Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Canada, Human Rights, Environment, Guatemala, Mining.
Tags: andreal germanos, Canada, canadian mining, environment, genocide, guatemala, guatemala government, guatemala military, guatemala protests, human rights, mining protests, otto perez, perez molina, rios-montt, roger hollander, tahoe resources, torture, water rights
In a crackdown on mining protests, Guatemala declared a 30-day “state of siege” on Thursday in four areas of the country, suspending people’s constitutional rights and sending in hundreds of police officers and thousands of soldiers following weeks of violence.
Military force enters the town of Jalapa. (Photo: @AndrinoB)
Reuters reports that
Guatemalan President Otto Perez [Molina] announced the move in an effort to quell protests targeting the mine belonging to Canadian miner Tahoe Resources Inc. Two people have been killed in the demonstrations.
The company’s security guards shot and wounded six demonstrators on Saturday, said Mauricio Lopez, Guatemala’s security minister.
The next day, protesters, who say the Escobal silver mine near the town of San Rafael Las Flores will contaminate local water supplies, kidnapped 23 police officers, Lopez said.
One police officer and a demonstrator were killed in a shootout on Monday when police went to free the hostages, said Lopez.
The government said on Thursday it was outlawing gatherings in the towns of Jalapa and Mataquescuinlta, and the areas of Casillas and San Rafael Las Flores.
A decree allows them temporarily to make detentions, conduct searches and question suspects outside the normal legal framework.
The Associated Press reports that the government’s decree also restricts “freedom of movement, the right to bear arms, freedom of association and demonstration.”
While protest over the mine has been escalating in the past several weks, MICLA (McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America), explains that resistance to the mine goes back years to the project’s approval, which “triggered a great deal of resentment amongst the local communities who claim they were neither informed nor consulted about the mining project.”
Protesters say the Escobal silver mine, owned by Canadian-based Tahoe and located near San Rafael las Flores, threatens their water supply.
Tahoe contests that the project “is being constructed to the highest environmental and social standards and it brings needed employment to the area and millions of dollars in annual royalties and taxes.”
“I don’t intervene because I’m poor and I have to work to support my family but the truth is that the mine does affect us when it comes to the environment,” Xalapan resident Mariano Lopez Escobar told the Associated Press. “Although, it sounds like that with an order from the president for the mine to start working there isn’t much one can do.”
“Unfortunately this government has been very much pro-business, and most of these businesses are foreign, mostly Spanish, American and Canadian,” Rob Mercatante of the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission told German news agency Deutsche Welle. “They’ve received such a warm welcome from the administration that some feel the justice system is now being used to punish community leaders for upholding their rights.”
Perez Molina has been been under fire from human rights defenders for being “directly involved in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide during the long civil war in Guatemala—as an ‘intellectual author’ and as a ‘material author.’” And last month, during the trial for U.S.-backed, School of the Americas-trained Efrain Rios Montt, a former soldier testified that “soldiers, on orders from Major ‘Tito Arias’, better known as Otto Pérez Molina … co-ordinated the burning and looting, in order to later execute people” during Guatemala’s dirty wars of the 1980s.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Energy, Idle No More.
Tags: Stephen Harper, Canada, roger hollander, environment, canada government, rule of law, First Nations, tar sands, canada mining, canada indigenous, indigenous peoples, idle no more, martin lukacs, sovereignty summer
In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.
(Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)
It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.
Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.
This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.
In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.
How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.
He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.
“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”
This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.
Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprising may be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.
Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”
The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.
No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.
Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.
But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.
This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”
Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.
© 2013 The Guardian
Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: environment, First Nations, jacob chamberlain, keystone, keystone xl, piipeline, roger hollander, tar sands, tar sands blockade
Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 by Common Dreams
Week of anti-pipeline actions erupt across the country
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Climate activists on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border are ratcheting up the fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this week as the U.S. Senate ponders a recently proposed bill that would expedite its approval and “short-circuit” the State Department’s pipeline environmental review.
In the past week over 30 protests have taken place in dozens of U.S. cities as part of a “March 16-23, Week of Action to Stop Tar Sands Profiteers,” which has been coordinated by over 50 grassroots organizations.
So far, thirty-seven protesters have been arrested “for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices,” with more actions planned in the coming days.
“Organizers seek to expose green-washed corporations like TD Bank, a top shareholder in TransCanada, and force them to divest from the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” Tar Sands Blockade stated Wednesday.
“It’s encouraging to see people around the country taking action to stop tar sands profiteers,” said Ron Seifert, spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “No longer will we allow them to build KXL and invest in toxic projects that endanger the health of low-income and communities of color. We will not allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.”
From the Tar Sands Blockade, below are a few highlights from the week of action so far:
Meanwhile, native leaders from both Canada and the U.S. took to the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday to urge opposition to both the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines—telling lawmakers that an alliance of native groups on both sides of the border are preparing to fight the pipelines in the courts and through unspecified direct action in the coming months.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said natives are determined to block the pipelines.
“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” he said at a news conference.
“We have a lot of issues at stake.”
“We’re going to stop these pipelines on way or another,” said Phil Lane Jr. of the American Yankton Sioux.
“If we have to keep going to court, we’ll keep doing that,” said Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in northern B.C., adding that pipeline opponents will never back down.
