For those of us in the United States, news about Canada tends to be almost non-existent. So, it may surprise you to discover that a grand protest is going on across the entire country as Native American tribes, also called the First Nations, have risen up in response to the replacement of the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) of 1882 with the Navigation Protection Act (NPA) by Prime Minister Stephen Harper within omnibus bill C-45. This change effectively overrides native control over their own lands, enabling the government to allow industrialization, or mineral exploitation, on lands which treaties ceded to the native tribal leadership.
It was a measure too far for the tribes.
The tribes have since begun a campaign of protests, organized strikes, and even forcing the shutdown of commerce all across the nation. They have organized under the name Idle No More, referencing to how the tribes have been idle, not actively fighting to preserve their rights.
So far, groups affiliated with the movement have been targeting multiple bridges, rail lines, and other travel routes in order to shut them down. Multiple flash mobs have erupted not only in Canada but in several US locations as well, disrupting commerce, and bringing awareness to the campaign. While the disruptions have so far been relatively minor, they continue to grow in scale with each passing day.
The total Native American population of Canada is not actually known, as the latest census excluded multiple tribes in their tally. Even with those excluded, the native population is approximately 4% of the Canadian population, over twice that of the United States. If the excluded natives were added, Canada is looking at approximately 1 in 20 people being of Native cultures, giving them a very large voice when working together.
As with the Occupy movement, the Idle no More movement is utilizing social media networking to a level unknown even a decade ago. This is giving them incredible organizational power as well as flexibility in their movement. The more Prime Minister Stephen Harper attempts to kick the can down the road the more this movement will continue to grow. Considering that First Nation communities are found throughout Canada, this effectively makes it a very widespread issue for the government of our northern neighbor.
With the failure of Canadian David Johnson to attend the meeting earlier this week between the government and First Nations leadership, many from the movement have called the meeting pointless and a distraction. Expect more disruptions leading up to their next day of action on January 28th. At the root of the issue is the Canadian government’s ignoring of the treaties between Canada and the First Nation people. Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs, stated it simply:
The Treaties are the last line of defense to protect water and lands from destruction.
The changes to the waterways law which began this wave of resistance was done in order to cater to large corporate interests who seek to exploit Canada’s natural resources for private gain. Now the natives are restless, and if the government of Prime Minister Harper does not back down, there will be hell to pay.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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