Support Grows as Harper Continues to Ignore Indigenous Upswell

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Common Dreams

Support Grows as Harper Continues to Ignore Indigenous Upswell

'Idle No More' support spreads from Hawaii to Palestine

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

'Idle No More' protestor, Cheyenne Rain Small, braved negative temperatures Thursday night to rally in support of Chief Theresa Spence (Photo: Alexis Bonogofsky)

As First Nation Chief Theresa Spence enters the 18th day of her hunger strike, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper still refuses to meet with her, turning his back on the swelling 'Idle No More' movement at his door.

On Friday, Canadian federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq encouraged Spence to abandon her fast and, instead, agree to meet Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, The Canadian Press reports.

"If it was another country calling on him for a meeting, he'd be there in no time. Why are we treated so differently?" Spence stated in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

On Friday night, in honor of the full moon, organizers are calling on Indigenous People to reclaim their sacred sites, by "conducting ceremonies, singing, dancing, educating or doing whatever makes sense for your community and according to the traditions of your nation." Friday evening there will also be a rally in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Thursday night's flash mob outside of the Vancouver convention center drew a crowd of over 200 people. Also Thursday, supporters braved negative 7 degree temperatures to partake in a rally on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana.

Toronto freelance journalist Tim Groves put together a map illustrating the full reach of the movement. With markers spreading as far as Palestine and Hawaii, readers can view the overwhelming extent of "each rally, flash mob, blockade and show of support."

A recent poll found that the majority of Canadians said they supported grassroots protests, similar to 'Idle No More' and the Occupy movement.

"People are looking at other methods of political participation beyond conventional parties," said pollster Keith Neuman.

Meanwhile, Harper continues his refusal to discuss Canada’s relationship with its indigenous peoples.

Spence, who began her hunger strike on Dec. 11th, is resolved to starve herself unless Harper meets to discuss treaty rights, particularly Bill C-45, which includes changes to the Indian Act about how reserve lands are managed and removes thousands of lakes and streams from the list of federally protected bodies of water.

In an indication that Harper would continue to ignore her request, Aglukkaq—an Inuk herself—made the statement that aboriginal policy falls within the Aboriginal Affairs Minister's jurisdiction and therefore, that he should be meeting with the Northern Ontario Chief.

Discussing the 'Idle No More' movement on CBC's Friday morning program, sociology professor Jeff Denis, compared the growing indigenous rights movement to 2011's Arab Spring. Citing the youth and social network savvy of the Canadian indigenous population, he explained why it is an apt reference: 

They are the fastest-growing population in Canada. They are increasingly well-educated and aware of injustice.

They have high expectations for the future, but they still face tremendous barriers in terms of racism, lack of job opportunities, cuts to social programs and so forth.

If we think about other recent social movements around the world—including the Arab Spring, for example—those are just some of the factors that might be expected to facilitate this type of movement.

Below, CBC reports on the rising tide of 'Idle No More.'

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