“We’re the ones that’s going to save whatever we have left of this Earth,” he said.
“We, as a nation, have to wake up,” said Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation north of Vancouver. “We have to wake up to the crazy decisions that this government’s making to change the world in a negative way.”
More actions are expected throughout the U.S. in the coming days including six more actions against TD Bank in New York City, Washington D.C., Montpellier, Vt., Newark, Del., New Haven, Conn., and Asheville, N.C., Tar Sands Blockade reports.
On Thursday, March 21 in Oklahoma, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance is planning what is slated to be the largest action of the week. Activists have pledged to “physically stop KXL construction.“
Click here for a full list of actions and live updates from around the country. March 18 – Over 40 rally outside Michels Corporation in Kirkland, Washington (Alex Garland) March 19 – Banner Drop in Oklahoma Promotes Week of Action (Tar Sands Blockade)
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Media, Science and Technology.
Tags: Canada, canada science, climate change, elizabeth renzetti, environment, freedom of information, Freedom of speech, roger hollander, science, scientists, Stephen Harper, university of victoria
Roger’s note: Canada under the leadership of J. Edgar Harper.
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Feb. 22 2013, 8:27 PM EST
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 23 2013, 9:01 AM EST
Freedom to Read Week begins on Feb. 24, bringing with it the perfect opportunity to kick the tires of democracy and make sure the old jalopy’s still running as she should.
What’s that you say? The bumper fell off when you touched it? The engine won’t turn over? That’s not so good. Better look under the hood.
We like to think of censorship as something that happens over there, in the faraway places where men break into houses at night to smash computers, or arrive in classrooms to remove books they don’t like. Not in lovely, calm, respectful Canada. Here we don’t necessarily notice freedoms being eroded slowly, grain by grain, “like sands through the hourglass,” if you’ll allow me to quote from Days of Our Lives.
Just ask Canada’s government scientists. Oh wait, you can’t ask them, because they’ve got duct tape over their mouths (metaphorical duct tape, but hey – it’s still painful). This week the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic and Democracy Watch asked federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to investigate claims that scientists are being prohibited from speaking freely with journalists – and through them, the public.
In a report called Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy, the UVic researchers present some chilling findings: Scientists are either told not to speak to journalists or to spout a chewed-over party line, rubber-stamped by their PR masters; the restrictions are particularly tight when a journalist is seeking information about research relating to climate change or the tar sands; Environment Canada scientists require approval from the Privy Council Office before speaking publicly on sensitive topics “such as climate change or protection of polar bear and caribou.”
You wouldn’t want the average citizen to learn too much about caribou, now. Who knows how crazy he could get with that kind of information? It could lead to panel discussions about Arctic hares, town halls on ptarmigans. The report states that government scientists are “frustrated,” which is hardly surprising. It’s like hiring Sandy Koufax and never letting him pitch.
The other thing that the report makes clear is how deliberate this strategy is: “The federal government has recently made concerted efforts to prevent the media – and through them, the general public – from speaking to government scientists, and this, in turn, impoverishes the public debate on issues of significant national concern.”
This is not an issue that’s going away. The Harper government’s heavy-handed control of scientists’ research has raised concerns across the world for a few years, including condemnation from such bastions of Marxism as Nature magazine.
A couple thousand scientists from across the country marched on Parliament Hill last July to protest cuts in research (many in the highly sensitive area of environment and climate change) and restrictions on their ability to speak freely about their work. They created what might be the best chant in the history of political protest: “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!”
Last week, Margaret Munro of Postmedia News reported that a University of Delaware scientist was up in arms over a new confidentiality agreement brought in by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “I’m not signing it,” Andreas Muenchow told the reporter. What does this mean for bilateral co-operation on research? Nothing good, that’s for sure.
The Vise-Grip on information is tightening and Ottawa is the muscle. Last month, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression released a report about the dire state of freedom of information requests: “Canada’s access to information system is in a deep crisis and without urgent reform could soon become dysfunctional,” the report noted. That means fewer requests being processed, at a more glacial pace, with more of the juicy bits blacked out by the government censor’s pen. This is the good stuff, people. The stuff the government doesn’t want you to know about. The stuff that’s kept in a filing cabinet in Gatineau under a sign that says, “Nothing here. Nope. Just a three-week-old tuna sandwich. And it’s radioactive.” This is the information we need to keep an eye on the government’s internal gears – and it’s being withheld.
Canada recently plummeted 10 places to No. 20 in the World Press Freedom Index, which measures how unfettered a country’s media is. Reporters Without Borders, which compiles the index, is concerned about the access-to-information issue and about the protection of journalists’ sources. The beacon we should now follow is Jamaica, whose press freedoms rank highest in the region.
It’s the perfect time to welcome Freedom to Read Week. There are events all over Canada and countless ways to celebrate our precious liberties. Bring your kids to the library. Read something you shouldn’t. Even better, write something you shouldn’t. A letter to your MP, perhaps?
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Environment.
Tags: anti-terrorism, brian cox, Canada, canada environment, csis, environment, environmental protest, greenpeace, jeffrey monaghan, keystone, national security, oil pipeline, rcmp, roger hollander, stephen leahy
Police and security agencies describe green groups’ protests and petitions as ‘forms of attack’, documents reveal
Roger’s note: Canada’s own J. Edgar Harper
Canadian government agencies have been accused of conflating extremism with peaceful protests, such as the ongoing campaign against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country’s police and security agencies has become the “new normal”, according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.
Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as “forms of attack” and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents.
Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said. In 2011 a Montreal, Quebec man who wrote letters opposing shale gas fracking was charged under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Documents released in January show the RCMP has been monitoring Quebec residents who oppose fracking.
“Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday had better take precautions,” Monaghan said.
In a Canadian Senate committee on national security and defence meeting Monday Feb 11 Richard Fadden, the director of CSIS said they are more worried about domestic terrorism, acknowledging that the vast majority of its spying is done within Canada. Fadden said they are “following a number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism”.
Canada is at very low risk from foreign terrorists but like the US it has built a large security apparatus following 9/11. The resources and costs are wildly out of proportion to the risk said Monaghan.
“It’s the new normal now for Canada’s security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organisations,” he said.
Surveillance and infiltration of environmental protest movement has been routine in the UK for some time. In 2011 a Guardian investigation revealed that a Met police officer had been living undercover for seven years infiltrating dozens of protest groups.
Canadian security forces seem to have a “fixation” with Greenpeace, continually describing them as “potentially violent” in threat assessment documents, said Monaghan.
“We’re aware of this” said Greenpeace Canada’s executive director Bruce Cox, who met the head of the RCMP last year. “We’re an outspoken voice for non-violenceand this was made clear to the RCMP,” Cox said.
He said there was real anger among Canadians about the degradation of the natural environment by oil, gas and other extractive industries and governments working for those industries and not in the public interest. Security forces should see Greenpeace as a “plus”, a non-violent outlet for this anger, he argued. “It is governments and fossil fuel industry who are the extremists, threatening the prosperity of future generations.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: archana rampure, Canada, Canada Conservatives, canada government, common causes, environment, First Nations, Free Trade, idle no more, neo-liberal, political protest, roger hollander, Stephen Harper
Roger’s note: there is an old Canadian political saying that goes like this: the NDP are Liberals in a hurry. The truth is that Conservatives are Liberals in a hurry (as Republicans are Democrats in a hurry). In a hurry to what? In a hurry to protect and expand the rule of capital over living human beings. It is not just the Harper agenda but rather the agenda of Capital that we are talking about. Replacing Harper’s Conservatives with either Liberals or watered down NDP will not stop but only slow down the agenda. The Idle no More Movement and the passionate radicalism of large elements within the First Nations peoples are important and hopeful signs. Such movement should not be diluted by believing that electoral politics is a solution to the destruction of our human rights and of the very planet we inhabit.
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Rabble.ca
by Archana Rampure
Stephen Harper has an agenda and it is all about turning Canada into a resource-extraction economy. He would like to make sure that nothing and no one stands in the way of exploiting the oil and the gas, the minerals and the water.
When Aboriginal people stand up for their rights and demand that they be consulted before natural resources are ripped out of the earth, the racist rhetoric begins to fly. When environmentalists suggest that this is a short-sighted, unsustainable and one-time-only plan, they are called radicals and terrorists. NGOs that network with the Global South peoples whose resources we exploit find themselves replaced by mining companies.
The list goes on: trade unions are demonized as big labour and compared to big corporations as though there is any real comparison between the power and influence wielded by corporations and that of the union movement. Aboriginal communities are abandoned by a Federal government which accuses their leaders of financial mismanagement.
These are the smoke-screens being put up to obscure a neo-liberal agenda that will brook no opposition. What I remember from my first anti-free trade protest more than a decade ago still rings true: deregulation, privatization and globalization is still the name of the game.
To me, much of this comes down to the sharp new focus on bilateral trade agreements that this Federal government has made its trademark. Free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements seem to be the Harper Conservatives answer to every problem we are facing. Their relentless drive to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU is emblematic of their mistaken policies: at a time when Canada`s industrial heartland is struggling with the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs, we are deep in the final stages of negotiating an agreement that might open up other sectors of our economy to transnational competition.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a“next generation”free trade agreement that Canada and the EU have been negotiating since 2009. Make no mistake about this — it might not be called a free trade agreement but it will be Canada’s most expansive free trade initiative since NAFTA. It will impact the ability of our elected governments to regulate and it will have a huge impact on how municipal and provincial governments use procurement for local economic development or for environmental sustainability. As far as we can tell from the leaked documents that have been made public so far, the provisions that it will include on investor-state dispute resolution will once again allow foreign corporations to bypass our legal system and appeal to secretive tribunals. The EU’s demands around intellectual property translate into billions of extra dollars for brand-name pharmaceuticals.
And the Canada-EU CETA is only one among the stack of free trade deals that the Harper government has tied itself to: there are now on-going negotiations on free trade between Canada and India, Japan, Korea, Morocco, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and a number of other countries. There are also multi-lateral trade agreement negotiations that we are participating in such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Investment promotion and protection agreements are another key feature of this government’s foreign policy initiatives: in 2011 and 2012 alone, FIPAs have been negotiated between Canada and the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia, the Slovak Republic, Benin, Kuwait, Senegal, Tanzania, China – the now infamous one! – and Mali.
At a time when Canada is supporting a resource war in Mali, and when we “partnering” with multinational mining corporations as part of our international “development” work, it hardly surprising that this government is so enthusiastically supporting Canadian “investment” and “investors” in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe.
