Aboriginal Circle

Harper’s hidden omnibus bills and Idle No More

January 24, 2013

When the Harper government buried some legislative changes in two large omnibus bills last year little did it know it would give birth to the grassroots Aboriginal movement we’ve come to know as Idle No More.  OPSEU Aboriginal Circle calls on all OPSEU members to join in the movement in a show of solidarity and strength.

The federal legislation under fire – Bill C-38, the “Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act” and Bill C-45 – together contain more than 800 pages stuffed with 160 laws and regulation, many effect First Nations and the environment. 

Changes to the Indian Act now make it easier for the federal government to remove land from the First Nations. The Aboriginal Affairs minister has been granted the power to call a meeting to consider surrendering band territory. The minister can choose to ignore a resolution from the band council that's in opposition to a decision at the meeting. Under the old act, a referendum for land surrender had to include all members of the band and required a majority of the eligible voters to agree to the surrender.

The 130-year old Navigable Waters Protection Act has been changed to the Navigation Protection Act under which thousands of Canadian lakes and rivers can be removed from federal environmental protection. The government says the new act makes it easier to implement necessary infrastructure projects along waterways.

Changes to the Fisheries Act limit environmental assessments on industrial projects, and shuts down Aboriginal-specific programs.

The revised Fisheries Act removed a section banning activities which “harmfully alter, disturb or destroy” fish habitat. The legislation was amended to only ban harm to the fish themselves:

It also allows corporations to opt out of environmental commitments that they were held to under the old legislation. Previously, corporations had to build new lakes or streams when one of its projects damaged waterways.

The Idle No More movement and several other First Nations claim that Bill C-45 violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

It does not honour the treaties or indigenous sovereignty

It does not make it mandatory to consult with First Nations before adopting the legislation

“This is not just an Aboriginal problem,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, “This has absolutely nothing that might address the rights of people and protections to ensure a sustainable environment.”

“Canadians must learn more about the real history of the First Nations,” urged OPSEU Aboriginal Circle Chair, Pauline Saulnier. “We were not taught about treaties, residential schools, or the fundamental role First Nations played to make Canada the great country it is.”

Contrary to some media reporting, the Idle No More protests are overwhelmingly peaceful gatherings which are marked by round-dancing, silent marches and teach-ins. It has a large social media presence and it’s growing rapidly.

To learn more about the movement please visit: http://idlenomore.ca/

Or follow the movement on Twitter by using the hashtag #idlenomore


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