regina was quite low — maybe 125 people. That’s not really encouraging because this here is “Indian Country” and I had expected at least 1,000 people. The weather was mild, but road conditions were a little treacherous because of melting and freezing. That, I know, did keep some people from driving into the city to attend the walk. The horse riders who were to lead the march had to bunk down their horses because of slippery conditions on the streets.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          So, it’s all about targeting leaders and getting them out of the way with one tactic or another.

          This side of the border, we are mourning the loss of Aaron Swartz.

          Unsure how I managed to miss Aaron’s speech, made at the height of the SOPA controversy last year, but it’s well worth a listen.

  4. alex jay says :

    It’s something I’ve following for awhile, so you/your audience might be interested in this hour long interview?

    • Scott Preston says :

      The Scarecrow has a great video presentation from W2TV of the Idle No More rally on a rare sunny winter’s day in Vancouver.

      As it turns out, tomorrow’s Idle No More National Day of Action was called by the chiefs, and not by the founders of Idle No More, which identifies with “the grassroots”. There appears to be some emergent factionalism, and some suspicion amongst grassroots Idle No More organisers that the chiefs might attempt to commandeer the movement in order to put a lid on it. The grassroots movement has actually called for an International Day of Action on Jan. 28.

      Having worked with the Aboriginal Healing Project some years ago, I’m somewhat familiar with the tensions and suspicions in native communities between “the grassroots” and “chief and council”. The chiefs are politicians, basically. But I’m not too eager to see factionalism begin to unravel the movement. You might catch some of that, though, at the 22:30 minute mark of the interview with Robert Animiiki Horton. It’s also been made fairly explicit by the four women who originally founded Idle No More — they do not want to see the chiefs — the politicians — commandeer the movement.

      There is a reactionary and racist backlash against Idle No More beginning to assert itself — something we’ll all have to keep an eye on.

  5. LittleBigMan says :

    “Harper’s strategy relies on driving “wedge issues” — very divisive. Then afterwards, he calls for “unity”, even after he has engaged in the politics of divisiveness.”

    A terrible quality this fork-tonguedness it is in any person, let alone in a prime minister with the power to “initiating most legislation for parliamentary approval.” I have been reading a little about Canadian politics this evening from here: and I think it will be difficult to oust him since he has the backing and was appointed by the Governor General, David Lloyd. So, Harper is just a tool implementing the aspirations of the “power elite” (Bill – C45).

    Thanks for mentioning Aaron Swartz, InfiniteWarrior. I had never heard of the fellow until his death this past week and had no idea he had spearheaded SOPA. After reading some articles about him and listening to some interviews, like the one for which you have posted the link above, it struck me what a bright and a genuine human being he was. At the same time, he had one big fault: he forgot to keep his own actions in check. This led to his suicide and the very very untimely death. I wish he was a bit tougher on the inside and could shrug off the harassment by the government.

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