Idle won't create any changes
By David Willberg
When did North America lose its ability to create a good protest movement?
Remember the Occupy Movement of 2011, when disgruntled, unemployed young people proclaimed themselves as the 99 per cent, and proceeded to aggravate the vast majority that they claimed to represent. Then there were the Quebec student protests of 2012, when products of entitlement griped about rising tuition rates. (Even though Quebec tuition rates are easily the lowest in the country).
(The American Tea Party movement would be counted as a farce, if it was actually a protest).
Idle no More isn't a farce like Occupy and the Quebec student protests, but it isn't going to be a turning point for First Nations people, either.
A challenge facing Idle no More is that it one of the inspirations for many protesters, Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, is far from a sympathetic figure.
She receives a tax-free salary of about $70,000 to be the chief of a reserve with a population of less than 2,000. (Not the worst example in Canada of a vastly overpaid chief, but she still has a grossly inflated salary). Her reserve has been dogged by allegations of misappropriation and financial mismanagement. And recently a television crew was punted from Attawapiskat while trying to do a story.
Many first Nations aren't behind Idle no More. And there are those who support Idle no More who don't back Chief Spence. But many Idle no More supporters are also fond of Chief Spence.
First Nations need more people like Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos First Nation in south-central British Columbia. He's honest, hard-working and a champion for First Nations people, but he also recognizes that changes need to be made. (Witness his speech in Fort McMurray in 2006).
First Nations people have a lot to offer. There are a lot of incredibly talented and gifted people who, if they were to be engaged in the work force, could offer solutions to the work force shortages facing Saskatchewan. Some of them just need to be granted an opportunity; others need to do what's necessary to put themselves in a position to seize those opportunities.
Many companies that have sought out First Nations employment will tell you that it's a win-win situation.
Unfortunately, Idle no More isn't going to help First Nations people gain those opportunities.
And it's not going to have a lasting impact. It'll create more awareness of the challenges facing First Nations people. (Although most Canadians have a pretty good awareness of those difficulties). It resulted in a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, although it's debatable whether that meeting will have any actual benefits.
But will Idle no More result in significant change to improve the life of First Nations people? No.