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.