This past Sunday I watched on-line as the exquisite beauty of the Grand Entry of singers and dancers, in full regalia, young and old, moved into the West Edmonton Mall (WEM). It was spectacular and there could not possibly be any sight more stirring or moving. As I watched I was struck by a number of things.
I have been to many powwows in my life, all beautiful, but it was the combination of the drums, the dancers, the singing combined with the throngs of people following the dancers carrying signs and chanting “Idle No More! – Idle No More!” that moved me so deeply this time.
What struck me as well were the numerous signs being held up for both the mall spectators and the cameras. One of them that really stood out was: “Wake Up Canada Harper Sold You Out To Bill C-45 Bill C-38”. But ‘le piece de resistance’ was the crowd of people chanting in unison: “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”.
“This is the essence of every revolution, peaceful resistance, and socio-political movement throughout history. History has proven over and over again that it is not governments, corporations, or religious demagogues that have the power – it is the people. ”
I have borne witness to this in my own lifetime – the liberty and equality won by African Americans through peaceful protests and marches; the dismantling of the Berlin wall; the end to Apartied; the overthrow of repressive regimes by the Arab Spring; and the 300,000 signatures obtained through the work of Aaron Swartz which halted SOPA, legislation proposed by the US government to limit and censor internet use.
There is a reason why we see so many of our civil liberties being stripped away by ever more odious pieces of legislation and why police, dressed in combat gear, beat and pepper spray unarmed and helpless protesters – because governments are terrified of the power ordinary people wield.
Idle No More is as inspirational as it is powerful. By demanding that Bills C-45 and C-38 be rescinded, they have awakened all Canadians and have spurred thousands into action.
Environmental protection regulations were put in place to ensure that Canada’s lakes, streams, rivers, forests and lands, as well as the species that depend on them for their survival, were protected from environmental degradation. But they, like our democracy, are under attack.
On April 26, 2012, the Harper government overhauled the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, and the National Energy Board Act. And on October 18, 2012, the Harper government watered down the Navigable Waters Protection Act (one of the oldest pieces of Canadian legislation) by replacing it with the Navigation Protection Act. And these changes were rammed through Parliament without debate in the House (it was not allowed) or with Aboriginal Peoples. They made these changes solely on the request of the oil and gas lobby, the EFI (Energy Framework Initiative) who also requested changes to the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and the Species at Risk Act.
Corporations usurp democracy through coercion and intimidation. They use blackmail “it’s-either-the-environment-or-the-economy” tactics to pressure governments and populations to cave in to their demands. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the interests of the people it governs – not the interests of profit-driven corporations. But Harper’s government is obviously only too happy to concede both our environment and our democracy to the unscrupulous tactics of the oil and gas industry. He has betrayed us. He has betrayed both ordinary Canadians and Indigenous people living on and off reserve. He has betrayed the forests, the rivers, the lakes and the land. He has betrayed every creature that is wholly dependent on a healthy environment for its survival. He has betrayed this country in every conceivable way.
And, then, faced with the Idle No More protests and the hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence, rather than acting like a Prime Minister, he chose instead to fan the flames of division and racism by suggesting, not once but twice, that Attawapiskat and its leaders are corrupt. He thereby, and knowingly, perpetuated the myth that all Indigenous people are to blame for their own circumstances. This is not statesmanship. This is the workings of a racially-biased, uncaring, hypocritical and disreputable government.
Bills C-45 and C-38 must be overturned. There’s no question in my mind, that if the Idle No More movement remains persistent and united in the common cause, and not be distracted by critics, naysayers, or politicians who will seek to bring an end to the protests by any unprincipled means possible, this goal will be achieved.
Because when people raise their voices and march in protest, and do so without fear ,and in the knowledge that what they seek is fair and just, nothing can stop them.
Follow Judith on Twitter: @Everythingmatt
Judith Pierce Martin lives in Picton, Prince Edward County, ON. She is an outspoken advocate for democracy, civil liberties, justice, the environment and humanity. She is an avid reader of history and an avid follower of history in the making.4