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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guest Post- Roy Pogorzelski on Idle No More


(Roy Pogorzelski)

Roy Pogorzelski: is a member of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan.  His family is from the Meadow Lake/Green Lake region of Northern Saskatchewan.  Roy convocated from the University of Regina with a B.A in Indigenous Studies (distinction) and a B.H.J in Human Justice in 2006.  Roy has been heavily involved working in the Aboriginal field.  He has worked as a Research/Teachers Assistant for the First Nations University of Canada, as a Research Officer for the Department of First Nations and Métis Relations and as a Youth Care Worker with the Ranch Ehrlo Society and Regina Public School Board. In 2006, Roy worked in Vienna, Austria as a Research Assistant on International Indigenous issues for the Legal Anthropology at the University of Vienna. Roy has travelled extensively in Europe, covering 24 European countries. In 2009, he completed his master's degree in Cultures and Development Studies from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium (distinction). His thesis was on Metis Identity in Canada. Currently, Roy has worked as the Aboriginal Diversity Support Co-ordinator with the Aboriginal Council of Lethbridge and sits as a committee member for the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CMARD).

He is also a freelance writer for Alberta Sweetgrass and Saskatchewan Sage magazines under the Windspeaker Label, and a freelance writer for the Lethbridge Journal, in a column called Aboriginal Voices. He took part in the Aboriginal Emerging Writers Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2011 and has a blog titled "Embracing Identity" Please visit it at



Idle No More 2012 (The Pogo Perspective)

It has been awhile since I turned to the blog to express my opinions.  However, arriving back from Europe in December to start teaching at the First Nations University, I realized I came at a very important political time for Indigenous Canadians and Concerned Canadians (I say concerned because unfortunately Canada is full of people that take no interest in political movements, but are the to first to air their ignorant opinions).

The Canadian government (or Harper's government as he would rather it be referred to) decided to pass undemocratically through parliament an omnibus Bill C-45.  This bill passed through so quickly it would make kidney stone patients jealous.  The idea behind the bill is that it eliminates the protection of 2.5 million lakes and rivers, it also eliminates the environmental protection from unscrupulous development companies that enjoy filling our waterways with nuclear waste.

Protecting our Water should be important to ALL CANADIANS!!

This has also become a violation of the rights for First Nations people entrenched in treaties that were signed on a nation to nation basis on mutual trust and sharing of this land.  Another important element is that the treaties only covered 6 inches under the ground, anything deeper would have to be re-negotiated and make further arrangements for those natural resources.

The Harper government has also declared to make amendments to the Indian Act that would open up lands to privatization, corporate development and national capitalism.  He is also interested in a new method in which we negotiate modern treaties, which would endure the same capitalist effect.

Arriving back, I heard of a Chief named Theresa Spence from the community of Attawapiskat who would endure a hunger strike, even willing to die in order to get a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Lloyd Johnston to discuss Bill C-45 and the current colonial relationship between Stephen Harper and Aboriginal people in Canada.

Idle No More (Chief Spence)

A movement organized by 4 strong Indigenous women (Idle No More, 2012) sprung into action sweeping through the nation and capturing the attention of not only Canadians, but the entire world.  A movement resembling the strong political organizing of the 1970's when Trudeau's Liberal government tried to pass the White Paper of 1969 (an Act to assimilate First Nations treaties, reserve lands and culture into the mainstream).

Taiaiake Alfred stated in his book "Peace, Power and Righteousness" that it would be unrealistic in the present to see Canada create another Bill that would undermine Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.  However, a man that made a Residential School apology to all those that survived a shameful part of Canadian History (Harper's minority government) is now attempting to develop our resources to the highest bidder, so that Canada can grow into a capitalist, every man for them self society.

Harper at Residential School apology (June 11, 2008)

Harper getting his face painted on the Blood Reserve as a show of mutual respect!

This runs deeper then just the neglect for Aboriginal and Treaty rights, Bill C-45 deliberately tells all Canadians that the current administration is willing to destroy the environment, the drinking water and the beauty of Canada without consulting, being accountable or caring about the voices of all Canadians.

When I am travelling and representing proudly overseas my identity as a Canadian, I am informed by many new friends that they love Canada's nature and the beauty of the environment.  Much like the Scandinavian countries with amazing nature, especially Norway and governments that better represent a functioning democracy bound on protecting their lands for future generations; most Canadians stand "Idle", scratch their heads and start pointing fingers at the First Nations people (often time in generalizations).  First Nations people are referred to this because of their diversity as nations, as their eco-systems change from the Northwest Coast to the Eastern Woodlands, the political structures, needs of the community and traditions are different.

However, instead of some Canadians understanding what our capitalist conservative government (that has ran a deficit into the billions over the last 6 years) envisions for this great country; they start to point fingers at First Nations leadership and start attacking the personal finances of Chief Theresa Spence.

In my opinion, Chief Spence is a symbolic figure of this grassroots movement, she is an individual that put herself forward to gather the attention of the international community.  Whether or not people believe she is on a real hunger strike, her symbolism is gathering responses to the issues of environment, nation to nation relationships and treaties.  Indigenous people have always been intricately connected to Mother Earth and have emerged as leaders against capitalism, corporate greed and consumerism to ensure all Canadians understand what exactly is at stake.

It is easy for ignorant people to make this about race, ignoring the concept of "national solidarity".  However, my people the Metis fought hard to protect Canada, as they brought Manitoba into confederation (against a Prime Minister that wasn't even Canadian, but Scottish).  They fought gallantly for their rights in 1885 as Canadians against a paramilitary police force (NWMP) made up of  "foreigners" that had no connection to this land.

John A Macdonald (Born in Glascow Scotland)

However, our people got deemed terrorists, rebels and traitors and our patriotic Canadian born leader (was hung by a Scottish Prime Minister).  I am a patriotic Metis Canadian that embraces the idea of "functioning democracy", but what is happening at the moment is not a country based on equal, or equitable rights, it is a conservative country based on division, generalizations and capitalist greed.

Canadian Patriot Louis Riel (Born in St.Boniface, CANADA)

It is easy for certain Canadians to point the finger and generalize Indigenous leadership, it is easy to start bashing Chief Therese Spence, it is easy to express your words in an anger and hate filled way, but if you decide to speak against the movement, at least have the courtesy to be informed, aware and open-minded.  That is why I am "Idle No More", I am encouraged to see the youth rise up with a modern day grassroots movement to bring all Canadians together to say in a democratic way to our government "it is time to start governing for Canadians (all Canadians) and not just the 1-2% that will benefit from corporate greed in the development of our natural resources".

I am proud of my First Nations brothers and sisters for standing up for the rights of all Canadians, now it is time for all Canadians to fight with us to protect what we love most about Canada (the nature).

Roy Pogorzelski

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