Sitting inside a small white teepee near Parliament Hill, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief, Theresa Spence, is now in her 24th day of a hunger strike. As her health deteriorates, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to meet her only request which is to discuss indigenous issues with him. Spence’s hunger strike comes under the umbrella of a powerful grassroots movement now spreading throughout the world called Idle No More. The movement, which was begun this past October by four women in Saskatchewan, is bringing much needed attention to Bill C45 and other legislation which has helped weaken land and waterway rights of aboriginal people in Canada. And, contentious projects like the Keystone XL pipeline which would originate in Alberta Canada have led to ever increasing battles over native territories.
Idle No More protests, flash mobs, teach ins and rallies have sprung up around Canada in a way that is reminiscent of the Occupy Movement. Protesters in Quebec yesterday blockaded cargo trains, while over a thousand Native American people here in the US staged a flashmob dance at the Mall of America in Minnesota in solidarity. While protests have erupted as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Europe, as well as in numerous cities throughout the US, the American media has had little to no coverage of the struggle.
Aboriginal people in Canada, who have a cultural legacy spanning thousands of years, have been living as second class citizens in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Amnesty International last month gave Canada’s human rights record a failing grade. Their report stated, “By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous people across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis.”
GUESTS: Ryan McMahon a professional writer and comedian based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is also the creator of the redmanlaughing.com podcasts and has been involved with the Idle No More movement; Clyde Bellecourt is a White Earth Ojibwe civil rights organizer and co-founder of the American Indian Movement