Important lessons

Idle No More, the movement that shot up online out of nowhere appears to have faded just as quickly. Trying to find mention of it in the media is becoming a chore these days. It’s sad to see the wind go out of the sails on this so quickly, because at the core it is an important movement.

But what I am walking away with from the Idle No More movement is a sense of frustration with my fellow Canadians. I have been completely disillusioned at the blatant racism and ignorance shown so often when talking about First Nations people in this country.

Canada is seen as a multicultural nation that is inviting for people from all over the world. But, for some reason this openness to include new Canadians in our grand mosaic doesn’t seem to extend to Native Canadians. Though I have no statistics to back it up, from observation I believe that the level of racism and discrimination is highest towards Aboriginals in this country.

There have been continuous attacks that imply that Aboriginals are lazy people who just sponge off the government, are addicts, can’t handle money, can’t be trusted, etc. You name it, it’s been said and it has just blown me away. Not only is it deliberate and open, but it seems to be commonly accepted, deeply rooted, and in my opinion is NOT being discouraged enough within our society. While we wouldn’t attack almost any other race using bigoted racial slurs or stereotypes, there seems to be no problem using them when it comes to Natives. Why?

I used to look south of the border and see how race is still such a divisive issue there. I felt smug thinking our multicultural society was far better. Well, it turns out we have the exact same racial divide here. And I’m disappointed.

Idle No More is about creating a better relationship between Natives and non-Natives. On the plate are treaty issues, housing, education, and the environment. Now, these can be solved through good negotiations and a dedication to change and improvement. However, stamping out the racism and discrimination can’t be done so easily.

When Chief Theresa Spence was on her much-publicized hunger strike, I will admit that I lost patience with her. I supported her at first, but as time went on, I felt that it was turning into a farce and not helping to accomplish much. Now, although I disagreed with her, I was appalled by how many criticisms of her were steeped in stereotypes and racism. It’s one thing to disagree with a person or question what they are doing; it’s another thing to attack them based on their race. I felt that it was completely unnecessary, counterproductive, and downright rude and destructive to bring racist attacks into the equation.

After seeing what has happened, I think it’s time for a new movement. It’s time for Racism No More. Look, we don’t all have to agree on how to move forward on the issues Idle No More brings up, but surely we can discuss them without the racism. I don’t think there is anyone in Canada who thinks that the status-quo is working at the moment. We need change. We know that. But in discussing change, what we don’t need is racism and stereotypes tainting the conversation. It gets us absolutely nowhere and ends up dividing us as Canadians. As the saying goes, united we stand, divided we fall. Let’s not fall.