When a small number of First Nations members began chanting in the food court of the Shoppers Mall here in Brandon last Friday, to mark the national Idle No More protest, they couldn’t have known what kind of response they would get.
Within half an hour, a Sun reporter who happened upon the impromptu flash mob while shopping Friday evening told the newsroom desk that at least 200 people had joined hands with 10 or so protesters in a giant circle around the court and were dancing to the beat of the aboriginal drum.
This circle was made of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike, showing that the movement — which was further bolstered by Attiwapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who promises to remain on a hunger strike until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to meet with her and discuss outstanding issues facing her people — has gained support outside First Nation circles too.
The purpose of this movement is to push for meaningful consultation between the federal government and First Nations people. Such a right is embedded in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and if aboriginal leaders believe the current federal government is no longer listening, they have every right to give voice to their complaints.
There needs to be more communication in this country between national leaders and aboriginal communities. Too many bands are impoverished, and the current federal bureaucracy, under the Indian Act, is not helping them get on their feet.
Does that mean that the federal government should always do what First Nations leaders demand? No. Case in point, we think publishing the salaries of chiefs and councils across the country is a necessary step for all aboriginal communities toward accountability — even if the chiefs don’t like it.
But that doesn’t mean the federal government should act unilaterally without trying to work with First Nations leaders to find solutions to ongoing problems.
And it would seem the protesters aren’t alone in thinking so.