While the Idle No More protests gain steam around the world, many Canadians still don’t know what it’s all about.
Dave Sauer, president of the Winnipeg Labour Council, said the issues being raised by the Idle No More protests, specifically the federal government’s Bill C-45, affect Canadians of all backgrounds — and should therefore interest them.
“As a trade unionist, we live and die by our … agreements,” said Sauer. “The treaties that we’ve made with the First Nations of this country… right now it’s pretty obvious that those are not being followed through on, one end is not honouring the agreement.”
Sauer said many non-aboriginals at the Idle No More events share the concern that the Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, isn’t talking with Canadians and is changing the country through large omnibus bills that don’t get enough debate before being passed into law.
“That’s a bridge that’s starting to be built between First Nations and non-First Nations activism,” said Sauer, adding the Canadian Labour Congress has endorsed Idle No More.
“If you look at the changes to the Navigable Waters Act, we have a lot of river systems now, especially in Manitoba, that are no longer protected, that I know a lot of non-First Nations people use, whether it’s for transportation or recreation.”
Wab Kinew, director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, wrote an article for the Huffington Post on the Idle No More movement when it started gathering steam in December.
“When aboriginal people do well, all of Canada does well,” said Kinew, adding he hopes Idle No More also becomes an awakening for young people of all backgrounds and political stripes to get educated on and engaged with “the policies and the programs that are going to determine their futures.
“A lot of the things which other Canadian people prize, like the great outdoors, the rights and freedoms that we have, these are values that most of the people involved with Idle No More are focusing on.”
What they want
The organizers of Idle No More mostly want meaningful dialogue between politicians, Canadians and First Nations.
They say things like the Conservative government removing key environmental protection to the vast majority of waterways in Canada is a violation of their treaty rights and want them reversed.
Organizers also hope the Idle No More protests will spur Canadians to become more educated about treaty rights and galvanize youth of all races to action.