In Calgary on Jan. 11, Idle No More activists held protests outside Stephen Harper’s constituency office and at the University of Calgary. On Jan. 16, a candlelight vigil was held at Calgary’s City Hall to honour Mother Earth.
Idle No More, a movement put in motion by Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, has spread like wildfire across the country. Initially, Idle No More was started to bridge gaps of misinformation and mistreatment of Canadian aboriginals, and to start dialogue on Canadian issues.
The movement, which began in November 2012 in response to Bill C-45, has held protests across the country. Its supporters are fighting for issues concerning the environment, treaty rights, social equality, respect and to reverse provisions in the controversial Bill C-45, such as changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
There have been hunger strikes and attempts to increase communication with the federal government on current issues facing Canadians. The first meeting between aboriginal leaders and the federal government concerning Idle No More protests occurred on Jan. 11.
“People have the right in our country to demonstrate and express their points of view peacefully as long as they obey the law, but I think the Canadian population expects everyone will obey the law in holding such protests,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a press conference on Jan. 11.
According to U of C First Nations Student Association Chief Gregory John, the Idle No More movement presents an opportunity to eradicate stereotypes surrounding aboriginal people.
John said Idle No More gives Canadians a chance to resolve some long-standing disputes.
“It’s an opportunity for us, as Canadians, to get together and finally put some closure to some issues that have surrounded aboriginals, and have meaningful discussion between government, First Nations and Canadians in general,” said John. “Idle No More can open channels of communication.”
An Idle No More protest at the U of C brought about 150 people rallying to support aboriginal students. John said that the national movement is meant to close gaps between Canadians, and the protest at the U of C was meant to close gaps between students.
John said without effective dialogue, stereotypes about aboriginal Canadians will continue.
“There has been a lot of name calling, there has been a lot of lines drawn in the sand and there is a lot of infighting as things get bigger and bigger, but I hope we are able to sit down as Canadians and discuss the issues,” said John. “This is not just about aboriginal people, but about our environment and about our rights.”
Calgarian Shane Soop participated in the protest at the U of C. He said social movements such as Idle No More offer a platform for people to voice their concerns. He expressed fears about changes to acts and treaties that protect the environment.
“What we are doing is raising awareness for all of Canada. These issues affect all of us, they are not one sided and we have an obligation to make a change,” said Soop. “I support [Idle No More] because it is bringing Canadian issues to a global platform.”