Kimberly Rivera, Pregnant Mom of 4, Sentenced to Military Prison for Refusing to Serve in Iraq April 30, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: aaron mate, amy goodman, Canada, canada government, conscientious objector, Democracy Now, Iraq war, james branum, Kimberly Rivera, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, War Resisters
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Private First Class Kimberly Rivera — a conscientious objector and pregnant mother of four — has just been sentenced to military prison for refusing to serve in the Iraq War. Rivera was on a two-week leave in December 2006 when she decided she would not return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. She and her family fled to Canada in February 2007, living there until their deportation back to the United States last year. On Monday, a military court sentenced her to 10 months behind bars. Her fifth child is due in December. We’re joined by Mario Rivera, Kimberly’s husband and now the primary caretaker of their four young children, and by James Branum, a lawyer who represents Kimberly and dozens of other conscientious objectors.
AARON MATÉ: We turn now to the case of Private First Class Kimberly Rivera. She is a conscientious objector and a pregnant mother of four children, who has just been sentenced to military prison. Rivera first deployed to Iraq in 2006. During a two-week leave back in the U.S., she decided to refuse a second tour of duty in Iraq. In January 2007, Rivera and her family packed up their car and crossed the border into Canada. She was later charged with desertion and faced up to five years in prison if convicted. Well, on Monday she was sentenced to 14 months. Under a pretrial agreement, she will serve 10 months of that sentence.
This is Kimberly Rivera speaking late last year about her case.
KIMBERLY RIVERA: If you want to know, my biggest fear is being separated from my children and having to—having to sit in a prison for politically being against the war in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Since their arrival to Canada in early 2007, Kimberly Rivera, her husband and two children settled in Toronto. She had two more children there and made several attempts to legally immigrate. Canada’s War Resisters Support Campaign championed the case, drawing endorsers including Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. But Canadian officials refused. In August, they ordered the Rivera family to leave the country or face deportation. A provincial lawmaker representing Rivera’s Toronto district, Cheri DiNovo, condemned the order.
MPP CHERI DINOVO: As the member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park, which is home to a number of war resisters, I know Kimberly personally. I see her in our—in our neighborhood, see her with her family. I know that she participates in the community. She’s a volunteer. She works with children. And she is a person who has shown great integrity and courage and principle. Surely, she is exactly the kind of person that we want to embrace and welcome here in Canada. Canada has a proud history of welcoming conscientious objectors from other wars in the past. Why not now? Especially given that this is a war that Canadians are proud not to have participated in.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ontario lawmaker Cheri DiNovo speaking last August.
Kimberly Rivera turned herself in at the U.S.-Canadian border just days later. She’s now on her way to a military prison for 10 months. Her fifth child is due while she’s behind bars.
Well, we’re joined right now by her husband, by Mario Rivera. He will now become the primary caretaker for their four young children. We’re also joined by James Branum, the defense attorney who represented Kimberly during her court-martial yesterday, Monday, at Fort Carson. He’s also represented dozens of other conscientious objectors, is legal director for the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research. They’re speaking to us from the Tim Gill Center for Public Media in Colorado Springs, home to Rocky Mountain PBS and KRCC public radio.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mario, you’ve just come out of the court yesterday. Can you respond to the sentencing of your wife Kimberly to 10 months in jail for refusing to return to Iraq and go to Canada instead?
MARIO RIVERA: I think it was severely harsh, and I personally feel that the judge already made up his mind before the trial had even started. It’s just too much. The kids need her.
AARON MATÉ: Mario, tell us about the reaction of your children. How have they handled this whole ordeal? And what did they say yesterday?
MARIO RIVERA: As soon as they found out yesterday, they broke down into tears. Just the thought of being away from their mother for—sorry, for 10 more months; they’ve already been gone for eight months out of her life, so it’s difficult.
AMY GOODMAN: Mario, how old are your kids, and what are their names?
MARIO RIVERA: Christian is 11, Rebecca is eight, Katie is five, and Gabriel is two.
AMY GOODMAN: James, James Branum, you’re her attorney. When she was in Iraq, she turned to a chaplain to say she could not do this, that she could not, when she looked at Iraqi children, she said, open fire?
JAMES BRANUM: Yes, she talked to the chaplain, expressed her concerns. She said that she didn’t think she should—could pull the trigger, if asked to. And this is a critical issue, because she was a gate guard at FOB Loyalty in Baghdad. Her job was a critical—critical thing, as far as security coming on and off the base. And so, she felt that she morally could not do what she was asked to do; at the same time, she realized that she would put other soldiers in danger if she didn’t pull the trigger when the time came. She talked to a chaplain about it. The chaplain largely pushed her aside, did not give her the counsel that she really needed. And so, when she came home on leave, she took other steps. And it’s unfortunate that she did not get the legal advice and information she needed to seek status as a conscientious objector.
