On January 11, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with First Nations leaders to discuss treaty, Aboriginal rights, and economic development. First Nation Leaders demanded this meeting that was inspired by the grassroots movement Idle No More.
On December 30, 2012 there was an Idle No More peaceful protest outside of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s constituency office in southwest Calgary. It was a modest crowd where people of all ages, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people gathered together for a common goal to convince Prime Minister Harper to speak with First Nation leaders, including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. This wish came true, as PM Harper has agreed to speak with First Nations leaders on January 11, 2013 to discuss treaty, Aboriginal rights, and economic development.
Chief Theresa Spence will be there on January 11, along with the other First Nations leaders. Chief Spence first went on a hunger strike on December 11, 2012, bringing attention across Canada to First Nations issues and the opposition to Bill C-45. The passing of Bill C-45 sparked this grassroots movement Idle No More that focuses on treaty and sovereignty for First Nations but it encompasses more.
Idle No More began in the early part of October 2012 when four Indigenous and non-Indigenous ladies from Saskatchewan - Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean – felt it was urgent to act on the then impending passing of Bill C-45 which would impact First Nations people, Canadian citizens, and most importantly the land and waters of Canada. On December 10, 2012, they initiated The National Day of Solidarity & Resurgence to build solidarity and assert rights to nationhood while protecting the lands for all people.
The Idle No More efforts were supported in Alberta when an information meeting was held at the Louis Bull Cree Nation at the initial onset of the grassroots movement. Tanya Kappo, from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, posted information on Twitter and Facebook to help First Nations people understand what this meant because everything was happening so fast without much communication. “The people in our communities had absolutely no idea what we were facing, no idea what plans Stephen Harper had in store for us.” (Idle No More) This is why the First Nations leaders went to the House of Commons to communicate and get clarification but they were ignored and turned away.
On this day of solidarity, First Nations people along with environmentalists and other concerned Canadians rallied across the country in Vancouver, Whitehorse, Calgary, Edmonton, Stand Off, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Goose Bay-Happy Valley. The Idle No More movement emerged as a powerful collaboration.
There is no sign of these protests stopping any time soon. The most recent protest was on Saturday, January 5, 2013 where protestors created a railroad blockade in Marysville, Ontario near Kingston bringing Via Rail trains to a halt. In Cornwall, Ontario, the International Bridge was closed for more than three hours while 350 protestors crossed the bridge. Then it reopened at 2 p.m.
“Bill C-45 is not just about a budget, it is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on bodies of water we all share from across this country,” says McAdam. (Idle No More) Bill C-45 also specifically will change the Indian Act that will compromise community consent in the designation and surrender process of Indian Reserve Lands which means pipelines can be installed on their land as a more lenient consent process will occur. Since environmental regulation has been weakened, it does not bode well for First Nations communities especially in western Canada where oilsands production will increase.
But it is not just about First Nations. McAdams continues, this “bill is about everyone. The changes they are making to the environmental legislation is stunning in terms of the protections it will take away from the bodies of water – rivers and lakes, across the country. How can we not all be concerned about that?”
At the time Bill C-45 was brought to the House of Commons for a vote, First Nations leaders tried to intervene but they were refused entry even though the New Democratic Party (NDP) invited them. This is what sparked an outrage, not just with First Nations people but also with environmentalists and Canadians across Canada. The way Bills C-38 and Bill C-45 were rammed through the legislature was a sign this federal government would adhere to their agenda without much debate.
There is more legislation on the way that will impact First Nations people bringing unwanted change to communities. The First Nations people have not been properly informed about how these changes will impact their lives or there wouldn’t be people posting to Twitter and Facebook to inform them. Just as the environmental laws were gutted and environmental laws deleted after Ecojustice won some cases dealing with important environmental issues (Op-Ed: Altered environmental laws pose risk to Canada, warns Ecojustice), Indigenous people are being treated in the same manner.
Now that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Canada are demanding to be heard by initiating the Idle No More grassroots movement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been forced to listen. On the Idle No More website, the latest news states: “Idle No More activities will not stop until we reach our two goals: Indigenous sovereignty (Nation to Nation relationship) and protection of the land and water (Social and Environmental Sustainability). Once we reach these goals, we will continue to work to protect them. In essence, Idle No More is here to stay.”
Since the Nexen deal with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has been approved by the federal government, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) is likely to be approved as well even though the majority of Canadians are against FIPA.
Understanding FIPA in under 1,000 words, gives a concise look at what FIPA entails. In the article Op-Ed: Canada-China corporate rights pact needs debate says Maude Barlow, Barlow describes how a lack of debate on this important issue will impact all Canadians including First Nations especially if FIPA gets approved. In Four Reasons to oppose the China-Canada trade deal written by Nikki Skuce, Senior Energy Campaigner, ForestEthics Advocacy, she is adamant that FIPA is not good for Canada.
If FIPA gets approved, then the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline approval may not be far behind as Nexen is one of its backers. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will be installed on thousands of kilometers of land straddling Alberta and British Columbia. If this happens, the pipeline will go through many First Nations communities that could very well impact their waterways especially if there are spills. The problem is they won’t be able to do anything about it without the risk of cities, provinces, and the federal government being sued offshore in secret tribunals for huge amounts of money by foreign investors if FIPA is passed into law.
Furthermore, since Canada’s fresh water is not protected to the extent that it was before, and water may become deregulated then privatized, it could lead to bulk water sales to the highest foreign bidder and investor. It’s all about money but whose money is the question. No wonder why Bill C-45 was rammed through the legislature to become law on December 14, 2012. Idle No More is here to stay for a very good reason.
Water (Council of Canadians)Council of Canadians warns of loopholes in new federal water legislation (May 17, 2012)The program on water issues (Research, analysis and dialogue on important and emerging freshwater issues.)Transport Canada identifies court battles as risk of deregulating water protectionProtecting Canada’s Fresh Water ResourcesThe Water ChroniclesThreats to Water Availability in CanadaCanada Water Preservation Act (Bill C-267)Harper set to reintroduce transboundary water diversions billBulk Water Removal – Canada’s Aquatic EnvironmentsBulk Water Removals: Canadian Legislation