Idle No More distracts from the real issues

January 20, 2013

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No more idle distractions. It’s time to talk about the real issues facing First Nations.

During the past few weeks the news headlines have been inundated with Idle No More, but so far there has been little talk of issues of substance. Instead, there have been a whole lot of stunts, politics and tactics.

Idle No More started out with some decipherable messages, but the movement has descended into a confused hodgepodge of mixed messages.

There aren’t any clear demands, but there are plenty of tactics. The protesters have blocked highways, bridges and rail lines, disrupting ordinary commuters. There have been hunger strikes — or I should say, “liquid-only” hunger strikes. There have been demands for meetings and then boycotting of meetings.

Many will say that Idle No More has been successful in getting debate going. Hasn’t Idle No More sparked a great social media movement that’s kicked off lots of debate among young people? Try searching #idlenomore on Twitter and you can get a taste of this debate. The tone, unfortunately, hasn’t been particularly pleasant, even for Twitter, which isn’t exactly known for respectful dialogue.

So where does Idle No More go next? More blockades, more “hunger strikes,” more confused demands and headline-grabbing stunts? It seems the longer it goes without clear goals or substantive debate, the more Canadians will be turned off. It’s already happening — last week an Ipsos Reid poll conducted showed that only 29% of Canadians approved of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s “hunger strike.”

But there’s lots of public support for more accountability on reserves. More than four out of five people polled by Ipsos Reid don’t support reserves getting more public money unless there’s more stringent financial accountability in the form of auditing.

And it’s no wonder, what with a recent audit that showed some serious problems with the management of funds on Attawapiskat. Chief Spence refuses to answer questions about this, and members of the media have even been kicked off Attawapiskat for trying to do their jobs. Instead of blockading roads and bridges, maybe Idle No More protesters should take their movement over to Attawapiskat and demand answers from the leadership there. Surely protesters wouldn’t be kicked off?

For now, the Idle No More protests rage on, but many questions still remain unanswered and sadly, the real issues of how to improve life for First Nations on reserves remain on the sidelines.

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver, be sure to vote for the winner! You can read Laila Yule’s response here.

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