AMY GOODMAN: So when she—
JAMES BRANUM: That said—
AMY GOODMAN: James Branum, so when she said this to the chaplain, he didn’t say, “There’s a way you can legally do this: You could apply for a CO status”? Instead he argued with her?
JAMES BRANUM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So she didn’t know the process?
JAMES BRANUM: The chaplain was very, very resolute that Kim—that she needed to stay there, she needed to fulfill her mission, instead of giving her the spiritual counsel she needed at that moment. Instead, this chaplain told her basically, “Suck it up. Continue on.” And that was—that was not the advice she needed at that moment. She needed to know her rights. She needed to know AR 600-43 gives her the right to seek status as a conscientious objector. She didn’t know that.
AARON MATÉ: James, so 10 months in prison—how does this sentence compare to sentences to other resisters? And is there an exception here, by given the fact that she’s pregnant and is due in December? How does that factor in?
JAMES BRANUM: We don’t know. The judge doesn’t really give the rationale for why he made the decision he did. We do know there have been some resistance cases that have received greater sentences. As long as 24 months has been given. But many other resisters receive little jail time or no jail time. And people that desert, generally, over 90 percent do no jail time at all. And so, we feel that Kim was singled out.
Another thing, the prosecutor at trial said that he asked the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to the war resisters in Canada. And we feel that was—the Canadian government, in deporting Kim, said she would not face any serious punishment because of her political and conscientious objection to war. And in reality, that’s exactly what happened. That was the prosecution’s argument, that because she spoke out against the war, she therefore should be punished.
AMY GOODMAN: Mario, you live in Colorado, is that right, with your four children?
MARIO RIVERA: No, the four children are in Texas right now. I came up here in March, originally, because that was when the trial was supposed to have been. Unfortunately, my mom fell ill, and it was pushed back until yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how will you raise the four kids alone? How are you going to do this over the next 10 months?
MARIO RIVERA: I don’t know. It’s going to be difficult. I’m just going to have to do my best and try to keep it together and keep them together and just help them be strong.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, and Mario especially. I know this was very tough for you to come on today. Mario Rivera, Kimberly Rivera’s husband—she serves her 10-month sentence; he becomes the primary caretaker for their four young children. She will be serving that time—where? In California?
JAMES BRANUM: We believe it will be in Miramar. One other critical thing to mention is there is an ongoing campaign to have her released on clemency grounds. Information on that—
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll link to that website at democracynow.org.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada indigenous, canada mining, environment, First Nations, idle no more, indigenous peoples, martin lukacs, roger hollander, rule of law, sovereignty summer, Stephen Harper, tar sands
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First Nations people – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet
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.
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.
Censorship is alive and well in Canada – just ask government scientists February 24, 2013Posted 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
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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?
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
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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.
Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
HARPER GOVERNMENT IS COUNTING ON CANADIANS NOT UNDERSTANDING January 19, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada parliament, First Nations, history, hunger strike, idle no more, indian treaties, International law, merv ritchie, queen victoria, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, theresa spence
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As the controversy grows regarding the Indian people of Canada the Stephen Harper Conservative government of Canada is once again banking on the lack of knowledge by Canadians of the Canadian system of governance.
In a manner similar to Harpers two previous prorogations of parliament, it is only due to the inability of Canadians (and Canadian media personalities) to fully comprehend the procedures of proper government principles is Harper able to continue unchallenged. The proper functioning of a civil democracy depends on the government following the rule of law and respecting all parliamentary procedures. All of democracy fails when inappropriate actions are taken for expediency. This is what has happened in Canada since 1867 in regards to the Indians.
The British never went to war against the Indian people who originally inhabited the land we call Canada. The Indians (from the Latin word indigenous) were allies with the British in conflicts with the Americans and the French. There was a long standing tradition of mutual respect. Many Treaties were signed to ensure this mutual respect was fully and completely understood.
Origin: 1640–50; Latin indigen ( a ) native, original inhabitant ( indi-, by-form of in- in-2 (cf. indagate) + -gena, derivative from base of gignere to bring into being; cf. genital, genitor) + -ous
The Indian people of The Sacred Circle have been been on a respectful mission to settle these issues (click here) since the mid 1800′s.
Teresa Spence, the elected Indian Chief currently on a hunger strike, has taken council from Treaty Chiefs. She is now finally following the right and proper procedure by requesting a meeting with the Queens representative. When Canada was incorporated as a Country, and later when the constitution was repatriated from Britain, Canada had an obligation to respect the intent and spirit of these treaties. If the Indigenous nations who signed these treaties feel Canada has neglected to honour them they have the right to return to the other signatory to the document, the Crown of England. Today this means Queen Elizabeth and her representative in Canada, the Governor General.
