Saturday, January 5, 2013

Idle No More (and the Pharaoh)

Truth is, like most middle class white Canadians, I don’t know enough about First Nations affairs. Sure, every once in a while an issue arises that demands my attention. I’m thinking of the Lubicon Cree and the Tar Sands, or the Ardoch and their fight to save their land from uranium mining, or the travesty of residential schools, or the Kashechewan crises, or the Attawapiskat housing problems, or the disappearance and death of way, way too many aboriginal women. I’ve signed petitions, made banners, handed out leaflets and educated myself as much as possible. But in the end, I’m still a ‘settler’, and my knowledge of things aboriginal barely scratches the surface.

The question is then, should I have anything to do with Idle No More?

As I see it, Idle No More stands for fundamental relationships: Relationships between peoples, relationships between the environment and humanity, relationships between past and present. It’s about learning from others' experience, going forth in conversation and most importantly, standing up for the things that matter.

It matters whether we have clean water. It matters whether we can breathe the air of this planet. It matters whether animals and plants can live, not just as food for us, but as part of vital ecosystems with value in their own right. It matters that we honour treaties. Histories matter, traditions matter, forests matter, lakes matter, religion matters, housing matters, and responsible government matters.

At this point Canada is rated by most organizations (pick any one) as one of the worst environmental offenders. Forget Kyoto, or Rio. The Harper government’s environmental and economic policies reflect a slash, burn and sell attitude that is wresting Canada out from under us, even as we twiddle our thumbs obliviously watching reruns during this non-NHL season. Bill C-45 with all its blatant erosions of treaty rights and environmental protections will be implemented easily if we as Canadians display our usual limited interest. It’s already passed but it can be opposed if we care enough.

Enter ‘Idle No More’. The name says it all. This is about paying attention. It is about caring whether or not our treaties are upheld. It is about caring about whether our lakes and rivers are protected. It is about caring whether all Canadians have access to homes, education and water. It is, in short, about caring, just caring. And then pulling ourselves out the door during this cold January weather and doing something about it. Like Chief Spence. Like the four women who started Idle No More.

The bible as usual has ancient reminders for us about our situation. Few people notice that the Book of Exodus begins with a description of Pharaoh’s greedy environmental and economic policy. He is hoarding food in the store-cities of Pithom and Ramses even as he turns into an oppressor to the Israelites, those whose ancestors had been welcomed as guests at his own ancestor’s table. The Pharaoh of Exodus has betrayed the hospitality of his people to the ruin of all.

How is this relevant? Harper has become our modern day Pharaoh. He believes, wrongly, that the land is his to dispose of how he sees fit. He believes, wrongly, that he need not sit down at a table with those whose ancestors entered into treaty with his nation. He believes, wrongly, that this will end well for him.

But it takes a people to stop a Pharaoh. It takes people like the Egyptian midwives or Pharaoh’s daughter, who entered into solidarity with those who were threatened most. It takes people who won’t rest until justice is done. It takes our first nations people, and it takes me, and it takes you.

Idle No More Facebook page:
For an excellent reflection by Naomi Klein go to:
For a decent outline of Idle No More FAQs:

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