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Idle No More Calls for National Day of Action on October 7th

The indigenous-led movement that took Canada by storm earlier this year – Idle No More – has called for a national day of action on the 250th anniversary of the first legal document formally recognizing indigenous rights in Canada.

“We must collectively send a clear message that our movement will not stop intervening in Canada’s attempts to conduct business as usual, until our right to free, prior, and informed consent is universally upheld,” reads the announcement for the national day of action on Idle No More’s website.

On October 7th, Idle No More will continue its mission to move the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians forward to an era of mutual understanding and respect and demand Canada fulfill its moral and legal obligations to uphold the “nation to nation agreements” made long ago.

The media attention around Idle No More may have died down but the movement never disappeared. Across the country Idle No More actions took place this summer under the banner of “Sovereignty Summer.” Idle No More groups exist in practically every major Canadian city.

Now the movement The Guardian describes as “the best defence against Canada’s resource rush” is set to make its mark on October 7th, the anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Proclamation is the basis of many indigenous rights and land claims in Canada – past and present.

Idle No More grew out of teach-ins organized by four Saskatchewan women on the weakening of environmental legislation and infringements on indigenous rights through the passing of federal omnibus bill C-45 in 2012. The movement exploded last winter into months of protests such as Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and other actions held in Canada and around the world.

Idle No More founders: Sheelah McLean, Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, & Jessica Gordon. 

At the heart of Idle No More’s struggle is the spirit of the “nation to nation agreements” or treaties between the British Crown and indigenous peoples to share the lands of Canada equally. The Proclamation of 1763 set out the framework for creating these treaties.

King George III declared in the Proclamation the lands west of Quebec and the Thirteen Colonies (presently US Eastern Seaboard) were the “hunting grounds” of indigenous peoples for their exclusive use. Furthermore, under the Proclamation only the British Crown was permitted to negotiate treaties and buy land in this “Indian Territory.”

Map of borders set by British Royal Proclamation of 1763

Any “rights or freedoms” granted under the Proclamation of 1763 are protected in Section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations,” states the Idle No More Manifesto. The consensus of both Nations in the agreement is necessary for any changes to be valid.

Enter bill C-45.

The massive 457-page omnibus bill C-45 removed 99% Canada’s lake and rivers from a protected list under the Navigable Water Protection Act. Amendments to the Indian Act under C-45 now permit the leasing out of reserve land to companies, for example, even if the majority of the First Nation or its band council living on the land in question are opposed. Only majority support at a single community meeting – regardless of how many people attend – is necessary to legalize the lease.

“It’s so clear what the government is doing: The bill opens the land for resource development, for oil pipelines,” said Idle No More co-founder Sheelah McLean in an interview with Yes Magazine.

The federal government did not consult with indigenous peoples over the provisions of C-45 that affected them. Changes to the Indian Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act unquestionably impact indigenous culture and rights. This lands C-45 on constitutionally shaky ground.

“The Crown [federal or provincial governments] is honor-bound to consult with aboriginal people whose claimed rights might be negatively affected. This duty to consult arises any time the Crown contemplates action that could have such an impact,” said Professor Kent McNeil of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in a Toronto Star op-ed.

“The implementation of the amendments [in C-45] could result in a slew of litigation as aboriginal people turn to the courts to uphold their constitutionally protected rights,” McNeil concluded. 

Sadly, this was the message about Idle No More many Canadians missed when the movement dominated the media sphere last winter. A promise made many years ago to share the vast lands of Canada equally was broken by the British Crown and its successor, the Canadian government. Idle No More seeks to reinstate that agreement and elevate the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous to one of mutual understanding, equality and respect.

This message should resonate loud and clear in the Canadian psyche on October 7th.

Image Credit: Idle No More, Canadian Encyclopedia

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
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When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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