This foreign policy — where the ultimate goal is to extract resources — is a mirror reflection of Harper’s economic roadmap for Canada. What the Global North exported to the Global South has now come home to us all: if we do not form Common Cause to stop this government, our home on native land will continue to experience the consequences of a single-minded drive for resource extraction combined with an attack on universal public services. It is more than time for us to come together, to act now, for ourselves and for those with whom we have Common Cause — aboriginal peoples, immigrants and migrants, environmentalists, trade unionists, students, seniors, the poor and the marginalized, activists — anyone who still believes that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal model of life. We cannot wait till 2015. We have to act together now.
Today, I will be standing up against Harper and his neo-liberal vision for us all as part of a joint day of action called by Idle No More and Common Causes. I hope it will be the first of many actions that Common Causes is part of, that it sparks the kind of committed, continuous action that will help us build a better Canada, and a better world.
© 2013 Archana Rampure
Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: alberta oilsands, canada aboriginal, canada energy, canada environment, canada first nations, canada indian act, emissions, environment, First Nations, harper government, idle no more, indigenous, linda mcquaig, mother earth, pam palmater, roger hollander, Stephen Harper
Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 by The Star
Those who believe we can freely trash the environment in our quest to make ourselves richer suffer from a serious delusion — a delusion that doesn’t appear to afflict aboriginal people.
A Vancouver protester highlights the environment on Jan. 11. (Photograph: Ben Nelms / Reuters)
Aboriginals tend to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their approach has long baffled and irritated Canada’s white establishment, which regards it as a needless impediment to unbridled economic growth.
Nowhere is this irritation more palpable than inside Stephen Harper’s government, with its fierce determination to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” regardless of the environmental consequences.
So it’s hardly surprising that the Harper government has ended up in a confrontation with Canada’s First Nations.
Certainly the prime minister has shown a ruthlessness in pursuing his goal of energy superpowerdom.
He has gutted long-standing Canadian laws protecting the environment, ramming changes through Parliament last December as part of his controversial omnibus bill. He has thumbed his nose at global efforts to tackle climate change, revoking Canada’s commitment to Kyoto.
And he’s launched a series of witch-hunt audits of environmental groups that dared to challenge the rampant development of Alberta’s oilsands — one of the world’s biggest sources of climate-changing emissions — as well as plans for pipelines through environmentally sensitive areas.
But, while there’s been some resistance from provincial governments, opposition parties, and environmentalists, Ottawa’s energy juggernaut has continued to surge ahead.
At least until now. With the First Nations, Harper may have met his Waterloo.
Among other things, Harper’s attack on Canada’s environmental laws included rewriting parts of the Indian Act, thereby removing safeguards for native land and waters that are protected in the Constitution.
Of course, even with the Constitution on the side of aboriginals, it’s hard to imagine a group consisting of some of the poorest people on the continent taking on the federal government, backed up by corporate Canada, and winning.
After all, the First Nations are divided, and the government has deftly exploited these divisions. Furthermore, many influential media commentators side with the government, helping it portray aboriginals as impractical dreamers unable to understand the dictates of the global economy.
And restless natives have been a permanent political backdrop in Canada, unable to even ensure clean drinking water for themselves, let alone shape the government’s agenda.
But what’s new and potentially game-changing is Idle No More, the youth-based native initiative that, suddenly and unpredictably, has grown into a feisty grassroots movement — one that has shown the potential to attract activists from Occupy Wall Street, the Quebec student movement and even middle-class Canadians starting to wonder if barbecuing weather in mid-January suggests we’re playing too fast and loose with the environment.
Idle No More grew directly out of the resistance to Harper’s energy juggernaut. Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq and spokesperson for Idle No More, notes that changes in the omnibus bill make it easier to overcome native resistance to energy projects. For instance, the changes would enable a handful of natives, without support from the band majority, to surrender reserve land to Enbridge, enabling it to build a pipeline.
The Harper government will undoubtedly mobilize resources and cunning against Idle No More.
Whatever happens, it’s hard not to be inspired by this gutsy, earthy band that has asserted itself in the tradition pioneered by native-influenced governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, both of which have passed laws giving Mother Earth legal protections.
Canadians have reason to be ashamed of our treatment of aboriginals — from residential schools to the continuing failure to provide basic necessities like water, housing and education to people whose ancestors were here long before ours arrived.
Ironically, their insistence on their constitutional rights, as Palmater notes, may be the last best hope of Canadians to reverse our own culture’s reckless disregard for the dictates of Mother Earth, who ultimately is more demanding and unforgiving even than the global economy. Rising GDP levels won’t mean much if we’re swamped by rising sea levels.
The very least we can do is to get behind this ragtag group that has, in a few short weeks, shown more wisdom than our “advanced” society has mustered in decades.
Linda McQuaig’s column appears monthly. firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2013 The Star
Linda McQuaig is a columnist for the Toronto Star. She first came to national prominence in 1989 for uncovering the Patti Starr Affair, where a community leader was found to have used charitable funds for the purpose of making illegal donations to lobby the government. McQuaig was awarded the National Newspaper Award for her work on this story. The National Post has called her “Canada’s Michael Moore”. Linda is the author (with Neil Brooks) of Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, published by Beacon Press.
Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: amazon watch, Ecuador, ecuador indigenous, ecuador oil, Ecuador petroleum, environment, fossil fuels, petroamazonas, petroecuador, rainforest, roger hollander
Published on Monday, January 14, 2013 by Common Dreams
‘We may die fighting to defend the rainforest’
- Beth Brogan, staff writer
An indigenous community in the Ecuadorian rainforest says they “will die fighting to protect the rainforest” after they say they were swindled by an oil company into signing away rights to 70,000 hectares of one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
An Amazonian species of dragonflies with iridescent wings is among the species found in Yasuni national park in Ecuador, the most biodiverse region on Earth, under siege by the state-backed Petroamazonas oil company. (Photograph: Kelly Swing/Estacion Tiputini Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales/Universidad San Francisco de Quito)
But the state-backed oil company, PetroAmazonas—backed by the Ecuadorean army—plans to begin prospecting the Kichwa village on the Napo River on Tuesday, The Guardian reports.
PetroAmazonas, one of the biggest oil companies in South America, originally offered the village a new school, university places for village children and better healthcare, but dropped those provisions before the chief of the village signed away the rights to the land for $40 per hectare.
But the community secretary, Klider Gualinga, said 80 percent of the village opposes the deal, which he says has not yet been finalized. He told The Guardian, “People think it is dishonest and the oil company is treating them like dogs. … They’re very upset and worried. We have decided to fight to the end. Each landholder will defend their territory. We will help each other and stand shoulder to shoulder to prevent anyone from passing.”
“If there is a physical fight, it is certain to end tragically,” Shaman Patricio Jipa said. “We may die fighting to defend the rainforest.”
It makes me feel sad and angry. Sad because we are indigenous people and not fully prepared to fight a government. And angry because we grew up to be warriors and have a spirit to defend ourselves. I wish we could use this force to fight in a new way, but our mental strength is not sufficient in this modern world.
There is huge concern the oil company will move quickly to clear the land. When that happened elsewhere, they used armed troops, beatings and abductions to remove those who stood in their way.
Jipa and his wife, Mari Muench, a British businesswoman, are fighting the plan.
Scientists say a single hectare in this part of the Amazon contains a wider variety of life than all of North America. The Amazon rainforest and other tropical forests are also among the earth’s best defenses against climate change, absorbing some 20 percent of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.
“Protecting the Amazon basin, which contains the largest tropical rainforest on the planet, is critical to our planet’s climate stability,” according to Amazon Watch.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: #occupy movement, bill c-45, Canada, environment, First Nations, hunger strike, idle no more, indian act, indigenous, ken georgetti, Maude Barlow, political protest, raymond robinson, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, therese spence
Published on Friday, January 11, 2013 by Common Dreams
Protest movement takes message to Canadian capital and beyond
- Common Dreams staff
Idle No More protesters gather in front of Canada’s Parliament on Friday. (Photo: Twitpic via Samson Cree Nation)
A movement spawned by First Nation activists over indigenous rights and environmental protections in Canada has spread far and wide as Idle No More‘s Global Day of Action spurred solidarity demonstrations across the country Friday.
“The goal is to raise the profile of the movement, demonstrate our global presence, and give visibility to the growing momentum as a people’s movement first,” announced one solidarity group associated with the movement.
A major rally outside Canada’s Parliament building occurred as a meeting between some First Nation leaders and representatives from the Canadian government began in Ottawa.
The Idle No More movement swelled to international prominence over the last month as Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, now on the 32nd day of a hunger strike, gave voice to anger over new government laws that undermined long-standing agreements with First Nations.
Though some leaders agreed to attend a “nation to nation” meeting between First Nation Chiefs and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Spence is boycotting the meeting saying it would not meet the demands declared by the Idle No More movement.
“I clearly stated from the beginning that the meeting has to include both the Governor General and the Prime Minister in attendance,” Spence said in a statement. “We continue to push for justice, equality, and fairness for all Indigenous peoples.”
Despite evidence of friction between some First Nation leaders, the Idle No More movement has in many regards outgrown specific earlier demands as a broader movement for indigenous and environmental rights has grown up around it.
As Canadian activists Maude Barlow and Ken Georgetti explain: “All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to Chief Theresa Spence’s and Elder Raymond Robinson’s hunger strikes. These individuals are calling attention to an intolerable situation among First Nations communities. They are also highlighting concerns common to many Canadians about dangers posed by unilateral government actions to the natural environment and the state of our democracy.”
Elsewhere in Canada, protesters in British Columbia set up a blockade at the Port of Vancouver with plans to march on City Hall. Demonstrations were also reported in other major cities, including Winnipeg, Calgary and Montreal, and smaller cities and towns nationwide.
As part of the international day of action, indigineous people were encouraged not to buy anything Friday unless they do so on a reserve, CBC reports.
Rallies on campuses and other cultural sites around the country were also expected, including at the University of Winnipeg, Canadian Mennonite University, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Native Education Centre in Vancouver.
Supporters in the United States were among those across the globe participating in the #J11 Global Day of Action events. Other solidarity actions were also planned in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Hawaii, Italy, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
Over 3,000 of demonstrators have overtaken Parliament Hill and blocked the main entrance to the prime minister’s office ahead of a meeting between the Harper and members of the First Nations community.
