A rough guide to #IdleNoMore - Macleans.ca

A rough guide to #IdleNoMore

The PM, the GG and the AFN: A Maclean’s briefing on today’s meeting on Aboriginal rights


CP/Fred Chartrand

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston prepare to sit down with Aboriginal leaders to discuss treaty rights and economic development, here’s a rough guide to how it all came to this. We emphasize rough, because the proposed meetings themselves may or may not occur, as of Friday morning.

Who called this meeting?

There are two proposed meetings, actually, and Harper is behind both of them. On Jan. 4, he accepted an Assembly of First Nations request to meet with Aboriginal leaders to build on last year’s Crown-First Nations gathering. The AFN proposed Jan. 24, and Harper countered with Jan. 11, which the AFN accepted. Separately, Harper asked Johnston if he’d host a ceremonial meeting at Rideau Hall that would follow the working meeting. Johnston accepted.

Whether or not the meetings will actually occur, and how they will be structured, was up in the air late last evening, thanks to disagreement among chiefs from several provinces with the proposed meetings’ terms—namely, the location and the meeting’s participants. Some want the meetings to take place at Ottawa’s Delta Hotel, instead of Langevin Block and Rideau Hall. Some are also demanding the presence of Johnston and Harper at the same meeting.

If Manitoba chiefs’ demands, in particular, are not met, they say they have the power to bring the Canadian economy “to its knees.”

What are they talking about?

Officially, the PM’s proposal calls for a meeting with the government at Langevin Block that will cover Aboriginal and treaty rights, as well as economic development.

How will the meeting unfold?

The Prime Minister’s Office distributed the proposed meeting’s itinerary. According to the PMO, Harper and AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo are to provide introductory remarks. The meeting will then enter a plenary session, chaired by two Aboriginal leaders and two cabinet ministers: Perry Bellegarde of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; Jody Wilson-Raybould of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations; John Duncan, the minister of Aboriginal affairs; and Tony Clement, the president of the Treasury Board. The session is scheduled to last 2.5 hours, after which Harper and Atleo are to “engage in a dialogue with the chairs” about what was discussed.

Next on the schedule is a meeting with Johnston at Rideau Hall.

What prompted the PM to accept the AFN’s request, anyway?

There’s some debate about this, but most observers agree Theresa Spence, the chief of Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, had some influence. We broke down the long version of Spence’s story. The short version: She embarked on what she calls a hunger strike—a claim disputed by some of her critics, since she’s consuming fish broth, water and medicinal tea—on Dec. 11, demanding Aboriginal issues be taken seriously. Among her specific wishes: respect for existing treaties, fairer resource-revenue sharing, and repeal of recent federal omnibus budget legislation. Spence would only start eating solid food, she said, once Harper and Johnston agreed to meet with Aboriginal leaders to discuss those issues. From there, her position evolved several times. When Harper agreed to the meeting, Spence said she’d continue her liquids-only diet only when a productive meeting had concluded. She later refused to attend any meeting that didn’t include Johnston, and still later, after Johnston agreed to host a separate meeting, refused to attend any gathering where the GG and PM weren’t sitting at the same table. There’s no word yet on her final plans, or the future of her hunger strike.

Why did Spence launch a hunger strike?

The chief was fed up with what she saw as a poisoned relationship between the federal government and First Nations communities, including her reserve in Attawapiskat. (You might recall the housing crisis that made national headlines in late 2011 and fuelled tense relations between Spence and Duncan). She declared that, if it came to it, she’d die for her people.

What was with her timing?

Spence alerted reporters to her protest on Dec. 10, the same day Aboriginal activists engaged in demonstrations across Canada in what they called a Day of Action. The protesters were united under the banner of Idle No More, a grassroots movement that enjoyed widespread support among native groups.

Who started Idle No More?

