#IdleNoMore UNBC students in action

by Stephen Petrina on February 7, 2013

Rolling Stone, Brooke Jarvis, February 4, 2013— As members of Canada’s House of Commons returned to work last week in Ottawa, they found several hundred protesters waiting for them under a heavy snowfall on Parliament Hill. Many were dressed in traditional clothing of Canada’s First Nations….

Similar protests took place in Halifax, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver and other cities across Canada and in the United States. They were part of a “world day of action” organized under the banner of Idle No More – a native rights movement that has been heating up since October, when the Canadian government proposed a bill, known as C-45, that included provisions to undermine environmental protection and indigenous sovereignty.

C-45, which passed in December, changes the way that First Nations approve the surrendering or leasing of territory, making it easier to open indigenous treaty lands to development. The law also reduces the number of development projects that require environmental assessment and dramatically changes the nation’s Navigable Waters Protection Act – which, since 1882, has made it illegal to “block, alter or destroy any water deep enough to float a canoe without federal approval.” Now, only specifically enumerated bodies of water have that protection….

Shalane Pauls is a 24-year-old biochemistry student at the University of Northern British Columbia and a member of the Tsimshian and Tahltan nations. In the last few months, she has organized three Idle No More rallies. She is in the process of planning a teach-in to discuss what she calls myths about the movement, primarily claims that First Nations receive unfair government support. But the biggest myth, she said, is that water pollution only matters to native people. “It’s not just a First Nations issue,” says Pauls. “It’s a human rights issue. It’s a Canadian issue. It’s not just aboriginal children we’re looking out for; it’s the children of the nation.”

Idle No More has been subject to many of the same criticisms as other social movements: that its purpose isn’t sufficiently clear, that tactics will turn off potential allies, that infighting and tribal mismanagement mar the message. There’s no way to tell how long its momentum will last. Still, Pauls sees the movement as a turning point in the political involvement of Canada’s First Nations. “For so long, we haven’t been heard. And so, for so long we just sat, idly. But the title in itself really wakes people up. To be like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be idle anymore – this is what I want to see, this is how I feel.’ There’s always going to be something worth fighting for.”

Read More: Idle No More: Native-Led Protest Movement Takes On Canadian Government | Politics News | Rolling Stone.