Idle No More gains local following

University District

Global protest movement to arrive at Queen’s

Idle No More, the protest movement that’s been gaining ground both nationally and internationally since it began in December, will hit Queen’s this afternoon.

The movement “calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water,” according to the official idlenomore.ca website.

At noon today, students and local community members are expected to gather on the corner of Union St. and University Ave. to demonstrate in solidarity with the grassroots movement, which has garnered attention online and in the media since first gaining steam on Twitter with the hashtag #idlenomore.

Queen’s student Sarah Hargan, ConEd ’13, has been interested in the movement since it began.

“When I first learned about it, it excited me, because I’m like ‘finally there’s a voice,’” she said.

“I’ve seen firsthand the social and environmental injustices that my friends in these communities have been facing,” said Hargan, who has spent summers in northern Ontario First Nations communities.

She added that she sees one of the main goals of the movement to be creating indigenous solidarity, “not just in Canada but around the world,” — a goal she thinks has been achieved thus far.

“I think one of the coolest things about the Idle No More movement is that you can’t really point to one leader in the movement,” she said. “Everyone in the movement, whether it be children, elders, chiefs, indigenous, non-indigenous people, are all sort of equal.

“Everyone in the movement serves the movement.”

Friday’s demonstration won’t be the first held in Kingston. On Jan. 5 a gathering of approximately 50 demonstrators was held at the corner of Princess and Barrie Streets.

The official website lists over 25 upcoming events, including rallies, blockades and dances. Recent blockades of Via Rail tracks have been conducted near Kingston and Belleville.

According to the website, the movement began with four Saskatchewan First Nations women — Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean — who “felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.”

Queen’s policy studies professor Kathy Brock said the creators of the movement wanted issues facing First Nations communities addressed in a serious way by Canada’s federal government. “In particular they had objections to Bill C-45 and the changes to the leasing of lands but also changes dealing with less environmental protections at the federal level for land,” she added.

The bill, which was passed by Senate in December, allows First Nations communities to lease reserve land if a majority of voters at a meeting or referendum vote to do so, regardless of how many people are in attendance. Formerly, a majority of eligible voters had to vote in favour.

Also included in the omnibus bill is a reduced environmental protection for lakes and rivers.

Brock said there’s also a general dissatisfaction with the way First Nations issues have been addressed in Canada.

These issues include housing, education, land claims agreements and general health of Aboriginal Canadians.

Idle No More has coincided with the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which commenced on Dec. 11.

Spence’s demand was to secure a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston.

Harper offered to meet with Spence on Jan. 24, which she first accepted and then rejected due to Johnston’s decline to attend and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s unavailability. On Thursday, Johnston announced he would meet with First Nations leaders at Rideau Hall on Friday.

“Some reserves are well-functioning, multi-million dollar corporate entities, but you get … communities that are at the other end of the scale that are dealing with very serious social issues,” Brock said.

“These types of conditions we find appalling when we hear about them in third world countries and we often want to go over to those countries to help fix them, but they need to be addressed at home too when it comes to our First Nations.”

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