Idle No More movement surges into BC

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Idle No More #J11 march in Vancouver

Last Monday saw another day of action that swept across the country

By Munatsi Mavhima and Alison Roach
Photos by Stephen Hui

Approximately 250 protesters of the popular Idle No More movement gathered once more in downtown Vancouver last Monday, congregating outside the Native Education College and marching to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development building at Melville and Thurlow. The event was part of an international day of action that saw gatherings in more than 25 Canadian cities and towns, as well as similar protests and rallies taking place in the US, France, and Greenland.

The day also saw an estimated 300 protesters mark the MP’s return to the House of Commons with a march on Parliament Hill. Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo spoke to the crowd at the event, saying, “This is a moment in history when change arrives. You are the change that we’ve been waiting for.”

Protestors with Idle No More have been spotted throughout Vancouver in the past month, handing out information outside the Rogers Arena before the Canucks’ season opener, and as they joined several hundred activists outside the Sheraton Wall Centre hotel on the night of Jan. 14, where the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings were being held.

The movement also made its way to Vancouver Island, as several hundred protesters shut down the Pat Bay Highway — which connects the Victoria International airport with the Swartz Bay ferry terminal — and to the north of the province, where over 100 from Gitwangak First Nation blocked a CN Rail line east of Terrace.

Both events ocurred on Jan. 16 as part of another day of action that saw rallies occurring throughout the country, with protesters stalling railway lines and blocking highways between Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Idle No More is a grassroots movement started by four female activists in Saskatchewan, and has come to centre-stage in Canadian politics and current affairs.

As reported by CBC, the movement’s mission statement “Calls on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfils Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.” The movement was started in response to the federal Bill C-45, which passed just before Christmas. The bill overhauls Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act, and significantly affects tribal authority over Canadian waterways. “Idle No More is a reassertion of native sovereignty in our country,” said Chris Darimont, professor at University of Victoria Geography Department and science director for Raincoast Conservation in an interview with Outside, “and also a signal of very deep unrest with the federal government’s incredibly brazen attempts to demolish environmental protection.”

According to the movement’s official website, “Idle No More has a responsibility to resist current government policies in a Peaceful and Respectful way. It can be done. It can be done without aggression or violence. This is an energetic, exciting and transformative time.” In an interview with The Peak, SFU professor of archaeology Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn commented, “People take the initiative on their own to make a demonstration and round up people for the demonstration . . . [so] to see something coordinated across the country hasn’t really been successfully tried before. This is a unique event.”

This communal effort is echoed by Elder Alma Brooks, a member of the Maliseet Grand Council, who at an Idle No More information event stated, “We’re struggling to make sure that our culture, our rights and our identity continues to exist. We have a right to exist as people; as distinct people.”