To the uninitiated, “Idle No More” is a series of protests in Canada. These protests are aimed at the Canadian government by First Nations people who are fed up with their treaty agreements being tossed to the wayside.
What’s that? You don’t speak Canadian? Allow me to explain some of the vocabulary. First Nations are those who bear the cultural heritage of Canada’s original occupants. When Europeans landed on North American shores, they signed treaties with the people living on the land (1500s and later). Over the past few centuries, those treaties have been amended, ignored or discarded altogether.
I’ve been following this story with avid interest these past few months. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, although on a much smaller scale, and with less violent confrontations. While the geopolitics of the movement are interesting (it has now spread outside of Canada), it’s the reaction of Canadians online I find the most intriguing.
CBC News has been following the movement with a series of reports, and the comments section never disappoints. The audience of the CBC is typically left-leaning, and enjoys laying into the right wing elements of Canadian society. However, the majority of comments on the news articles deride the Idle No More movement and demonstrate an appalling lack of historical knowledge, not to mention a lack of general intelligence. Comments in support of the movement, or meticulously picking apart the denigrators’ comments, are voted down by a huge upset of votes.
The Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis segments of Canadian society have long born the brunt of prejudice in Canadian society, but I had hoped such idiocy had died out. When the Harper government made Canada one of the few countries denying Palestine a permanent UN spot, CBC was flooded with angry Canadians denouncing their country’s stance. Yet, when confronted with the continuous negligence of the government against their own people, Canadians somehow are indifferent or outright hostile.
For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian society and history (the vast majority of you, going by my blog’s stats), I will briefly go over the predicament faced by First Nations people. The Canadian government has long practised cultural genocide against First Nations. How was this accomplished? Families were split up, and children were stripped from their parents. The children were forced to attend schools where they were beaten for using their native languages. Many children were also molested and raped by those in charge of these “residential” schools. When they were finally released from the schools’ care they went back to their communities and were expected to teach “Canadian” values.
The government hoped that such assimilation would occur if the younger generations experienced proper (white) civilization. Naturally, the desired outcome never happened, and the severely traumatized children never broke out of the cycle of abuse and violence.
Despite it now being the 21st century, the Canadian government has never abandoned the “we know what’s best for you” mentality. This is abundantly clear when you scrutinize current legislation. The First Nations are tired of being marginalized and having their rights squashed by old, white, rich men in Ottawa. By now, you’d think most Canadians would be sympathetic to the cause, even if it’s nothing more than a feeling of historical karma.
Here’s a recently set up page on Facebook for all the downtrodden folks, of mostly European stock, who are put out of their way by the current set of protests. People of First Nations heritage are called “the Aboriginals” in a manner that denigrates them. Other racist behaviour permeates the page and makes honest and frank discussion all but impossible.
These people are the equivalent of American citizens who whine about illegals, or other minorities, and get their fill of news from the Fox corporation. While Canada doesn’t have much of a scene for far right publications, The Sun helps fill that void.
People from First Nations communities are often caught between a rock and a hard place. They are poor, substance-addicted louts who enjoy their tax-free status and are criticized for not working as hard as fine, upstanding, (white) Canadians. If they are financially successful, then they must have come by their wealth through nefarious and underhanded means.
Arguments from opponents are often rife with false comparisons such as this one:
[There has been a series of teacher strikes in Ontario recently]
Last I checked, the government doesn’t have a history of going to teachers’ homes and telling them they can’t live there any more. Nor has the government gone to teachers and stated their lakes and rivers no longer need to be environmentally protected, so projects like the Keystone oil pipeline can run through them regardless of accidents. Nor has the government systematically abused the children of teachers by taking them from their families and placing them in institutions where they will be raped, beaten, and molested.
If anyone points out the lunacy of these comparisons, their opinions are downvoted.
The misinformation being bandied about has reached such a critical mass, other news organizations are being forced to set the record straight. The level of spin being doctored is quite alarming to someone such as myself. It amounts to nothing more than the established majority attacking a minority that has been mistreated for centuries. Is this truly what Canada is to be? A country that conveniently forgets its own history to support a narrative built upon hate-mongering and distrust?
With such a crushing tide of ignorance, any oasis of intelligence will seem like paradise. Throughout all this, Twitter has been such an oasis. Its Canadian users have been using the social media site to spread awareness and combat the idiocy abounding on Facebook and online news sources.
This year, 2013, will be my sixth year living in Korea, and away from Canada. Living as an expat often means you feel a certain disconnect with your homeland, and the notion of “home” is a transient one. For the first time in twenty-one months, I will be visiting Canada, but this time it will only be for three weeks. I wonder if I will have enough time to get past the effects of the reverse culture shock and once more connect with my fellow Canadians.
I wonder if I will really want to.