Four women in Saskatchewan started organizing teach-ins to raise awareness about Aboriginal issues. Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean’s efforts spawned demonstrations on the prairies and, eventually, all over Canada. Protesters’ primary methods included flash mobs in malls and blockades of roads and railways. The movement launched a Facebook page on Nov. 29. The next day, Edmonton-based activist Tanya Kappo took the movement to Twitter—and #IdleNoMore, the instantly popular hashtag, was born. Protests multiplied in frequency each week in December, including the Dec. 10 Day of Action and plenty of events in its wake—which made for an impressive visual.

What was it concerned about, specifically?

The four creators were concerned primarily with some of the same issues Spence has raised; namely, the dangers embedded in the feds’ latest omnibus budget bill. We’ve already explained the bluster around that bill. The legislation made it easier to lease reserve lands, and it also—as we’ve explained in detail, plenty of times—made it a lot easier to build things like dams and bridges on thousands of Canadian lakes and rivers (many examples of which run through native lands).

I’ve heard the movement’s gone global. Is that true?

Yes, it is. Demonstrations have occurred in at least 19 American states. Protesters in Farmington, New Mexico flash-mobbed a local mall. Demonstrations also reached Montana. And Texas. And Los Angeles. And Chicago. Support has come from New Zealand and Japan.

Where does Idle No More go from here?

We’ll cover that in a different post. Stay tuned.


A rough guide to #IdleNoMore

  1. Repost from Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize winner and former war
    correspondent for the New York Times) on Canada’s right-wing neocon Prime
    Minister Stephen Harper:

    Harper is a poster child for corporate malfeasance and
    corporate power, just sort of dismantling everything that’s good about Canada. So he’s the kind of species that rises to
    political power and is utterly subservient to corporate interests at the
    expense of the citizenry.

    Yeah, he’s a pretty venal figure.



    • If Harper was totally subservient to corporate interests, he would be putting on the spread at the Delta Hotel where the Chiefs are staying instead of inviting them to Langevin Block and Rideau Hall which is civil service territory.

    • Chris Hedges is an American whack job who gives a sh-t

  2. Why do First Nations believe they can demand who represents Canada and Canadians at a nation-to-nation meeting?

    Who represents Canada is up for the democratically elected leadership of Canada to decide.

    Canada is not telling the First Nations who can represent them at this meeting.

    Give Canadians the same courtesy of choosing our own representatives. Please read the other parts of the Canadian Constiution (and not only the parts recognizing the treaties and aboriginal rights). The GG is just a ceremonial figurehead, and an entirely inappropriate representative of Canada in a nation-to-nation negotiation.

    It would be helpful if the media asked the First Nations representation why they feel they have the right to select Canada’s negotiators, and take that right away from Canadians.

    • The FN treaties are with the crown. The GG represents that crown…..therefore they want him at any meeting.

      • So Nick is wrong…the dispute isn’t about the location……the Delta Hotel v. the Langevin Block & Rideau Hall?

        • That’s one of many quibbles here….but the GG is the big one. Without him, everything else is irrelevant.

          With him they’d probably be happy to meet in the middle of a skating rink.

          • The reports say there are only “two quibbles”. The FN Chiefs want the meeting on their turf and they want the GG in the room. There are “many quibbles”. They actually want to shoot bullets at Harper’s feet and see how fast they can make him dance.

          • Stop taking every media report as gospel. They don’t even agree ferchrisakes.

            PS on edit. Elephants can’t dance, so there’s no point in the replay of a dance scene from a John Wayne movie….no matter how much Albertans love them

          • Really….I just read the latest one on Macleans online from the Canadian Press. Which ones are you reading that don’t agree? Or do you even bother to read the media reports? I think you just feel you know everything so you are above following any reports.

          • I think you just like to bitch and complain.

          • Do I remind you of yourself??? How touching.

          • Not a chance…..I never dress up and play cowboy.

          • Too bad. You would be a better person for it.

          • For some 2 century old movie hokum?

            Are you drinking?

          • If I was drinking I would be having a lot more fun.

          • Well then go and drink….it is now Friday afternoon in China and Taiwan, and I am busy.

          • What are you doing Emily?

          • Yeah Emily, you are busy. As part of my academic paper I’ve been watching your schedule.

