At bible study yesterday we talked about the Idle No More movement before delving into scripture because I know how confusing this is for folk. The fast by Theresa Spence, the rather confused expression of goals by this loose coalition, the release of an audit suggesting that there wasn't clear accountability in Spence's community of Attawapiskat all make the situation difficult to untangle.
Despite the "snakes and ladders" feel to all of this we need to pay attention and realize how important this expression of protest is. One writer has suggested that the rest of us wake up to the impact of the Conservative government's omnibus bill, C-45, which will result in a number of signficant changes which the First Nations recognize. They include:
Navigation Protection Act: Under the act, major pipeline and power line project advocates aren't required to prove their project won't damage or destroy a navigable waterway it crosses, unless the waterway is on a list prepared by the transportation minister. Idle No More claims the amendments remove that protection for 99.9 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada.
Environmental Assessment Act: The first omnibus budget bill had already overhauled the assessment process and the second one reduces further the number of projects that would require assessment under the old provisions. Idle No More objects to the faster approval process.
In addition, there will be changes to the Indian Act which will affect all First Nations peoples.
When the United Church of Canada apologized to First Nations in 1986 and again in 1998, and as we were more willing to acknowledge the impact of Native Schools, we realized that this was more than a "my bad." Our society, which includes United Church members, needs to listen and respond in practical ways to what I view as a national shame. Perhaps the goals of Idle No More are not clear. We know that along the way there has been misappropriation of band funds in certain situations. This doesn't mean that the issues can be dismissed or discounted.
Do you find all of this confusing? Does anyone else find the expressions of racism in the midst of this unsettling? Do you appreciate that the United Church continues to express solidarity with First Nations peoples?