CBC News reporter Julie Ireton tweeted that protesters closed streets in the capital city, drumming and dancing as the swarm of people swelled as they made their way towards the Hill.
The demonstrators began their march on Victoria Island, where Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has been camped for more than a month during her hunger strike protest.
In Montreal, a round dance spanned two city blocks as over 1,500 gathered outside the Palais des Congrès. You can view a live stream from the demonstration below.
Demonstrations spread far as this crowd gathered in the Northwest Territories on Friday afternoon.
Street art goes up in solidarity in Paris, France.
(Photo: Solguy via Twitter)
To Meet or Not To Meet?
First Nation women standing in solidarity with the Idle No More movement tried to block Matthew Coon Come, Chief of the Cree Nation, from joining the meeting with the Prime Minister and then voice outrage as he enters the offices:
Chief Shawn Atleo, head of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), also attended the meeting. Like Chief Coon Come, he received scorn from some and threats that his ongoing leadership might be challenged.
Promises of more to come:
The Toronto Star reports that many First Nation chiefs are committed to continuing their campaign of protest regardless of what comes out of today’s meeting in Ottowa:
The threat comes as First Nations are calling for a national day of action on Jan. 16 that could fill streets with protesters and shut down rail lines and highways.
“We’re going to rally on Jan. 16 right across Canada,” said Wallace Fox, chief of the Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. While it’s billed as a peaceful protest, it also promises disruptions similar to what Canadians have seen in recent weeks from the Idle No More movement. “You’ll see more of that. Highway blockades, rail lines,” he said.
The meeting with Harper was cast in doubt as angry chiefs voiced their frustration with the prime minister’s refusal to meet on their terms.
“We’re not going to meet with Harper on his agenda because we initiated this as chiefs,” Fox said. Instead, Harper has dictated the terms of the meeting “on my terms, my turf,” he said. “We’re not agreeing with that.”
Idle No More‘s promo video for #J11:
Published on Friday, January 11, 2013 by Rabble.ca
Why Idle No More Has Resonated with Canadians
Imagine a country where the national government introduces and passes legislation that detrimentally affects all of its First Nations communities but it doesn’t bother to consult with them. Then a chief of an impoverished northern First Nation community goes on a hunger strike to get a meeting between the First Nations leadership and the government several months after this legislation was passed. Does this have implications for all Canadians? You bet it does. This will not be the last time that individuals or groups will take such extreme measures in response to the federal government’s public policy process or lack thereof.
All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to Chief Theresa Spence’s and Elder Raymond Robinson’s hunger strikes. These individuals are calling attention to an intolerable situation among First Nations communities. They are also highlighting concerns common to many Canadians about dangers posed by unilateral government actions to the natural environment and the state of our democracy.
The hunger strike has galvanized widespread protests by youthful and energetic supporters of the Idle No More movement. These are all predictable responses to a government that routinely bullies anyone who does not agree with it, refuses to consult, and prefers ideology over evidence when developing and implementing public policy.
Of major concern to First Nations and many other Canadians are two omnibus budget bills (C-38 and C-45) that were imposed upon the country during the past year. These bills each comprised hundreds of pages and contained legislative changes that went far beyond what was contained in the budget.
The omnibus bills will have an especially damaging impact on First Nations communities. Bill C-45 amends the Navigable Waters Protection Act to ensure that future resource projects will no longer trigger a federal environmental assessment or force corporations to notify the federal government of their plans. Certain key rivers in British Columbia, along the path of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, for example, will now be excluded from federal government environmental oversight.
This same bill also changed the Fisheries Act in ways that First Nations believe will adversely affect their traditional fishing rights. The omnibus bills also replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with new laws that will limit First Nations involvement in environmental assessments on their own lands, as well as doing away with assessments entirely for some projects. All of this will limit the ability of First Nations, and the public at large, to present views and concerns on the environmental impact of various resource development projects.
Bill C-45 also makes changes to the Indian Act that will make it easier to lease out land for economic development without adequately consulting band residents. The Assembly of First Nations believes this means resource exploitation on reserve land can occur without the solid consent of their community.
The government acted in a similarly high-handed way when, without any consultation, it used Bill C-38 to raise the age from 65 to 67 at which Canadians are eligible for the Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. When this change is implemented, its greatest negative effects will be felt by the most vulnerable workers. Those who have toiled for low wages, often in the most physically demanding jobs, will be forced to work for two extra years before receiving old age security benefits. This happened despite overwhelming evidence from experts across the political spectrum that this change was unnecessary.
Here is the problem. This government drafts public policy and passes laws without facts or evidence to support its positions. Ottawa allows only limited and perfunctory consultation for stakeholders. If you stand up and speak out, you are criticized and attacked in the House of Commons and the Conservative public relations machine goes into overdrive to discredit your position or organization. If you are a recipient of federal government funding, you lose it by the next budget cycle. It’s bully American-style politics at its worst.
Many Canadians are deeply ashamed of the persistence of poverty and deplorable living conditions in First Nations communities, and that we still have not settled land claims with them. Many also share First Nations’ concerns about the environmental implications of changes to fisheries, environmental assessments, and water protection.
The hunger strike by Chief Spence and actions undertaken by the Idle No More movement have resonated with Canadians. National Chief Shawn Atleo has arranged for a crucial meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss urgent issues that cannot wait. We salute individuals and the movement that have created the conditions to force this conversation to occur. It is completely un-Canadian and a national disgrace that it took a hunger strike and national protests to create an opportunity for dialogue and input that should have happened in the first place.
