What is Idle No More, and why should you care?

Brandon University Students’ Union

Idle No More is a grassroots movement that began with the actions of four women and has since expanded into a global effort.  According to the official Idle No More website, the goal of Idle No More is to “[call] on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth”.  As a socially-progressive organization, BUSU voted in a January 9th council meeting to support the movement and the goals which it works towards.  We also included in the motion a resolution encouraging people to take part in the rally being organized by the Brandon University Aboriginal Student Council on Friday, January 11th.

The Idle No More Movement has been more controversial than it needs to be.  The criticisms against it range from mistrust in chiefs and the system of reserves to outright racism.  The former criticism is irrelevant to the movement itself, though it is an issue that should be addressed outside of this movement.  There is corruption in any government, including the Government of Canada.  It should be addressed, but not within this movement.  The latter is tied up in stereotypes of and prejudices against Aboriginal people.  These are not new ideas: they are just coming to the surface more often because there is a new outlet through which they can be expressed.  This does not make them new and thoughtful ideas, and it is completely unfair to generalize an entire culture.  It is important to remember that Idle No More began as a movement from the people and not from specific people, such as Chief Theresa Spence. Aboriginal people from across Canada have decided to no longer stay silent about the inequality that they face.  They have decided that as much as some people want them to feel shameful about their place in society, they will not stand to be treated as second-class citizens.

Idle No More is not only a movement for Aboriginal people; it is also an environmental movement, a movement towards protecting democracy, and a movement to make sure that the world we leave for our children is better for the one that we are living in ourselves, not worse.  Idle No More is not something that we can ignore as students.  We have a huge role to play as the group that will soon be leaders in our society.  A disproportionately-low number of Aboriginal students attend university in Canada as compared to other demographics.  Much of this is due to the federal government not fulfilling its obligation defined through the Treaties to educate First Nations students.  There is also an onus on post-secondary institutions to ensure the supports are in place to retain and ensure the success of Aboriginal students.  We believe that both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have the responsibility to support the Idle No More movement and its goals.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 17, January 15, 2013.