Why you should support Idle No More
a pamphlet from Common Cause Hamilton
You have most likely heard of the Idle No More movement that has sprung up across Canada recently. The most publicized element is that Chief Theresa Spence (of the Attawapiskat Nation) is on a hunger strike until Stephen Harper meets with her and other Indigenous leaders. What gets lost in the news cycle is that this meeting is supposed to be a real discussion and not just a symbolic gesture.
This movement is not just about getting individual leaders into a room and talking: the demands for autonomy for all Indigenous nations are what this movement is about, and this movement is resisting corporate destruction of the environment, at the same time. These issues affect white workers and immigrants (old and new), so supporting the Idle No More (INM) movement is also supporting all communities and future generations.
It is important to remember that the meeting between Chief Spence and Stephen Harper is supposed to be a meeting between separate independent nations: just like the treaties we signed are between separate independent nations. Last year, the Canadian State formally apologized for the cultural genocide of Native groups through the residential schools, but to this day Native voices are still being silenced and criminalized while racist policies and environmental destruction continues.
White workers and immigrants need to demand the Canadian state honour the treaties it signed, without lining up for more photo-ops and lip services.Honouring the treaties means acting towards the Indigenous communities as equals. These communities should be responsible for all the decisions on their lands, and should be a legitimate partner on policies that affect all Canadians.
Native autonomy will actually increase the autonomy of white workers and immigrants as well. Autonomy means that decisions over the water, land, and other resources should be made by the people living and working in the region: these decisions should not be made by CEOs, share holders, unaccountable leaders, or politicians thousands of miles away from the people that will be affected.
the struggle against ecological destruction
The ongoing pillaging of Native land in the name of generating corporate profits has been a primary motivator for attacks on indigenous autonomy. The Canadian state has played a central role in facilitating this process. By ignoring and defying treaties and introducing new legislation to weaken environmental protection laws, the Canadian Government is attempting to further enrich corporations and the 1% at the expense of the environment.
The ecological destruction is not just occurring on native territories, but across Canada and the world. Native lands are often targeted with the worst forms of destruction and are often denied the healthcare that is needed to deal with the destruction: Chemical Valley industries aroundthe Aamjiwnaang Nation is one major example.
One of the very relevant issues is the dangerous oil pipelines (and the inevitable toxic spills that come along with them) that are being built or re-purposed in order to transport toxic sludge from the Alberta tar sands. One such pipeline is Enbridge’s Line 9, which runs through Hamilton between Sarnia and Montreal. These pipelines must be opposed and stopped by natives, white people, and immigrants working together.
Some of us care very deeply about the ecological crisis that the whole world is facing. The problem is that not many are doing that much about it: just writing letters, signing petitions, and giving money to Greenpeace is not working. Indigenous communities have always been on the front lines, resisting environmental destruction: both on their lands and outside them. Supporting the INM movement is supporting the people fighting this ecological crisis, to the benefit of everyone across the planet
attacking racism & white supremacy
Supporting the INM movement is part of fighting the white supremacy and racism that is endemic in Canada. Racism or white supremacy are not just bad ideas held by particular individuals, but rather a system that has a real material impact on our day to day lives. Chronic underemployment and incarceration - the result of generations of genocidal policies – of Native and other people of colour are some examples of the way white supremacist power structures are maintained in Canada.
This means fighting white supremacy requires more than going to a protest or having a black friend (or two). Fighting white supremacy means attacking racism in urban working-class struggles (in our unions, workplaces, & neighbourhoods) and convincing our co-workers and neighbours to support the struggles of Native people.
Obviously, immigrants and people of colour have clear reasons for opposing white supremacy, but white Canadians will benefit from fighting it as well. Maintaining white supremacy and racism is a major way that capitalism continues to keep us divided and exploited. White workers have got more in common with racialized neighbours and native protesters than with white bosses, or white police, or billionaire CEOs. Our interests lie with those who are dispossessed, are exploited, who suffer as a result of ecological destruction – not those who benefit from this activity.
blockades and economic disruption
Since the inception of the Idle No More movement, its participants have employed a variety of tactics. Demonstrations in urban centres, ‘flash mobs’ in shopping malls, round dances, large marches, blockades... the sometimes spontaneous and diverse nature of these actions has allowed the movement to remain dynamic while it continues to grow in size and influence.
In particular the blockading of rail lines and highways may prove to be the most potent weapon in this arsenal. This is because blockading the flow of goods and services, unlike a static rally or protest, has a direct economic impact on the corporations and bosses who are among the profiteers of environmental destruction.
White workers also use ‘blockades,’ in the form of strikes. When the CP workers were fighting for their pensions earlier this year, their strike stopped the trains too. The Harper Government responded by legislating them back to work almost immediately. The state was quick to act because they realize the vulnerability of these transportation networks and the power that is gained by shutting them down.
Whether striking, shutting down highways, or blocking trains, the tactic of blockading and economic disruption is an important tactic employed by both non-native workers and Native protestors: to claim that white workers’ disruptions are legitimate and native groups’ disruptions aren’t is racist. Respecting blockades is like respecting picket lines, and choosing not to cross them is a strike against ecological destruction & racism, and an act of solidarity with Native autonomy.
what you can do
1) The most important things is to talk to your neighbours and coworkers about Idle No More, and how native struggles affect white & immigrant workers. It is important that these conversations are heard in lunchrooms, sidewalks, parks, and coffee shops if we want real change.
2) If you do contact your regional politician, please make sure the conversation or letter is not just about Harper meeting Chief Spence but instead is about how they should recognize Native autonomy and their solutions to environment destruction.
3) Make a sign supporting Idle No More, and put it in your window so the neighbourhood can see it. Get your kids to colour it and make it look beautiful; oh, and talk to them about Indigenous issues while your at it.
4) Go and visit one of the blockades or round dance, and show your solidarity with the Idle No More movement. Important note: don’t be shy & make sure you participate in the dancing and music (that is how all of us make friends).