Lenny Carpenter in Native Condition. Discussion »
On the surface, it appears that the "Idle No More" movement is waning in its support and momentum.
Following a flurry of activities in December and January that involved rallies, round dances, marches, flash mobs, blockades, fasting, and national days of action, February is quiet. Very quiet.
In media terms, 10 days of quiet feels like eons.
The top hit of a February 11 Google news search, after two months of the movement making headlines with rallies, fasts and blockades, was a report that showed online activity related to Idle No More dropped by 84 percent in the last four weeks.
But the lack of media attention and online activity is not indicative of where the movement is currently at, says one of Idle No More's co-founders.
“If we're talking about corporate media space, Idle No More looks like it's not going too well,”
said Sheelah McLean, one of the four women from Saskatchewan who began the movement.
“If we're talking about what I'm hearing about what's activating communities, and coalition building, and how it's just starting globally in different spaces…it's growing and becoming more powerful.”
The idea that the movement is dying leaves some organizers in Winnipeg "bemused."
Michael Kannon is one of more than a dozen activists who organizes events in the Manitoba capital in the name of Idle No More. Speaking to Wawatay News on February 7, he noted that the last national day of action was January 28.
“That was 10 days ago,”
Kannon, a 47 year old member of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, said with a laugh.
“We still have our active participants and we're expanding.”
Indeed, in media terms, 10 days feels like eons, especially after the frenzy of activities that followed a month after the first Idle No More event in Saskatoon on November 10.
McLean, Jessica Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sylvia McAdam organized a teach in weeks after they learned that Bill C-45, also known as the second omnibus budget bill, was introduced into the House of Commons.
They were worried it would impact First Nations treaty rights since it changed aspects of several acts that affect First Nations. They also learned the bill was written with little to no consultation with Aboriginal communities.
Wanting to raise awareness about the bill, they organized the teach in and turned to social media to spread the word. They created a Facebook page and called it "Idle No More." A movement was born.
A month later, rallies and events adopted the name in various cities across Canada as part of a national day of action.
The next day, on December 11, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began her hunger strike. Citing poor living conditions and the pain she sees in the youth, she called on the prime minister and the Crown to meet with First Nations leaders to talk about their treaty relationship.
Over the following weeks, thousands of community members across the country, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike, joined in on rallies and blockades. Many had taken up Spence as a figurehead or icon in the movement.
Organized over social media, flash mobs and round dances occurred seemingly every day in malls and other public places during the holiday shopping season.
The rallies culminated on January 11, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with a small contingent of chiefs in Ottawa to discuss First Nations issues. Harper had agreed to the meeting without mentioning Idle No More nor Spence's hunger strike, and Spence boycotted the meeting since the governor general would not be present.
Thousands rallied that day in at least 30 Canadian cities, and more in smaller communities. In Ottawa, more than 3,000 people marched to Parliament Hill and converged around the building where Harper was meeting the chiefs.
The meeting did not produce any positive or concrete results.
Less than two weeks later, Spence ended her fast.
A global day of action took place on January 28, but most would say not with the same fervor and zeal that accompanied earlier rallies.
Now, a country waits to see where the movement goes from here.
Impact of hunger strike
When Idle No More began to gain momentum, it garnered criticism from media and politicians for its lack of focus and direction.
posted February 19, 2013 8:30 am edt