Idle No More: A Critical Exploration of the Six Demands of Idle No More And the Importance of Meaningful Action by the Federal Government
On October 15th 2013 the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, released a statement upon the conclusion of his visit to Canada. In his statement, Anaya reveals that “from all I have learned, I can only conclude that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country” (2013:8). Even though Canada was one of the first countries to extend constitutional protection to the rights of indigenous people, Canadian aboriginals experience a well-being gap. Aboriginal teens are more likely to commit suicide; Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to be murdered than non-aboriginal women; housing conditions on reserves are akin to third world countries and Aboriginals experience a disproportionately high incarceration rate (Anaya 2013). Amidst the wealth and prosperity of Canada, the gap between the quality of life of Aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginal Canadians is disturbing.
Residential schools, systemic-racism, and the repression of Aboriginal heritage and tradition have resulted in a deeply engrained distrust among aboriginals towards the government. Over the last few decades the Canadian government has tried through a variety of initiatives and policies to reconcile with Aboriginal communities. Court victories and greater constitutional recognition of Aboriginal peoples suggest that the Canadian government has recognized their past mistreatment of Aboriginals and have taken steps towards reconciliation. Even with a federal policy geared towards the recognition of past wrong-doings, Aboriginal court victories, and greater constitutional recognition of Aboriginal rights, a nationwide grassroots social movement called Idle No More (INM) has emerged calling “on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water” (INMa).
INM originated when four women — Nina Wilson, Sylvia Mcadam, Jessica Goredon and Sheelah Mclean — organized a work shop focused on how the conservative omnibus bill, Bill C-45, would affect first nations people. This bill proposed changes to various acts and regulations that would directly affect Aboriginal sovereignty. These include; the Indian Act, the Navigable waters protection act, the environmental assessment Act and the Fisheries Act (Graveline, 2013: 293). These proposed changes mobilized aboriginals and non-aboriginals across Canada to come together in solidarity and form the largest movement for indigenous rights in Canada since Oka in 2002. With an excellent campaign strategy involving social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the INM movement has been inspiring youth and women to come together collectively to demand change. Through rallies, protests, round dancing and road blocks, the INM movement has gained national coverage in the...