What Idle No More wants

What Idle No More wants Response to the editorial Cool the Rhetoric on First Nations Reforms (Jan. 25). Idle No More - Yukon has never participated in any "nefarious motives" nor are we dealing with "bland and benign reforms." I have never heard of any I

Response to the editorial Cool the Rhetoric on First Nations Reforms (Jan. 25).

Idle No More – Yukon has never participated in any “nefarious motives” nor are we dealing with “bland and benign reforms.” I have never heard of any Idle No More supporter, or any Canadian, oppose fiscal accountability, nor have I called anyone a “racist.” Unfortunately, when racial inequalities are brought to the forefront in any country, tempers may flare and ignorance can come from both sides of the spectrum, especially if the larger strategy and history are not understood.

It is shoddy journalism to proclaim that outspoken women challenging stereotypes and society are simply emotional. Let’s all rely on strategy and intellect, and abide by logic and reason.

Idle No More is not asking for a radical new relationship. Idle No More is asking for the same things that have been requested for generations: for Canada to abide by the treaties and agreements it has with indigenous people, agreements of mutual respect, understanding and a sharing of the land.

The government has a duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous people. They signed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which calls for free, prior and informed consent. This is the law; the government needs to abide by it.

I am a Liberal and proud of it. However, if I were alive in 1969 I would have worked to stop the federal Liberal White Paper. The White Paper was vehemently opposed by First Nations and thus was never adopted. The White Paper had four main components: privatize reserves, offload indian services to the provinces, use economic development as an interim measure, and do away with Indian Affairs.

It was described as assimilationist, and its principles underlie the Conservative government’s current First Nations legislation. Never in the history of Canada have there been so many pieces of legislation regarding First Nations before the House of Commons and the Senate. We are regressing almost 50 years on aboriginal issues, and the answer to paternalistic and unilateral legislation isn’t more of the same.

If Stephen Harper was so adamant on reforming aboriginal accountability, housing, health, clean water, education and economic development, then why did he not adopt the Kelowna Accord in 2006 which was based on an 18-month process agreed to by provincial/territorial, federal and First Nations leaders?

Democracy can be loud, ugly and messy, but it’s about bringing together all voices. People shouldn’t be pushed to the last resort of protest when all else has failed. There have been many groups under the current government who have been forced to protest: doctors, scientists, environmentalists, now aboriginals in partnership with non-aboriginal Canadians who are appalled at the Third World conditions, lack of consultation, etc.

The better way forward is for the current government to embrace all voices across Canada, instead of silencing them. If the government doesn’t change its ways and begin to view indigenous people as partners, then this battle will be fought in the courts, expensive court battles that First Nations are primarily winning.

Cherish Clarke

Co-chair, Aboriginal Peoples Commission