Idle No More, Dignity No More

by Cookie

Oh Boy.  Yesterday was a National Day of Protest by the Idle No More movement.  To those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a movement by Canadian First Nations people to protest inadequate living conditions and lack of education of the country’s reservations, and more specifically about omnibus BIll C-45.   I hope I represented that correctly.

Here in Manitoba, there were over 800 people gathered on the steps of the Parliment.  Some of them had walked over 300 km to be here.  When I read that on msn.ca this morning, I inwardly gave them a lot of credit and admired them for their dedication and determination.

But here is where I think I’m going to get a lot of flack.

Where is that strength and determination when it comes to being part of their own solution?  You should read this National Post article:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/01/11/jonathan-kay-true-dignity-for-first-nations-will-come-only-from-self-sufficiency-not-grand-gestures-in-ottawa/

I have a very dear friend who loves to come over and drink wine and fight debate the whole First Nations topic with me passionately.  She has enlightened me with a lot of information, and helped me to understand the sense of defeat that most people feel on reservations.  Decades of cyclic poverty, lack of education, abuse, addiction and hopelessness.

But it’s the hopelessness that bothers me the most.  Because whenever I suggest one solution or the next, there always seems to be a reason why it can’t be achieved.  (Keep in mind neither of us is in any sort of political position to implement anything).  And the reason I get pissed off is because what it sounds like to me is that the First Nations people want to bitch about all the things they’re entitled to, and didn’t get, rather than actually solve anything.

Then I read the above article.  You really should to.

The thing that stood out to me is that the leaders of these communities are trying to regain the dignity that was stripped from them when the Europeans settlers first came here and made all these agreements with them.  It’s not really about getting more money from the government, or meeting the specifications in centuries old treaties.  Because I think it is very clear that despite how much money is allocated to these reservations, the conditions never really seem to improve.

Why not?  They don’t have the skills to build better buildings. They don’t have the education to become productive partners with any companies that use their land for its resources. As the author of the article above says, “welfare is welfare”.  And I don’t think anybody who relies solely on handouts from others ever has any source of dignity deep down.

So what is the Idle No More movement really about?  The same thing every protest by First Nations people has ever really been about, in my opinion.  Respect.  Dignity.  Humanity.

There are 69 First Nations communities in this country that are self sufficient.  The band members don’t live in poverty.  They have broken the cycles of addiction and hopelessness.  How?  They have leaders who stand up for them, and teach them how to respect themselves enough to use the help offered and change their own lives.  This is how these communities have saved themselves.  By regaining their dignity.

We as Canadians are better at going into third world countries and helping them build strong communities than we are at home.  We don’t just write cheques in Africa and expect people to figure it out on their own.  We send aid and teach people the skills necessary to take care of themselves.  And the people there suck up their pride, accept the help, and regain their self respect.

So, hopefully the Idle No More movement will be a turning point here. I hope it will be the beginning of a new partnership between government and First Nations people.

The time for handouts is over.  The time for solutions is now.  And that doesn’t mean a bitch fest about everything that is owed or what you didn’t get, or how much you still deserve.  Everyone has to be part of their own salvation.

Everyone has to suck up their pride so they can regain their dignity.  Then, and only then, will things get better.

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