More Excerpts from an Idle No More Diary


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by Donna Sinclair

Day One: Wednesday

Jim and I visited our Member of Parliament, Jay Aspin, today. We pointed out the need for consultation with First Nations before the government takes any actions that would impinge upon treaty rights and the environment. Case in point: Bill C-45’s unilateral gutting of river and lake protection.

It was a wide-ranging and respectful conversation. I think we all listened to each other quite well.  There is no question, though, that “progress” for the Conservative Party seems to mean economic development above all else, while for us it includes careful environmental protections.

I had a chance to express my strong displeasure with the government over Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s referring to me (not me specifically, but environmentalists in general) as “radicals” and “extremists.” And Jim did a fine job of interpreting the efforts of TIDES and other international environmental groups, after Mr. Aspin referred to an article in our local newspaper that criticized them for accepting foreign donations.

Mr. Aspin said some non-Indigenous voices are becoming angry over the traffic slow-downs and publicity surrounding Idle No More. We reiterated the necessity for him to maintain a calm, non-anxious presence, one we would consider befitting our Member of Parliament. And we mentioned, several times, our very high regard for the peaceful, non-violent, even joyous nature of the protests. (Aside. We forgot to point out that these round dances are friendship dances, for goodness sake. )

Day Two: Sunday

Today in church my friend Kimberly Robinson  who is a member of the Antoine First Nation, as well as St. Andrew’s – drummed and sang Wichita, a water blessing song, for the children’s story time. Later, she offered the prayers of the people.   As always, I felt strengthened by her words, and renewed in my resolve to care for Creation.  As I thought about this later, I realized that if we could just learn to care for the water, much of the damage to the earth would cease. I am learning this from Kimberly. The water is key.

But that puts a lid on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and tar sands mining, supertankers and arctic drilling, pipelines and massive hydro projects. They all affect the water. Fracking pumps dangerous chemicals deep into the earth where they can find their way into the precious groundwater. Tar sands operations leak chemicals into the Athabasca River, one of the world’s great watersheds. Supertankers break apart in heavy seas and damage the creatures of the ocean. Pipelines break and contaminate rivers. Big power dams destroy natural habitat and create massive reservoirs that are contaminated with mercury.

Some days it all seems so complicated. But I’m a Celt; my ancestors believed in sacred springs and water spirits. It’s not hard for me to understand that it is forbidden to mess with the water.

Day Three: The next Sunday

It’s been a quieter week in terms of Idle No More. This Sunday Jane Howe, our minister, quoted from a wonderful piece written by our friend Aaron Mills, reflecting on Idle No More. Aaron is a child of this congregation. We all watched him grow up, looking on proudly as he embarked on law studies that eventually took him to Yale on a Fulbright scholarship. In recent years he has claimed his First Nations heritage and the wisdom that comes with it.

We’re proud of that, too. I listen to Jane and think about the morning we spent with Aaron and his Mom, Trisha, while he was home for Christmas – a morning that stretched into afternoon as we talked and talked about First Nations and the law, learning, laughing, immersed in this conversation, this glimpse of what our beloved country could be, will be, if only we can honour the treaties and care for each other and the land. 

Day Four: Wednesday

Theresa Spence has ended her sacred fast after 42 days. Many pundits have been respectful of this undertaking; it is, after all, in the tradition of Ghandi. Some have been dismissive. I think she has given strength to her people. Charlie Angus, her Member of Parliament, is often seen by her side. When I see that, I think that the chasm between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country is not wide at all; it can be crossed easily by all those who love justice.

Day Five: Monday

Today Parliament went back to work. Jingle dancers greeted the Members’ return to the Hill, and Idle No More rallies took place in Canada and around the world. For awhile, Jim and I attended one here at city hall.  Not many people were there, so we were glad we went. Jim was handed the Nipissing First Nation flag to wave.  It looked pretty good, I thought. Jim tries hard to be respectful, not to barge in without an invitation. He was invited to do this.

Again, the young people were in charge.  I realized once more how this gives me hope.  All over the world, young people are rising. They know things are not right, neither with our democracies or our climate. Here in Canada I can see that they are determined to be both non-violent and deeply welcoming. As our friend Aaron says, the women who started the movement “have consistently been very clear that all of us, not just Indigenous persons, are included in Idle No More. They have managed to inspire thousands of people to come together.”

Long may it last.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Donna Sinclair is an award-winning writer who has traveled widely in Canada, Africa, Central America, Britain, and Eastern Europe. She is the author of The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening, A Woman’s Book of Days, A Woman’s Book of Days 2, and numerous other titles. Donna lives with her husband Jim in North Bay, Ontario. Her most recent book is The Long View: An Elderwoman’s Book of Wisdom (2011).

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Categories: Donna Sinclair, Ecology and Environmental Issues, Ethics, Peace, Peace, Justice, and Equality, World


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