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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Book Review: #IDLENOMORE and the Remaking of Canada

Book Review: #IdleNoMore:  And The Remaking of Canada
Written By: Ken Coates
 Reviewed By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

“#IDLENOMORE and the Remaking of Canada” is a book that kind of examines the roots of the powerful Idle No More movement of 2012 but I get the impression that the author really just argues about how relations between First Nations peoples and non-native peoples were leading up to the Idle No More Movement and have come to be since.

The author states in the preface that “my emotions relative to the movement like most non-Aboriginal Canadians have run the gamut,” and that “it is hard to explain a movement that was, intentionally, leaderless, inspired by remarkable founders, suffused with a decolonization critique, peaceful, largely comprised of young people, and far more cultural than political.”

The Idle No More Movement of 2012 was launched by four women in Saskatchewan, most specifically Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah MacLean and Nina Wilson in response to the launch of Bill C-45 by Stephen Harper and the Conservative government. Bill C-45 was a bill that was set up to implement the 2012 federal budget, but came at a cost for First Nations peoples. It meant many changes, most notably changes to band control over the land and environmental regulations for Aboriginal people.

Idle No More started out as a post on facebook, and began as a small teach in in Saskatoon. It was a movement that grew beyond social media that went right across Canada It was huge in the sense that First Nations people were asserting their rights and airing their concerns in a way that had not been done before. You just need to remember the collective marches, the sound of the drums and the round dances that happened at each event or gathering.

 There was a message in “Idle No More,” and from the beginning it was a declaration of the women’s determination that they-and anyone who wanted to join them- would not sit silently while the Government of Canada transformed the foundations of environmental and Indigenous law.”

Author Ken Coates feels that in order to understand the origins of #Idle No More and how it began, it is important to look at the many good reasons for Aboriginal people to be upset and also feels that the social geography of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relationship needs to be explained.

Coates identifies issues that have kept Aboriginal people angry and frustrated and lays an explanatory framework for the events of 2012. He not only speaks about the Indian Act and how it controlled and limited the freedoms of First Nations peoples but he also writes about how there were notions of cultural and religious superiority that convinced the government to regulate crucial Aboriginal traditions, the use of Indian agents, the refusal of First Nations to be able to meet for the purposes of lobbying or protesting, and the list goes on.

Coates states “Some Canadians might not know of the pattern of mistreatment but that the ignorance” of these issues no longer holds because there are new perspectives and interpretations being told in schools about Aboriginal history, there is broad coverage in the media and popular culture of the impact of government actions on Indigenous people.” And non-Aboriginal Canadians are slowly and uneasily coming to terms with the historical injustices that have been a part of First Nations people’s lives.

Though Coates argues that “the last four decades have seen the Government of Canada and latterly the provincial and territorial governments spend billions of dollars to address historical grievances and support Indigenous efforts to overcome historical legacies, I tend to disagree with him.

Within the author’s view the process has been administratively extensive but collectively more than a little insincere. If the process in which the government is collectively trying to right their wrongs, there still wouldn’t be the issues we face today- discrimination, racism, the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to state what all First Nations people have known for years- that the government has committed genocide against First Nations people, and the Harper government is doing everything it can to erode First Nations peoples rights as a people.

Coates states “Revolutionary change happens when opponents of the current regime rise up and overthrow it. Idle No More did not affect that kind of change and the organizers never intended it to,” but really when you think of it, Idle No More was a success, it launched a national evolution, it brought First Nations concerns to the forefront instead of being swept to the backroom of offices, school campuses and in our communities. We have been heard to some degree and that is better than not at all!

#IDLENOMORE and the Remaking of Canada is published by the University of Regina Press and is 230 pages. It sells for $27.95 ISBN:9780889773424

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