Idle No More

Community Opinion & Analysis Feb 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm

By Rathika Sitsabaiesan, MP


The Government has repeatedly used the phrase “hitting the reset button” in reference to the F-35s and now in reference to the relationship between the federal government and First Nations. However, you cannot simply “hit the reset button” on decades of broken promises and mistreatment, nor can history be ignored. If the Government is serious about “resetting” the relationship between themselves and First Nations, they can start treating them as serious partners in governance that are involved from the beginning in the legislative process, right through each stage to the end of the process.

Over the last two months, a growing number of people have been participating in grassroots action that is sweeping through the country and compelling all Canadians to sit up and listen to the demands of First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples. These demands cover a wide variety of areas including treaty implementation, missing and murdered Aboriginal women, resource sharing, protecting the environment, and poverty eradication. How do you go about solving such varying, complex, and urgent issues? It starts with a proper nation-to-nation relationship.

This relationship requires that we respect the duty to consult First Nations on legislation that will have an effect on them. We need to commit to real consultation and collaboration in order to develop a plan to address the problems First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples face. We cannot begin to propose solutions to specific problems if the government and First Nations aren’t working as equal partners in a respectful relationship. We are stronger when we work together, and that is no less true when it comes to the relationship between First Nations and the federal government.

A step towards new relationship has been taken with the meeting between AFN chiefs and the government on January 11th 2013. Further promises have been made by the government to improve relationships and sit down again with the AFN over the coming months. However, the Idle No More movement is not one that will stop because of promises from this government. First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples have heard these promises many times before and rarely have they seen the action required to address their concerns.

This deep distrust of the federal government is at the crux of the Idle No More movement. It is a distrust that has been built up over decades of broken promises and poor treatment at the hands of the federal government. This has led to frustration among First Nations and that frustration is being expressed by the grassroots through protests. Rebuilding that trust requires nation-to-nation consultation and will provide real meaning to the Residential School apology.

In October 2011, AFN Chief Shawn Atleo said that “it’s time to smash the status quo”. It’s been more than a year since then and more than ever these words ring true because the status quo for many First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples remains high rates of substance abuse, teen suicide, disease, and poverty. Idle No More is here to show all Canadians that First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples will not accept the empty platitudes of a government that has ignored them for too long. Idle No More is here to smash the status quo.

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(Rathika Sitsabaiesan, MP Scarborough-Rouge River)