In British Columbia the Crowns representative, Governor Douglas, followed the British rule of law by making treaties and purchasing land from the Indian Nations. Subsequent to Douglas, successive governments in British Columbia have ignored international law. The same applies to various legislative acts of the Canadian Parliament; such as the legislation which allowed the Residential School system, Canada has since apologized for.
Expecting the indigenous peoples to be completely literate and knowledgeable on the various aspects of law is to ignore the reality of the Indian peoples. Most people of European decent were raised by parents and grandparents who could read and write. For many western generations the knowledge and skills required to survive in western society was shared. For most indigenous people reading and writing skills of parents and or grandparents only existed two or three generations. Only today are the survivors, of these ancestors who signed the Treaties, beginning to fully recognize how wrong they have been treated. The rest of the world is also witnessing how badly Canada has treated the Indian people they signed treaties with. The treaties are, after all, internationally recognized obligations.
If the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, will not respect the documents signed by her predecessor and Queen Victoria’s father, King George III, the Indian people will have to plead to the International Court for these treaties to be respected. Queen Victoria had an understanding similar to her fathers by respecting and protecting the original inhabitants; honouring the Royal Proclamation of 1763. She is quoted as stating; “It is not in our custom to annex countries”. Wars were not engaged in; treaties of mutual respect were made.
These respectful transactions were continued through her reign as the Queen of England, 1838 to 1900. It was the corporate elite, those desiring to benefit financially by theft or fraudulent behaviors, which had Queen Victoria and King George III act as protectors.
In Canada today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is claiming his new legislative actions are required to meet financial objectives. This might be true however in respect of these treaties signed on behalf of Canada he has reneged on Canada’s international responsibilities.
The demand to meet with the Queens representative then is to elevate the discussion to a more serious level.
Canadians did not understand the prorogation of Parliament was a damaging, unprecedented action, which harmed the integrity of Canada’s Parliamentary democracy. The media in Canada did not inform Canadians properly of this inappropriate behaviour.
Today the media is unlikely to inform the public on the entirely appropriate behaviour of the Indigenous nations to demand their treaties be respected. In all likelihood the media will promote hate and bigotry by mis-informing Canadians.
Champions of ‘Idle No More’ Stage Blockades Across Canada January 16, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, canada protest, chief spence, first natins, idle no more, lauren mccauley, mother earth, political protest, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, theresa spence
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Demonstrators and spin-off protests undeterred by mild divisions within fast-growing movement
Though not officially sanctioned by the Idle No More campaign, First Nations chiefs and activists have picked up the momentum and are rallying across Canada Wednesday as part of a national day of action in solidarity with the ongoing environmental and indigenous rights campaign.
A protestor holds a flag aloft and an Idle No More spinoff protest in Cayuga, Ontario on Jan. 16. (Photo via @CBCHamilton)
Chiefs unsatisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s slow response to First Nations demands have declared the day to assert their rights and hopefully hasten official recognition and legislative action.
Demonstrations, round dances and rallies occurred across Canada while roadblocks of local railway lines and a large demonstration at North America’s busiest border crossing have also been confirmed.
“We’re sending the message very clearly with the railway blockade that [there's] going to be no more stolen property being sold until such time that they come to the table and deal with the original owners,” said Terry Nelson, a former chief of the Roseau River First Nation in southern Manitoba.
APTN National News reported Wednesday: “Rail blockaders in Manitoba. CN confirms regional traffic has been shut down.”
Also, the Global News announced earlier:
Posts on social media Wednesday morning called on supporters to meet at the Red Sun Smoke Shop and Gas Bar just northwest of Winnipeg to join a convoy headed to the intersection of the Trans-Canada and the Yellowhead highways near Portage la Prairie. A blockade of a railway near the intersection is planned.
Occupy Carlisle (@occupycarlisle) tweeted: “Via Rail says blockade between Belleville, Ont. and Kingston, Ont. has forced company to stop trains #IdleNoMore”
Another large grassroots group led an “economic slowdown,” targeting the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mich.
Organizer Lorena Garvey-Shepley was clear to point out the action was “not a blockade,” adding, “we don’t want to inconvenience people too much. But we want to be in places that are going to get us noticed and allow us to get our information out.”
Organizers held a “peaceful walk” towards the bridge concluding with a rally at the base on the Canadian side.
Organizers reiterated that today’s actions are expected to be peaceful though protesters are prepared to get arrested.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabaska Chipewyan First Nation said that if the indigenous movement’s demands are not recognized soon, more dramatic actions, including roadblocks, can be expected.
“The people are upset with the current state of affairs in this country and things are escalating towards more direct action,” he said.
Across Canada, protestors marched the streets—often blocking traffic—banging drums and carrying banners blatantly displaying “Idle No More.”
More pictures from today’s actions can be seen here.
CBC News has listed a partial overview of the solidarity actions planned for Wednesday.
