Idle No More co-founder supports Spence, not blockades
Published Sunday, January 13, 2013 9:15AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:26PM EST
A co-founder of the Idle No More movement says while she supports the efforts of fasting Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, she does not condone the blockade of rail lines and highways to draw attention to the protests.
Sylvia McAdam, a professor at First Nations University of Canada and one of the four founders of the now-global movement, describes Idle No More as a peaceful protest.
“Right now the vision of Idle No More is that we’re peaceful and we’re working within the means of the legal boundaries,” McAdam told CTV’s Question Period in an exclusive interview.
Speaking of the northern Ontario chief, McAdam said: “We allow people to express their resistance in creative ways, so we try to not limit that.”
Spence has been on a liquid-only diet for more than a month in an effort to draw attention to the living conditions on some of Canada’s remote reserves, and to spur government action.
As Spence has vowed to continue her fast, some indigenous chiefs and activists have promised a day of protest on Wednesday, which could involve blockades of rail lines and border crossings throughout the country.
Idle No More organizers are also calling for a larger worldwide day of action on Jan. 28.
Greg Rickford, Parliamentary Secretary for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said Sunday that while the government respects the right to peacefully protest, police will be expected to intervene in any demonstration that puts activists and bystanders in danger.
“Our expectation, of course, is that they stay within the rule of law and also particularly…that we don’t get into a public safety issue,” Rickford said.
Amidst mounting protests throughout Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to a meeting with the Assembly of First Nations last week to address a number of aboriginal concerns, including the resolution of land claims and giving First Nations a “fair share” of resource development revenues.
The AFN also asked the Conservatives to reconsider the omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-45, which they say erodes treaty and indigenous rights.
However, McAdam said the AFN has different goals than the Idle No More movement and the organization cannot speak on behalf of the activists.
“It doesn’t begin to address the issue that Idle No More is attempting to stop and that’s the legislation that’s going through Parliament,” she said, adding that the agenda that emerged during Friday’s meeting between the AFN and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is too narrow to capture the essence of the grassroots movement.
“All I can say is no political organization can speak on behalf of Idle No More.
“We speak on different topics. We speak about removing the legislation that's going through parliament and we also speak on behalf of indigenous sovereignty, protection of land and water,” she said.
An Idle No More spokesperson said Sunday that in the days leading up to the hard-fought meeting between First Nations chiefs and federal officials, a deep division within Canada’s indigenous community emerged.
“In the weeks leading up to this meeting with the Prime Minister, most First Nations across the country and the people on the ground…were really talking the same things,” said Pam Palmater, referring to the opposition of budget legislation, a lack of water, housing and infrastructure on reserves and the protection of fundamental treaty rights.
“That was a really a unifying message. However, leading up to this meeting it was the AFN that decided to go on a different trajectory and nothing came out of that meeting,” Palmater said.