            You need to slow down, you’re not a well man Emily. This business of blog, thumpthumpthump, blog, thumpthumpthump, blog, thumpthumpthump, isn’t good for your overall health. You need to change Cathedrals buddy.

            Nevertheless it’ll be interesting to see how many haters and racists you find at the pow wow tomorrow.


          • Forget that lie. I saw you and Svend in the parade riding side saddle. You were dressed up as Popsickle Pete..

            Oh by the way Emily, when Chief No Invoices gets over to Rideau Hall, I hear Harper is going to have the last laugh by giving the Attiwapiskat that big official portrait of John Ralston Saul and his pink kayak.

            That will be a gift in lieu of the annual 4 bucks required under the Treaty.

          • Ironic coming from you

          • You didn’t just make a “weight” joke about the PM did you? Surely not after you chastised so many people about their racist comments toward Ms. Spence and her full figure. I find bigotry of that kind…jokes aimed at people who have weight issues to be in VERY poor taste.
            PS: I am still waiting to hear what media reports don’t agree.

          • Are elephants overweight?

            Are you even familiar with the quote?

          • Emily you’re an Atheist.
            You shouldn’t talk about the gospel in that way, it’s not polite.

          • Well we know one thing Emily, you’re not the big one.

          • However the GG is only a figurehead and nothing more.

          • The GG represents the Queen, and acts in her name. She is our Head of State. He has her power within Canada

          • Seeing that the Queen has no power, that means he has none either. For someone who spends so much time denigrating old customs, you are spending a lot of energy trying to invest the GG with a political importance which the Crown lost Centuries ago.

          • Yes, actually she does. It’s not my problem you don’t know that.

      • You’re desperate Emily, your little helpers at HQ must be down with the Red Chinese horse/dog flue. (or a mind debilitating STD)

    • Under the circumstances that is a pointless distinction. But i’ll play along…i want Neil Young to represent me at the table…but i’ll settle for Farley Mowat, if he’s still above ground…he has to bring his kilt though, that is my demand.

  3. The Indians remind of when when you are raising kids who have not yet learned to speak..when their ill or want something takes a while figure it out and then you usually end up wrong. The Indians have been demanding what? .600 separate and independent nations within Canada. Lets pretend we give that to them but then put taxes and customs outside of every reserve.Lets pretend then they decide all that oil is actually not destroying us but is their survival. So we now charge them for every ounce moved through our country. they really only want more billions poured into reserves with no accounting and leaving it to the chiefs and their friendly councils to decide how it is spent. God help their 99% if this ever happens. ..

    • Indians are from India.

      Lets STOP pretending, shall we?

      • The FN are from Asia. So really they’re asian.

        • The europeans are from africa. So really they’re african… people cannot choose which point of history to take their facts from. Our people have inhabited this land for over 13,000 years and this whole colonization thing is really a small fraction of that period. It should be recognized and appreciated.

        • Well technically all of us are from South Africa, but that doesn’t add to this conversation.

          • WRONG AGAIN – it wasn’t South Africa – you must be thinking of that unjailed terrorist, Nelson Mandela, he’s from South Africa..

            Oh yeah and De Beers is from South Africa – they’ve been forking millions of dollars a year over to Chief No Invoices.

            Any idea where the money went EMILY !

      • No wonder you’re busy Emily, it looks like you’re running out of material.

        I’ve got you down for that stupid “remark” about 6 times.

      • “Indian” is the official term straight from the eponymous Indian Act.

        Quit pretending there’s some other term that fits the bill as accurately.

        • Columbus thought he was in India.

          So… they were as ignorant in the old days as you are today.

  4. Why do people call themselves canadians with pride? Are they proud of their unrectified history? The fact of the matter is first nations still live on the most heavily regulated land in the country. Our children have no schools or a lack of personnel to operate them. Racism is still alive and affects most first nations people, on a personal and professional level.

