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
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
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
“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:
Or follow the movement on Twitter by using the hashtag