The real shame is how little Canadians expect of their national government and how disengaged and unaffected they feel about politics at the national level. It is only a matter of time before Canadians realize that this government serves only the interests of a few. Citizens will begin to contemplate individual and collective responses and actions to change this situation.
Decisions that leave people behind force them into the streets. This was true of the Occupy movement and the Quebec students’ protest, and now we are seeing it with Idle No More. It is likely Canadians will witness more in the future given this government’s tendency to make substantive policy changes that alter the fabric of society without consultation.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Ken Georgetti is president of the 3.3 million member Canadian Labour Congress.
Published on Friday, January 11, 2013 by Huffington Post
Idle No More: Think Occupy, But With Deep Deep Roots
I don’t claim to know exactly what’s going on with #IdleNoMore, the surging movement of indigenous activists that started late last year in Canada and is now spreading across the continent — much of the action, from hunger strikes to road and rail blockades, is in scattered and remote places, and even as people around the world plan for solidarity actions on Friday, the press has done a poor job of bringing it into focus.
But I sense that it’s every bit as important as the Occupy movement that transfixed the world a year ago; it feels like it wells up from the same kind of long-postponed and deeply-felt passion that powered the Arab spring. And I know firsthand that many of its organizers are among the most committed and skilled activists I’ve ever come across. In fact, if Occupy’s weakness was that it lacked roots (it had to take over public places, after all, which proved hard to hold on to), this new movement’s great strength is that its roots go back farther than history. More than any other people on this continent, they know what exploitation and colonization are all about, and so it’s natural that at a moment of great need they’re leading the resistance to the most profound corporatization we’ve ever seen. I mean, we’ve just come off the hottest year ever in America, the year when we broke the Arctic ice cap; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic than it was when I was born.
Thanks to the same fossil fuel industry that’s ripping apart Aboriginal lands, we’re at the very end of our rope as a species; it’s time, finally, to listen to the people we’ve spent the last five centuries shunting to one side.
Eighteen months ago, when we at the climate campaign 350.org started organizing against the Keystone XL Pipeline, the very first allies we came across were from the Indigenous Environmental Network — people like Tom Goldtooth and Clayton Thomas-Muller. They’d been working for years to alert people to the scale of the devastation in Alberta’s tar sands belt, where native lands had been wrecked and poisoned by the immense scale of the push to mine “the dirtiest energy on earth.” And they quickly introduced me to many more — heroes like Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Cree Nation who was traveling the world explaining exactly what was going on.
When, in late summer 2011, we held what turned into the biggest civil disobedience action in 30 years in this country, the most overrepresented group were indigenous North Americans — in percentage terms they outnumbered even the hardy band of Guilty Liberals like me. And what organizers! Heather Milton-Lightning, night after night training new waves of arrestees; Gitz Crazyboy of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta absolutely on fire as he described the land he could no longer hunt and fish.
In the year since, the highlights of incessant campaigning have been visits to Canada, always to see native leaders in firm command of the fight — Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus in Yellowknife, or Chief Reuben George along the BC coast. Young and powerful voices like Caleb Behn, from the province’s interior; old and steady leaders in one nation after another. I’ve never met Chief Theresa Spence, the Attawapiskat leader whose hunger strike has been the galvanizing center of #IdleNoMore but I have no doubt she’s cut of the same cloth.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, for Canada and for the world. Much of this uprising began when Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper rammed through Parliament an omnibus bill gutting environmental reviews and protections. He had no choice if he wanted to keep developing Canada’s tar sands, because there’s no possible way to mine and pipe that sludgy crude without fouling lakes and rivers. (Indeed, a study released a few days ago made clear that carcinogens had now found their way into myriad surrounding lakes). And so, among other things, the omnibus bill simply declared that almost every river, stream and lake in the country was now exempt from federal environmental oversight.
Canada’s environmental community protested in all the normal ways — but they had no more luck than, say, America’s anti-war community in the run up to Iraq. There’s trillions of dollars of oil locked up in Alberta’s tarsands, and Harper’s fossil-fuel backers won’t be denied.
But there’s a stumbling block they hadn’t counted on, and that was the resurgent power of the Aboriginal Nations. Some Canadian tribes have signed treaties with the Crown, and others haven’t, but none have ceded their lands, and all of them feel their inherent rights are endangered by Harper’s power grab. They are, legally and morally, all that stand in the way of Canada’s total exploitation of its vast energy and mineral resources, including the tar sands, the world’s second largest pool of carbon. NASA’s James Hansen has explained that burning that bitumen on top of everything else we’re combusting will mean it’s “game over for the climate.” Which means, in turn, that Canada’s First Nations are in some sense standing guard over the planet.
And luckily the sentiment is spreading south. Tribal Nations in the U.S., though sometimes with less legal power than their Canadian brethren, are equally effective organizers — later this month, for instance, an international gathering of indigenous peoples and a wide-ranging list of allies on the Yankton Sioux territory in South Dakota may help galvanize continued opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would help wreck those tar sands by carrying the oil south (often across reservations) to the Gulf of Mexico. American leaders like Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Indian Reservation have joined in the fight with a vengeance, drawing the connections between local exploitation and global climate change.