    I myself am a non-status native. During my entire life i have had none of the “benefits” of being native. But still had to live with all the negative stereotypes placed on my people, thus on me as well. I work hard, pay taxes, raise my son, care for my family. Harper not only owes this meeting to us but canada owes us a future. The same opportunities every other “canadian” enjoys.

    I don’t want billions. I want to know why my parents could not find gainful employment. I want to know why a country with a mid-50% voter turn out thinks they have the right to look so poorly on a people that are fighting the only political battles that matter in this country.

    • You have a better standard of living because you haven’t had to live under the socialist system of the reserve. You own your own property, and therefore can better yourself. Sure, you have problems with racism because of the bad reputation natives have from the social problems of reserves which carry over into the bad neighborhoods of Canadian cities, but at least you have a hope for a better future.

      The on-reserve natives are suffering because they cannot do the same. They are suffering because they can only be a nation of beggars, and will be as long as they are prohibited from owning private property on reserves. The lack of private property explains ignorance, drug abuse, violence. It even explains why the government could steal children in prior decades, because natives didn’t have the resources to fight back without their own private property.

      Those are the opportunities that First Nations need, and those are the ones nobody is talking about.

      • It sounds like you do not fully understand socialism or the struggles of an urban native person. I do not own my own property. I rent my basement suite. Due to the financial and economic struggles of my family. Caused by the racism and lack of support to off reserve first nations.

        • Renting a suite gives you security of tenure as long as you continue to pay your rent. Such is not the case on many (if not most) reserves, where the band council and chief control the allocation of housing.

          Which means you can keep your place maintained and in good shape knowing that no chief’s nephew is going to be able to have you turfed out because he’s trashed his own place so badly that he wants yours.

        • Oh, I understand socialism quite well, and I know that the same problems it bred in the soviet union is causing the same problems on reserves. There is no incentive to build anything, because nobody gain value or income from it. There is no incentive to listen to the concerns of citizens who live on reserves because there is no way to fight back to authority if you depend on them for the basics of life.

          The NDP have lied to you. If natives on reserves had private property, they would have their own base of wealth that they could use to shove our racism back down our throats. They could buy the cities right out from under us. Instead you have believe that socialism will give you power, when natives already live under it and that is what’s killing them.

          You had to come the city, with all the baggage of the social problems and interracial tensions of the reserves, and are forced to seek employment at the bottom of society. If natives had been allowed property, your parents probably wouldn’t lost have their rights, and you would have come to the city with money in your pocket just like any white guy.

          Socialism has screwed you over, and you hate the socialists for that.

          • Sorry, that should read “Socialism has screwed you over, and you should hate the socialists for that.”

  5. A rough guide to #idlenomore.

    Grassroots aboriginal Canadians are fed up with their own tribal political structure, which has failed to deliver for anyone but the chiefs themselves.

    So the Chiefs are in a panic about what to do as they have begun to lose their legitimacy.

    This is a problem for Canada, because if the Chiefs lose legitimacy, it becomes difficult to see who Canada negotiates with.

    I think this may be a bigger problem for the Liberals and NDP, than for the Conservatives, since they historically have had close political alliances with the Chiefs and the existing aboriginal political structure, than the Conservatives.

    The Chiefs need Harper now, more than Harper needs the Chiefs, now that #idlenomore exists.

    The gig is up for the chiefs. That really is what #idlenomore is about. The chiefs have been obstacles to change for a generation because of their political alliance with the Liberals and NDP (i.e. in particular Martin repealing Nault’s accountability reforms at the Chiefs demand for support in overthrowing Chretien).

    Harper (what was Nault’s policy) of voluntary incremental change and political accountability is really the only route forward for the chiefs, if the chiefs don’t want to lose power to #idlenomore.

    The Liberals and NDP should have came out for Harper’s and Atleo’s plan for an national opt-in aboriginal school board, but they sided with the obstinate chiefs instead.

    • Excellent analysis.

    • very good point – I never looked at it quite like that – well done !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I hope either Mr. Bellegarde or Ms. Wilson-Raybould say “That paperwork can sure be a bitch, can’t it?” to Tony Clement.