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Who is an Ally in the Idle No More Movement?

by Patrick Weldon

Nine speakers gave presentations at an overflowing Idle No More teach-in Jan. 10. [Photo: Patrick Weldon]
Nine speakers gave presentations at an overflowing Idle No More teach-in Jan. 10. [Photo: Patrick Weldon]

HALIFAX — As the Idle No More movement gains momentum across the county, more and more Canadians — Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike — are latching onto this national shift in attitudes and power in which Indigenous people are spearheading a protest of the Harper government’s Bill C-45.

Many of the arguments against the legislation focus on its effects on Indigenous peoples. But “changes to the budget such as bills like C-45 affect all of us” said Megan Leslie, MP and NDP environment critic speaking at an Idle No More Teach-In hosted by Solidarity Halifax on Jan. 10.

According to Leslie, budget implementation acts such as Bill C-45 are amendments to bills that have been changed without public consultation.

“Whether these changes are good or bad, they were made without consultation — and that’s not ok,” she said.

“We are all affected in different ways,” explained Sébastien Labelle of Solidarity Halifax at the teach-in. “We have seen the removal of legislation of the protection of our environment.”

This, Labelle said, will affect all Canadians, albeit the Indigenous peoples more than others.

“But we can see common ground and find common goals,” he added.

Mi’kmaq elder Billy Lewis agreed: “Everyone needs to go out there and learn and understand. These bills C-38 and C-45 are guns, but if we stand together, they can’t shoot all of us.”

For Erin Wunker, the Canadian Studies co-ordinator at Dalhousie University, the role of non-Indigenous people in the Idle No More movement should be focused on the importance of unlearning dominant, colonial narratives and re-understanding stories about Indigenous groups that have been circulating throughout history.

“I have been told I am part of a population that has a right to be here and that’s not true,” she said. “I am a fourth generation settler and I have a hell of a lot to unlearn.”

Solidarity Halifax hosted another Idle No More-themed event this week featuring Jackie Barkley, an experienced anti-racism activist and social worker, on the subject of being an ally.

Barkley said it is important to locate ourselves in our own culture in order to understand where we stand in relation the racialized and marginalized groups who are leading this movement.

She also pointed out the need to focus our attention on the position of power we hold in public institutions.

“It’s about fighting oppression in your own environment, that’s where you need to start. Apply idle no more to your institutions,” she said, “and stop doing nothing.”

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