You know you’re on the way to accomplishing your goals when you receive global recognition for your cause as one of the most important news stories of the year. That’s just what happened earlier this month when the U.S-based Foreign Policy Magazine placed the Idle No More Movement (INM) 10th on its list of the 100 most noteworthy stories of 2013. Idle No More founders Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean and Jessica Gordon initiated the movement one year ago, when on January 11, 2013, demonstrations across the country brought attention to the Canadian Government’s Bill C-45, an omnibus and controversial bill that is having an adverse affect on First Nations communities across the country.
Last month’s issue of Foreign Policy Magazine added the four INM founders on its Top 100 Global Thinkers list, a prestigious honour and one that will help to ensure that the rights of Canada’s Indigenous peoples are not ignored.
The grass roots movement once again flexed its muscle last month as flash-dances lit up the streets in cities and communities across the nation to bring awareness to the injustices faced by Aboriginal people in Canada.
Even representatives of Canada’s national media found the actions of the movement to be memorable ones. CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice was one of them. Talking about the movement in a commentary last month, Rice focused on the flash dances that took place last year on Parliament Hill.
“It was an impressively massive show of culture and solidarity,” said Rice, “and although I was covering it for CBC, I found it impossible not to be moved.”
In the days and months that followed, the movement continued across the country where hundreds of groups and tens of thousands of protesters joined the ranks in solidarity. Throughout the year the movement grew and when some groups of protesters tried to capitalize on the success of INM by holding rallies and blocking highways under the INM banner, the founders were quick to dispel them, telling Canadians: “This is not our cause and this is not the way we do things; we are a peaceful movement and one that is trying to educate and enlighten the population, not alienate them by blocking roads and making threats.”
In the weeks before this Christmas season flashmob round dances lit up the streets in communities that included Winnipeg, Sudbury, Saskatoon, Lethbridge, Fredericton, Montreal and Surrey and more gatherings are in the planning stages.
2013 marks the fifth year that Foreign Policy Magazine has listed its top 100 Global Thinkers. Other entries on this year’s list include Pope Francis, U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and 16 year old activist Malala Yousafzai.
The group’s entry on the list explains how the global movement started when the four women started emailing each other about concerns with proposed federal legislation affecting land management, water management and several other issues related to First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.
The entry reads: “Last winter, what started as a flurry of emails among four Saskatchewan women grew into a robust grassroots movement. The women—Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean, and Nina Wilson—were corresponding about a budget bill that would affect land management on the reservations of Canada’s indigenous communities. Believing the bill challenged First Nations’ sovereignty and weakened environmental protections, they organized a meeting of local activists. Gordon called the Facebook page that resulted from the meeting ‘Idle No More’ as a reminder that the community had to get off the couch and start working. Before long, #IdleNoMore was trending on Twitter, and protests under the same name spread across Canada.”
Solidarity demonstrations also occurred in the United States, Europe, and Australia. The entry states: “The protests in particular targeted Canada’s extractive industries, asserting that new pipelines and other projects would destroy land and disrupt ecosystems. One protest delayed exploratory drilling in British Columbia.”
On Jan. 28 Idle No More is planning a rally that will highlight the federal government’s proposed Education Act, another undertaking that Harper’s government is moving ahead with, despite the fact that it has neither asked for nor accepted input from Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
by John Copley