It is never too late, right? This morning, as I prepare to leave later today for West Africa, let me enter the Idle No More fray. This movement of the people has captured my attention since the beginning. I have not written about it because others have been so much more articulate and knowledgeable on the subject. But, like I say, it is never too late so here goes.

In 2011 I returned after a 10 year period out of the country. As I readjusted to life in Canada, I realized that it was not the country that I had left in 2001. Instead, there seemed to be more emphasis placed on business, in particular, BIG business, business that has little connection to “the people”. On one hand I saw governments privatizing services that had previously been administered by the government itself under the rational that private business is more efficient and capable. On the other I saw these same governments handing “bail-out” money to private corporations that were failing. Something was wrong – if business was a better idea, then why would they need bailing out? And at the same time that banks and corporations were getting hand-outs, government services for the people who were paying taxes were being cut back. Canadians seemed to accept this – in fact they re-elected the party to power that was responsible for these actions.

But then came the summer of Occupy.  Something seemed to be changing and people were expressing their discontent. I was hopeful. Of course, as the summer changed into fall and then into winter, the tents were taken down, not always peacefully or willingly, and the Occupy movement seemed to fizzle out. With the fizzle went my naive memories of an earlier time in my life – a time of long hair, of protest, of sit-ins, of love-ins, of a generation that thought we were going to “give peace a chance”.

Other events took over. Enbridge. The expanding Tarsands. Another pipeline proposal, this one to the west coast, crossing First Nations lands, endangering watersheds and wildlife habitat and coastlines, all in the interest of  the share value of oil companies bent on making profits at the expense of environment and people, particularly First Nations people.

In May, 2012, the Yinka/Dene Freedom train  rolled across the country to create awareness about the proposed pipeline to the coast. I joined the crowd  at the  station that had come as a show of support when the train passed through Saskatoon on its way to Ottawa (https://vimeo.com/41514349).

As I looked around the station, I recalled another First Nation protest, almost 40 years ago, when I sat at the back of a room in Yellowknife to listen to the Berger Inquiry into the proposal of that time – the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.  And I recalled occasions after that, travelling with Saskatchewan chiefs and elders to Ottawa, meeting the Minister of Indian Affairs, meeting with Members of Parliament, scouring the National Archives for supporting evidence,  taking part in strategy meetings,  reading the history and terms of Treaty 6… all in an effort to urge the Government of Canada fulfill the legal obligations that flow from that treaty.

Last year, we saw an escalation in Conservative tactics to further change the nature of the country and clear the way for further environmental exploitation. The first omnibus bill, Bill C-36, was introduced to the House of Commons.  Some dissent was expressed but not enough and the Bill proceeded and was finally given Royal Accent later in the year. The Prime Minister and his parliamentary cronies ignored criticism of their bully-boy approach with arrogance and disdain and in fact, they followed up with yet another omnibus – Bill C45.

This time, they may have gone too far. Here, in the territory covered by Treaty 6 and signed 136 years ago at Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt, four women invited people to join them to discuss common issues and concerns. From that meeting spawned a movement which has caught the attention of people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, in Canada and around the world. Is this the time that we take our stand? that we ensure that our government do the right thing – for our children and for our unborn children? that we honour past agreements? that we  safeguard our future environment?

Idle No More presents us with an opportunity as Canadians, all Canadians, First Nations and non-First Nations, to redress our history and to ensure a healthy, vibrant, all-inclusive future. January 28 has been designated as a World Day of Action in support of the Idle No More movement. I will not be able to join the people on the streets in Saskatoon but my support will be coming in spirit from the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Idle? No More!

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