Idle No More is a grassroots movement that’s been gaining momentum since the beginning of December. It was sparked as a response to bills C-45 and C-38 which both attack environmental laws within Canada and undermine Indigenous treaty rights. However, there’s been a lot of confusion about what the reason for this movement is and what its demands are. Idle No More, which started out mainly as flash mobs and round dances in malls across the country, has continued to reinvent itself through peaceful demonstrations, information sessions, traffic slow-downs and on occasion, road and railway blockades. The purpose of these actions has shifted from people mainly trying to show their presence to people attempting to educate the public about the reasons the actions are being taken. There’s been a lot of confusion as well as many myths, and in order to further the education process and empower ourselves, these myths need to be addressed. This article looks specifically at four myths which come up often in both mainstream media and the general population.
MYTH #1: Theresa Spence was the Reason for Idle No More
The first of these myths is that Theresa Spence is the leader of this movement and her hunger strike was the reason it continued. In reality, this movement began a month before her hunger strike began. It was, in fact, started by four female lawyers in Saskatchewan who were incredibly concerned about the changes being pushed forward through the Omnibus bill C-38 (and later C-45) without consent or even consultation with Canadian citizens or First Nations bands. Theresa Spence decided to begin her hunger strike in response to other citizens already taking initiative to take a stand against these changes. She, in fact, took her stand in support of Idle No More instead of the other way around. Her hunger strike was an action of one individual within a large network of equal individuals working against the changes these bills have put forward. Unfortunately, the media seemed to grab hold of her story and perpetuate it in a way which was misrepresented.
MYTH #2: Idle No More has no Specific Demands
The second of these myths is that Idle No More is disorganized without any specific demands. Although this is an incredibly diverse movement, involving many different people with many different wishes, all of these demands are coming from the same base. That base is the need for a discussion and change of the omnibus bills and a change in the relationship between our current government and Indigenous peoples, as well as other Canadian citizens. However, Indigenous cultures traditionally believe that everything is connected and this is often reflected in the way that this movement has been shaped. Each individual band has its own needs and is going to be affected differently by these changes. For this reason, the way each group of First Nations is approaching this issue is different. Regardless, the basis is the same: To change these Omnibus bills.
MYTH #3: This is Only About Indigenous Rights
Another myth about the movement is that Idle No More is only about Indigenous rights. This seems like a fairly sound myth when you look at the fact that most arguments are aimed at treaty violations and Indigenous sovereignty. However, when one looks at the reasons why these treaty rights are so important, one will see that the focus is for the preservation of the land and all of its inhabitants. Supporting Bills C-38 and C-45 takes away the federal government’s obligation to look after the environment. There is a danger in supporting a government that will not even protect the basic necessities of life, such as land and water. Because we all share the land and the water, this is an issue that we are all a part of, whether we want to be or not.
Myth #4: Idle No More Is Just Another Occupy Movement\
The last myth is that Idle No More is just another Occupy movement. On the surface, this may seem like a valid argument. Occupy, like Idle No More, spread virally from city to city and country to country. It became a global movement of people angry at the way governments were handling relationships between themselves and their citizens. However, there are many fundamental differences that set Idle No More apart from Occupy. For instance, where Occupy focused on the distribution of wealth, Idle No More looks at human rights. Idle No More is not a movement that aims to blame, but a movement that aims for dialogue in order to create solutions. While occupy was often fueled by anger and gave few solutions the problems it put forward, Idle No More is grounded in tradition and spirit in a way that gives proven solutions to the problems we’re presented with. Although anger does exist, it’s to the heart, soul and hope that comes from Idle No More. Idle No More is about building bridges between peoples and creating a system that protects all those involved, from us humans to our environment.
Resources to Gain More Knowledge
Now we’d like to provide you with some resources for growing your own understanding and education directly from the people involved in Idle No More. It’s important to see both sides of every story and to make your own, informed decisions about anything in life. In other words, it is important to think critically. Hopefully through viewing these resources, you can see a new side to the story of Idle No More and feel the heart and the love that it gives to our world.
To begin with, there are many web-based resources: For instance, Idle No More has its own website that can give you a more detailed overview of what the movement is about, where it is happening and who is involved (idlenomore.ca). There is also a Facebook page that very actively posts events and general news in relation to the movement (Idle No More). Going to Facebook Idle No More event pages and reading comments people have left, or articles people have posted, is also a very effective way of gaining more knowledge about the movement, as the people posting on Idle No More event pages are directly part of the movement. There is also a web app which tracks events happening across the world. Anyone can add an event to the app and this makes it very easy to find events happening around you (idlenomoreapp.com).
In Your Community
However, the most valuable and influential thing you can do to gain more knowledge is to actually go to an Idle No More event and have conversations. Talk to people around you. Ask them why they are there. Listen to the speakers, listen to the leaders, and hear their message. Go to an Idle No More information session and hear people’s points of view. Talk to the person next to you. Add them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Get to know people and build relationships. Get to know other people’s points of view. And once that is done, once you feel like you have gained a better understanding, go and talk to your family and friends; help to educate the people around you and think critically about their points of view and how they respond to yours. We are at a time in history where things are changing rapidly and everyone has an opportunity to make a difference. That, very much, includes you.
By Taryn and Jesse
Photo by: Taryn, Innocent Thunder Photography