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(en) Canada, Why you should support Idle No More - a pamphlet from Common Cause* Hamilton
Sun, 06 Jan 2013 12:23:19 +0200
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 and against corporate destruction of the environment are what this movement is
really about. These issues affect white workers and immigrants (old and new), and
supporting the Idle No More (INM) movement is also supporting our own communities and our
It is important to remember that the meeting between Chief Spence and Steven 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.
We as white workers and immigrants need to demand the Canadian state to honour the
treaties it signed, not line up for more photo-ops and lip services. Honouring the
treaties means acting towards the Indigenous communities as equals. They 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
another primary motivator for the INM movement. 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
(or Aamjiwnaang Nation) near Sarnia is just one example.
One of the main concerns of the INM movement 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
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: writing letters, signing
petitions, and giving money to Green Peace are 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 on behalf of all workers across the planet.
Attacking racism and 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 main way that capitalism continues to keep us divided and
exploited. White workers have got more in common with our racialized neighbours and native
protesters than we do with our 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 us as white & immigrant workers. It is important
that these conversations are heard in our 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).
* Anarchist organization
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