Phil Fontaine speaks to University of Winnipeg students on #IdleNoMore

by Stephen Petrina on March 13, 2013

CBC News, March 13, 2013— It has been weeks since Idle No More protests have made headlines, and now a former national chief is saying the movement needs to change direction to get things moving again.

Phil Fontaine, the former chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, spoke to University of Winnipeg students alongside federal Liberal leader Bob Rae on Wednesday.

Fontaine lauded the efforts of the Idle No More movement while speaking to students but said those behind the grassroots movement should now try to align with chiefs to move forward.

“I think it would be a mistake to marginalize the chiefs in this very important process, and so the point I was making is, I think they have to work together,” said Fontaine.

The Idle No More movement was sparked by opposition to Bill C-45, an omnibus budget bill that had far-reaching implications for the Indian and Environmental Assessment Acts.

The grassroots movement said the bill endangered the environment and infringed on treaty rights.

But the movement was at times at odds with aboriginal leadership, pointing to quick progress made by Idle No More protests that took chiefs years to achieve.

Indigenous Studies students Carl Balan and Allan Cochrane attended Fontaine and Rae’s talk Wednesday but said they weren’t convinced the movement should change direction.

“I was extremely optimistic to hear some of these ways forward, but it was the same old talking about the past,” said Balan.

Cochrane said he wasn’t impressed with Rae’s suggestion the movement lacked focus.

“To close in on any one issue opens up the possibility for the federal government to come up with a quick fix,” said Cochrane.

He said what’s more important is a change to the status quo.

For now, Idle No More organizers are maintaining their focus on grassroots protests, with more events planned for next week.