U of Toronto Student Torbold Rollo on #IdleNoMore

by Stephen Petrina on February 9, 2013

Georgia Straight, Torbold Rollo, February 1, 2013 — IT IS SOMETIMES quipped that democracy is like two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner. This Darwinian image of vulnerable minorities falling prey to a “tyranny of the majority” is why few believe that democracy can be reduced to participation in elections. If democracy has value it is because it allows people to have a meaningful say in the rules that govern them. Anything that precludes or impairs this “voice” is anti-democratic by extension.

The Idle No More indigenous rights movement is a democratic movement par excellence. It seeks to challenge those mechanisms of Canadian governance that preside over the lives of indigenous peoples and in this sense their demand for self-government—what ancient Greek theorists called “autonomy”, from auto (self) andnomos (rule)—is a genuinely democratic aspiration. Canadians are coming to see this more clearly as the movement articulates its recommendations. (No surprise, then, that “Idle No More” was just voted “Best Democratic Moment of 2012” in a poll conducted by the research group on democracy, Samara.)

What exactly precludes and impairs the autonomy of indigenous peoples? The Indian Act stands out as the most glaringly anti-democratic impediment to self-government. Not simply because it shatters the 60 or so original indigenous nations along with their traditional governments and traditional territories into the 614 arbitrary “bands” now scattered across Canada on tiny “reserves”, but also because band leadership has no real say in political and legislative life on those reserves. Although they are elected, chief and council have no democratic authority to govern because they are constrained from above by the Indian Act rather than from below by their people. They are replaceable managers, in essence, not law-makers. Real authority resides in the enforcement of the Indian Act by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The whole arrangement is insultingly arbitrary from a democratic perspective.

Read More: Straight.com