The passage of the Conservative government’s latest omnibus disaster, Bill C-45, has pissed off a lot of Aboriginal Canadians. The frustration has been building for some time, culminating in dozens of rallies in cities across Canada yesterday.
Although C-45′s unilateral changes to the Indian Act are of particular concern, First Nations groups are also concerned about a rash of other bills(pdf) directly affecting everything from band elections to drinking water on reserves. All these changes are being pushed forward with limited or no consultation with First Nations.
The wave of protests — known collectively as “Idle No More” — started with a teach-in in Regina several weeks ago. A similar event in Alberta on Dec. 2 gave the protests more momentum, birthing all of yesterday’s simultaneous rallies.
And where was the media coverage?
Various places had small reports about a rally here in Edmonton or a protest there in Winnipeg, but the sheer scale of Idle No More, perhaps rivalling the anti-prorogation protests of 2010, was seemingly unappreciated. It didn’t even get a mention on the CBC nightly newscast. As intrepid blogger Chelsea Vowel wrote at her blog âpihtawikosisân:
Rallying under the cry of “Idle No More,” this truly grassroots movement is swelling as people take to social media in a way I can honestly say is unprecedented. If you’re looking for one unified message, you’re not going to find it… unless it’s “hey Canada, you need to start taking our concerns seriously.”
Many mainstream news outlets were all woefully ignorant of what had taken place: the formation of a vibrant new Aboriginal movement that spans the country and is driven mostly by young people. Oh, and it’s all organized over Twitter, but even that seemingly irresistible social media angle didn’t seem to draw much interest from most journalists, many of whom were still gleefully tweeting about the #IkeaMonkey from the previous day.
What did get a lot of press was when a group of First Nations chiefs tried to enter the House of Commons last week to air their frustrations with the government. So it seems like no peaceful protests are big or significant enough to garner national headlines, but as soon as some First Nations leaders get assertive it’s all over Sun News.
It’s probably inaccurate to call these protests the Native Spring of Canada, but there’s no denying there’s a lot of unfinished business when it comes to indigenous-settler relations in the country. The people most affected by this are no longer willing to stand idly by, and it’s up to the rest of Canada to start listening.