Corporations and governments have often discounted the power of native communities — because they were poor and scattered in distant places, they could be ignored or bought off. But in fact their lands contain much of the continent’s hydrocarbon wealth — and, happily, much of its wind, solar and geo-thermal resources, as well. The choices that Native people make over the next few years will be crucial to the planet’s future — and #IdleNoMore is an awfully good sign that the people who have spent the longest in this place are now rising artfully and forcefully to its defense.
© 2012 Bill McKibben
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: Aboriginal Affairs, bill c-45, Canada, Canada Conservatives, canada environment, canada government, canada indigenous, canada treaties, environment, environmental destruction, environmental justice, First Nations, hunger strike, idle no more, indigenous rights, kristin moe, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, theresa spence
Roger’s note: the Conservatives of Stephen Harper (a friend refers to them as the suposi-Tories) formed a majority government with barely 40% of the popular vote and now act with mean-spirited Social Darwinistic impunity (with attacks on social programs, aboriginal rights and environmental protection, etc.). They call themselves Conservatives but in reality the old Progressive Conservative Party has been hijacked by the quasi-fascistic Reform Party (Canada’s Tea Party). They cannot be stopped through parliamentary means, the struggle is in the streets.
Published on Thursday, January 10, 2013 by YES! Magazine
Idle No More has organized the largest mass mobilizations of indigenous people in recent history. What sparked it off and what’s coming next?
It took weeks of protests, flash mobs, letters, rallies, and thousands of righteous tweets, but Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally caved. He agreed to a meeting with the woman who had been petitioning him for twenty-four days, subsisting on fish broth, camped in a tepee in the frozen midwinter, the hunger striker and Chief of the Attawapiskat Theresa Spence.
The mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our relationship to the land.
No, this is not normal parliamentary process. The hunger strike was a final, desperate attempt to get the attention of a government whose relationship with indigenous people has been ambivalent at best and genocidal at worst, and force it to address their rising concerns. The meeting, set for this Friday, January 11, is unlikely to result in any major changes to Canada’s aboriginal policy. Yet the mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our collective relationship to the land. The movement has coalesced under one name, one resolution: Idle No More.
Closed-door negotiations spark a movement
The Idle No More movement arose as a response to what organizers call the most recent assault on indigenous rights in Canada: Bill C-45, which passed on December 14. Bill C-45 makes changes to the Indian Act, removes environmental protections, and further erodes the treaties with native peoples through which Canada was created.
Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation.
On December 4, when representatives of First Nations came to the House of Commons to share their concerns about the proposed bill, they were blocked from entering . A week later, after being repeatedly denied a meeting with Harper, Chief Spence began her hunger strike. Since then, the movement has grown to encompass a hundred years’ worth of grievances against the Canadian government, which is required by Section 35 of the Constitution Act to consult with native people before enacting laws that affect them. Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation.
Even worse is the bill’s “weakening of environmental assessment and the removal of lakes and rivers from protection,” says Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is directly downstream from toxic tar sands mining. She knows firsthand the importance of protecting waterways from industrial pollutants. “Indigenous people’s rights,” she says, “are intrinsically linked to the environment.” She adds that the removal of such protections paves the way for resource extraction, bringing Canada closer to its self-stated goal of becoming a global energy superpower. This isn’t just a native thing, Deranger says; this is something that affects everyone.
And so begins the largest indigenous mass mobilization in recent history. Native people and their allies from all over North America have gathered to peacefully voice their support for indigenous rights: they’ve organized rallies, teach-ins, and highway and train blockades, as well as “flash mob” round dances at shopping malls.
With Twitter and Facebook as the major organizing tools, #idlenomore has emerged as the dominant meme in the indigenous rights movement. In addition to events across Canada, a U.S. media blitz tour has inspired solidarity actions all over North America, as well as in Europe, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Mainstream media and the Harper government are taking notice.
Anger at environmental destruction in Canada boils over
But why now? The answer, says Deranger, is that people are ready. Idle No More arose at a moment of growing awareness of environmental justice issues, frustration with lack of governmental consultation, and widespread opposition to resource extraction on indigenous land—like the tar sands in Deranger’s home province of Alberta and the diamond mines in Chief Spence’s Ontario. It comes after years of grassroots organizing around indigenous rights—which are, in the end, basic human rights.
Visit almost any reserve in Canada, and you’re likely to see third world social indicators in a first world country: high incarceration rates, inadequate housing and sanitation, reduced life expectancy—due in part to abnormally frequent suicides—lack of employment and education opportunities, and substance abuse. This, after more than a century of colonization by a government that refuses to acknowledge its identity as a colonial power. Meanwhile, native youth are the fastest-growing segment of Canada’s population, according to . Is it any surprise that they’re taking on repressive legislation and using social media to organize?
For Canadians—and potentially all North Americans—this is a moment of reckoning. Just as Chief Spence’s hunger strike forced the issue with Harper, Idle No More forces us all to confront the ugliness of our collective colonial history, and to recognize that colonization continues today.
It holds up a mirror to our society, questioning the historical narrative we’re all taught to believe. It asks: On what values was our country founded? And, because identity is created out of that narrative: Who are we, really? And who do we want to be?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Kristin Moe is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and activist who is enrolled this fall at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.