Today I wanted to talk about the protests of Idle No More a social activist group in opposition of Bill C-45. This movement has gained major media attention the past two weeks, as they continue to protest the C-45 which was passed in the House of Commons in December. From what I can tell the group is made primarily but not completely of First Nations against proposed changes to the Indian Act and Environmental Deregulation. For those of you unaware Bill C-45 was a large Omni bill passed containing 457 pages of legislation in one budget. It is actually the second time the Harper government has pushed large bills containing numerous law changes not just finances through Parliament.
Some of the major changes in C-45 are dealing with environmental regulation. The Navigation Protection Act which protected in the area of 1 million water sources in Canada from development without an environmental study has been lost. Now less than 80 water sources across the nation are protected from development without an environmental study. This no doubt is an effort to make it easier to construct oil and natural gas pipeline across vast territory. Also changes to the Indian Act which now allows leasing Native land to happen without vote of the majority of members and solely by those in attendance of a meeting to discuss the issue. There have also been positive changes too such as reductions of public service pensions to a 50/50 contribution program, which considering the economic situation I think is a positive. Perhaps a telling sign is that of the 1600 amendments proposed by the opposition to C-45 the government made no changes to their proposed bill. I have posted a link at the end of my paper discussing some of the major changes that are now law.
As you can probably see I am not in favor of this bill. Although I do support some law changes and think they are needed, many I see as dangerous. I don't see deregulating environmental protection or allowing major votes to happen without proper democratic process as a progressive move for today's society. What I want to focus on is the actions of Idle No More and how some of their protest tactics could be actually supporting public opinion of C-45.
Before I begin I must reiterate I am a big proponent for social activism, I think it is great when people are involved enough to question and challenge government's decisions. I also am in Idle No More's corner for trying to challenge some of Harper's law changes, and educate the public of these changes. What worries me is that protesting by shutting down highways is not the way to gain public support. Now I can only speak from experience I am certainly ignorant of exactly how protests are happening across the country, however in Nova Scotia I have seen a great way to gain public support and a terrible way.
Let's begin with the good way, Idle No More protesters went to Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth and started a flash mob of song promoted to raise awareness of government decisions. This was a way to make a point, gain public interest but not hindering anyone during the holiday season, and it was wildly praised as innovative and successful. On the other hand the bad way to gain public support... shut down a highway during the holiday season. On December 21 from 10am-4pm protesters shut down one land of the highway at both Millbrook (Truro) and on the Canso Causeway. The lane closure caused some cars to wait upwards of an hour; this is a good way to have the public not support your initiative. Even though it is certainly a worthwhile cause and citizens should be aware of the issue this is not a good way to demonstrate. Why? Well pointing out the obvious, after an hour of idling the only opinion that most motorists had to "Idling No More" is hitting the open highway at a 120.
So while I am definitely in support of the "Idle No More" movement I certainly hope they consider the impact of demonstrations that will encourage public support as opposed to those that will ruin it.
Changes from C-45 (CBC)
Mic Mac Protest (Chronicle Herald)
Millbrook Highway Protest (News 95.7)