Well “Idle No More” has been at it for a few months now. We have seen flash-mobs in malls, Chiefs holding fake hunger strikes, blockades, marches and an endless stream of demands from activists who place themselves at the head of this movement.
If the goal was simply to get Canadians to pay attention to native issues, then “Idle No More” has been a grand success. Native events and issues had dominated Canada’s headlines for months and Prime Minister Harper even held a special personal meeting with Chiefs though many suddenly and petulantly refused to attend.
In looking at the trends on my blog stats I am heartened in seeing what is coming in. Since putting up my posting listing links to all of Canada’s treaties, I have been seeing a constant stream of traffic with a steady increase from people who have been searching for treaties online. I am getting people here searching for the Indian Act and getting as specific as searching for individual native extremist activists like Pam Palmater. I have been writing on native issues for years here, but it has only been this last couple months when I have seen so much traffic specifically searching out items related to native issues.
“Idle No More” got the attention and interest of Canadians and now Canadians are informing themselves. What I think many behind the whole “Idle No More” thing didn’t count on though was how things have changed in the information age. People are no longer taking the words of activists and protestors at face value. Within minutes people can search out and verify claims on the internet. That is why Theresa Spence so quickly lost all credibility as it was so easily exposed that she was a large part of the problem. If Spence is not actually corrupt, she is clearly terribly inept and unfit as a band leader.
Many with “Idle No More” have cried “abide by the treaties” and that call used to be effective. Now though, people are easily able to read the treaties and discovering that the obligations are not nearly as entrenched as people in the Indian Industry would have us believe. Reform is possible as most of the problem with native issues actually lies with the Indian Act rather than the rather simple treaties (which are not being violated).
Bear at his blog: “A Bear’s Rant” covered the unintended consequences Idle No More fostered excellently in his posting today. You scooped me a little on the theme Bear so I will go into the poll numbers. 😉
Now that Canadians have informed themselves on the issue, we are seeing what they are concluding. Ipsos Reid did a large survey on native issues across Canada and the conclusions were clear.
When it came to statements such as: “No additional taxpayer money should go to any Reserve until external auditors can be put in place to ensure financial accountability” a whopping 81% of Canadians agreed.
“Canada’s Aboriginal peoples receive too much support from Canadian taxpayers” 62% of Canadians agreed there.
With the rather loaded question: “Most of the problems of native peoples are brought on by themselves” 60% of Canadians agreed. What is striking there is that this is an increase of 25% over when that question was asked of Canadians in 1989.
Things become very interesting though when the regional breakdowns are taken into account. In regions where people have a great deal more exposure and experience with native reserves, the demand for accountability is much stronger.
While Canada wide 81% of Canadians want no increase of expenditures going to natives without external auditors; that figure turns to 92% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
While 60% of Canadians at large feel that many of the problems experienced by natives are brought upon themselves, those numbers increase to 76% in Saskatchewan/Manitoba and 68% in Alberta.
When it comes to feeling that money is managed well on reserves, 8% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba felt that was the case with 16% in Alberta.
Numbers in areas with little exposure to reserves were similar but not nearly as sharply to one side as they were in the prairies. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver residents are more inclined to think that things are being managed just fine on reserves but it has to be remembered that by far most of the residents of those cities have never been on a reserve in their entire lives. On the prairies, reserves are plentiful and experiences with them are common.
As people study the issue (or even better, get to see the situation first hand), people conclude that it is time to work towards ending this mess. Most people live within a couple hours drive of one reserve or another. I would strongly suggest a day trip some time to see first hand just how awful it is. I don’t need to specify a reserve as the majority of them are in rough shape under this terrible system. The only difference is degree.
One thing that everybody can agree on is that the status-quo is not cutting it. Where the activists with “Idle No More” and Canadians at large differ though is with the pursuit of accountability. Canadians are seeing past the yelling and rhetoric of protestors and are seeing that it is not for lack of government resources being dedicated to them that reserves are a socioeconomic mess. Canadians want to see a solution but we will not settle for more blind and pointless expenditures. We are listening and learning and concluding that the entire reserve system is sick and Harper and the treaties have nothing to do with it.
While the “Idle No More” thing has supposedly been about native issues, it really has been overrun with a fervent anti Stephen Harper theme. Despite months of this, Harper’s support has actually started growing in the last couple months. Idle No More is actually increasing support for Harper’s Conservative Party.
Canadians are no fools. They are seeing through the buzzwords and rhetoric. They are tired of the baseless screaming and rage from activists and they want to see solutions. People are no longer allowing themselves to be cowed whenever some prick calls them a racist for their having dared question the goals of the activists.
I am excited by these trends. Maybe finally we are moving into the age when we will end this antiquated system of racial segregation, scrap the Indian Act and join the modern world.
I hope things will improve for the First Nations too. Joining the modern world – that will be tough as long as they believe the Federal Government is trying to ‘assimilate’ them. (I expect you have read Pam Palmater’s “Harper’s manifesto: Erasing Canada’s Indigenous communities”.)