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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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Idle No More

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Idle No More, the current native protest movement, has a powerful momentum.

It’s supported by native Canadians and non-natives alike, and it’s moving ahead with an intensity that can only reflect many Canadians’ dissatisfaction with government policy in general. The fact that Idle No More is able to attract so many non-natives is a success in and of itself.  

Idle No More is a movement with a mission to empower native Canadians to push the federal government to deal with them honestly on issues such as treaties, housing and health.

It’s also a crusade to clarify the true native narrative, one that is clear and audible to everyone from sea to shining sea. If done well, Idle No More can help us realize we have sinned against native Canadians in many ways, particularly through the creation of residential schools, the last of which closed in 1996. Hopefully, we will learn, or re-learn, that before then native children were often taken from their mothers’ arms and transported 1,000 miles away to schools run by the church and the state.

Idle No More will give us a glimpse into the inner workings of native leadership as they strategize among themselves and with the feds. We will undoubtedly witness the elegance of the elders and native governance, which is rooted in age-old teachings and wisdom.

I’m hoping Idle No More will put an end to stereotypes such as the the “lazy native.” Those whom we call lazy are more than likely mournful and without hope for the future. Why wouldn’t they be? Their world was systematically dismantled, and when they asked for their things back, they were denied.

I’m hoping citizens across the country, whether in Newfoundland or British Columbia, will recognize through this movement that they harbour such stereotypes and that they go through a process of intense introspection to see the damage they might have caused, sincerely apologize, and work with our aboriginal people toward a better Canada.

Idle No More has encouraged me to think about stereotypes. I’ve noticed they slip into our individual and national psyche when we’re not looking. I am amazed at some of the unfounded statements I’ve heard about native Canadians from educated people. Somewhere, someplace, from someone, they heard that natives are naturally violent, conniving and sly. This helped me understand how our enemies were able to amp up their propaganda machine and convince millions of people that Jews are lazy, liars, penny pinchers and even baby killers. 

Idle No More may or may not maintain its current momentum. It’s hard to say. But what is clear is that social media, which is here to stay, has played a role in uniting natives and non-natives across Canada in a most important way and will continue to do so. That groundswell, that spring thaw, was so dynamic that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to meet with native leaders and commit to personally overseeing the native portfolio.

Familiarize yourself with Canada’s aboriginal people and their plight. Google “native Canadians” to get going. It’s all there. Find out if your synagogue has a social-action committee and if the native issue is on its agenda. Encourage your rabbi and leadership to speak about Idle No More and what we can do, the Jewish community, to help our native brothers and sisters, many of whom are suffering within our own boundaries.

Avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org

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