Though inspired by the Idle No More movement, Wednesday’s actions—particularly the bridge and street blockades—highlighted protest tactics not condoned by the campaign’s founders, marking potential divisions as the movement grows beyond itself.
“If you have an impromptu blockade that doesn’t follow the legal permits, then you’re irritating the public and that’s not the purpose behind Idle No More,” said Sylvia McAdam, one of the movement’s four originators. “A lot of our children and elders are involved in the [Idle No More] activities, so their safety is our priority.”
The movement leaders are instead focusing on a Jan. 28 Idle No More International Call-to-Action during which they will protest at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill as “MPs return to the legislature after their winter break.”
In a recent interview, McAdam specified that, despite heavy media attention given to co-founder Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s recent hunger strike, Idle No More has no one leader, saying:
The grassroots movement of Idle No More is the face of all grassroots people…The founders might be considered guides or maintaining the vision, but Idle No More has no leader or official spokesperson.
A recent press release on the Official Idle No More website echoed this sentiment:
This movement has been guided by Spiritual Elders, dreams, visions, and from peoples’ core values. We are here to ensure the land, the waters, the air, and the creatures and indeed each of us, return to balance and discontinue harming each other and the earth.
January 11th’s official Day of Action and meeting between First Nation leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper exposed a rift in leadership when Idle No More leaders, namely Chief Spence, rejected the meeting on the basis it did not meet their demands while a number of other Chiefs partook despite the protest.
A poll on the official Idle No More website asks “Do you think the media is playing up the perceived divisions within IDM?”
The poll will run for a month, but thus far readers have responded 56 percent voted ‘Yes, we are stronger than ever!’, 14 percent responded ‘I’m not sure’ while 30 percent said ‘No, there are divisions and the media is playing it just right.’
Canada’s Energy Juggernaut Hits a Native Roadblock January 15, 2013Posted 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
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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
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.
Idle No More’s Global Day of Action January 11, 2013Posted 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
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Protest movement takes message to Canadian capital and beyond
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.
Ken Georgetti is president of the 3.3 million member Canadian Labour Congress.
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.
Idle No More: Indigenous Uprising Sweeps North America January 10, 2013Posted 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
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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?
Idle No More Gains Worldwide Support January 3, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations.
Tags: attiwapiskat, Canada, canada government, canadian indians, First Nations, idle no more, indigenous, indigenous rights, maori, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, theresa spence
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Published on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 by Common Dreams
‘There has been a global assault on indigenous sovereignty’
- Beth Brogan, staff writer, www.commondreams.org
As global support for the Idle No More movement grows, a Maori women’s group in New Zealand held a rally on Dec. 28, calling for an end to “a global assault on indigenous sovereignty.” (Photo courtesy the New Zealand Herald)
The Idle No More movement continues to garner support in the United States and countries as far away as New Zealand as Attiwapiskat Chief Theresa Spence continues her plea to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
A Maori women’s group held a rally on Dec. 28, calling for mobilized action, the New Zealand Herald reports.
“We feel there has been a global assault on indigenous sovereignty,” said Marama Davidson, spokeswoman for the Auckland-based Maori women’s collective Te Wharepora Hou. “This is the global call we’ve been waiting for. Now, we can join together and start looking at solutions.”
Spence, chief of the Northern Ontario First Nations, is now in her fourth week of a hunger strike as she demands to meet with Harper to discuss First Nations issues including the protection of First Nations treaty rights. During that time, she has subsisted on only fish broth and medicinal tea.
Rallies have continued throughout Canada, and into the United States, where thousands of supporters have held peaceful marches and rallies, flash mob round dances and—on Sunday evening— blocked trains, carrying 2,500 passengers, between Montreal and Toronto on Sunday.
Thousands attended an “Idle No More Flash Roundy” on Saturday at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reports. Two days later, a similar protest, reportedly attended by hundreds, was held at a Walmart inn Cloquet, Minnesota.
“When I found out that C-45 had passed, and what it meant for Canadian Indians, I knew I had to do something,” Mesha Camp, who organized the protest at the Mall of America, said. “Down here, our land can’t be sold. They [the Canadian legislators] made it legal to come in and take those lands, making them unsovereign nations. They’re saying if you don’t give up sovereignty, we won’t abide by the treaties.”
Allene Ross, a Dakota from Minnesota, told the Twin Cities Daily Planet that it is important “for all tribes to stand united. We need to defend our sovereignty rights worldwide.”
About 100 demonstrators marched, carrying drums, from the Walpole Island border crossing to Algonac, Michigan, on Sunday, where they waved flags, chanted and banged on drums, then holding a ceremony in a parking lot, the Courier Press reports.
“We want all the non-native people to really listen to what the government is trying to do,” said George Henry of Walpole Island. “The government has kept things pretty quiet over the years … so we’re going to tell our own story now.”