A statement by Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste (Canadian state)
The ‘Idle No More’ movement, a campaign for indigenous rights, democracy and environmental justice, spread like wildfire in December in response to Conservative federal government legislation.
An unprecedented wave of grassroots action is sweeping across First Nations communities. Over a hundred public rallies were organized locally, in particular by young people frustrated by the systemic inequality that persists across the country. There were gatherings in shopping malls, marches on major highways, blockades on railway tracks, and flash mobs occupying busy intersections in downtown Toronto and other cities. The movement is attracting support from around the world.
First Nations people also demonstrated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 21, to protest Bill C-45, the Stephen Harper government omnibus budget bill which fuelled the growing movement. C-45 includes changes to the Indian Act affecting how reserve lands are managed, making them easier to ‘develop’, and to be taken away from the First Nations’ people.
The bill also removes thousands of lakes and streams from the list of federally protected bodies of water. “This is unacceptable. They have made a unilateral decision remove the protection of waterways… Shell Canada has proposed to mine out 21km of the Muskeg River, a river of cultural and biological significance. This ultimately gives the tar sands industry a green light to destroy vital waterways still used by our people,” stated Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
Atiwapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence who has been on a hunger strike since December 11, resolved to starve herself to death unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets to discuss treaty rights, and the relationship of the Canadian state to its indigenous peoples. She is currently living in a tee-pee on Victoria Island, in the Ottawa River, just a kilometre from the Parliament buildings. Harper has rejected calls to meet with Spence.
The demands of aboriginal peoples for decent housing, for respect of treaties, for the resolution of outstanding land claims, against tar sands pipelines, to win economic development beneficial to their communities, and to establish self-government are entirely just.
The task of the left and the workers’ movement, including labour unions and the NDP, is to promote and mobilize support for Idle No More, which has dramatized the cause of aboriginal peoples from coast to coast to coast.