As a social movement, it seemed to come from out of nowhere — at least to those who follow only what has come to be called “mainstream media.”
Born, ostensibly, from a small meeting in Saskatchewan in the fall, by December rallies were being held across the country. Today, Idle No More rallies have popped up in such disparate locations as Nunavut, Hawaii, Finland, Australia and Puerto Rico.
Social unrest seems to be Canada’s newest export.
Much like the Occupy movement of 2012, which fizzled and died not long after its flame was lit, critics of Idle No More say the movement is a snake without a head, lacking any cohesive message.
And those critics may be right, but they also might be missing the point.
If one were to look at a map of countries hosting Idle No More events on Friday, one would notice each has been touched (movement supporters might say victimized) by European colonialism, either as a colonizing nation or as a colony.
In Canada, where the movement was born, the spark that touched it all off were provisions in Bill C-45, the federal omnibus budget bill (now known as the Jobs and Growth Act 2012 since its pasage Dec. 14, 2012), namely changes to the Navigation Protection Act, the Environmental Assessment Act and the Indian Act, would impact First Nations.
The 400-page act itself should have angered any right-thinking Canadian and sent them to their computers to type angry emails to their MPs to express their discontent.
Bills of that size can’t be debated with any depth. Not enough committees could be struck in enough time to tackle every item contained therein.
When a majority government pulls a stunt like that, it is sidestepping the parliamentary process and doing a disservice to every Canadian.
But back to Idle No More. Born on Facebook, that (as well as other social media sites like Twitter) has been the driving force for every Idle No More action since then.
Social media savvy tends to be a young person’s game and if it were only teens and twenty-somethings at Idle No More events, it would be easy to dismiss the movement as a symptom of youthful angst, easy to inflame, but quick to fade.
But that is not the case. Watch any of the videos Northern Life has produced at Idle No More events. Watch coverage from events in other cities and other countries. The age of the participants runs the gamut.
It’s one thing to get an angry teenager to a demonstration; it’s quite another for him to bring his grandmother.
What Idle No More has tapped into is a current of unrest that runs through indigenous cultures the world over that have been conquered or subjugated.
For a movement only a few months old, Idle No More has staged a demonstration somewhere in the region almost every other week, a clear signal of the ardor of the participants.
And while the enthusiasm is admirable, there are a couple of risks associated with burning the candle so brightly. The first, of course, is the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
With such high passions so often expressed, Idle No More runs the risk of burning itself out before it makes any real headway.
The second risk is one of support.
Generally, the public backs the act of demonstrating even if they might not agree with the opinion of the demonstrators, but block too many roads, bridges and rail lines too often, and public support is quickly eroded.
Whether the movement will have a long shelf-life — and whether it will achieve any of its goals — is uncertain.
What isn’t, are the feelings that birthed Idle No More: anger, frustration, concern, but also determination and burgeoning cultural pride. These are not going anywhere.
Mark Gentili is the managing editor of Northern Life.
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