Monday, February 20, 2017
Last updated: 1 year ago

Idle No More protests return to campus with a student-organized demonstration

Idle No More supporters march on campus. Matt Meuse Photo/The Ubyssey

Idle No More supporters march on campus. Matt Meuse Photo/The Ubyssey

The Idle No More aboriginal issues movement made its second appearance at UBC yesterday.

A student-organized demonstration supporting the movement took the form of a protest march across campus, and then a rally to listen to students and professors speak beside the SUB.

The demonstration was started by third-year political science and theatre student Jessie Mackenzie. She said she organized the demonstration, with the help of other UBC students, to raise awareness of aboriginal issues on campus.

“Canada is guilty of gross human rights violations and continues [its] indigenous rights violations,” said Mackenzie. “I don’t think it’s cool that students are apathetic.”

The day began with a Musqueam prayer, followed by a march of around 50 people singing and playing drums as they walked. The demonstration began at the Museum of Anthropology and worked its way down Main Mall, finishing just outside the SUB.

Students and professors then took turns addressing the crowd, speaking on topics from aboriginal history to environmental issues.

Glen Coulthard, an assistant professor in the UBC First Nations studies program, spoke about the purpose and context of Idle No More protests. He said the movement started as a direct response to proposed legislation from the Harper government, but then moved on to address larger, deeper issues faced by aboriginal people in Canada.

The Idle No More movement began in December of last year, as a series of decentralized aboriginal rights protests. It has bloomed into a general push for more awareness of aboriginal issues, centring around opposition to bills C-38 and C-45. Opponents of the legislation argue that the new bills would pave the way for outside developments on First Nations lands and weaken environmental protections.

“When similar legislation passed in the United States, 62 per cent of reserve land was lost,” said Mique’l Dangeli, a member of Tsimshian Nation and a doctoral candidate in UBC’s department of art history, visual art and theory.

However, Dangeli said the repercussions of the proposed legislation extend beyond aboriginal people.

“This isn’t just a First Nations issue, this is a human issue.” said Deangeli. “If people are not willing to stand with Idle No More, they’re forsaking their fresh water. They’re forsaking their clean air. They’re forsaking the food and the nourishment that we get from our environment.”

One protester who attended, UBC First Nations studies student Claire Love-Wilson, thought the demonstration was a success.

“My main hope is that attention and consciousness [are] drawn to the issues that Idle No More is bringing up,” she said.

  • Gerry Gagnon


    1969 White Paper was a Canadian policy document (white

    paper) in which the Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean
    Chrétien, proposed the abolition of the Indian Act,
    the rejection of land claims, and the assimilation of “First

    Nations” people into the Canadian population with the
    status of other ethnic minorities, rather than a distinct


    “…Indian relations with other Canadians began with special
    treatment by government and society, and special treatment has
    been the rule since Europeans first settled in Canada. Special
    treatment has made of the Indians a community disadvantaged and

    “Obviously, the course of history must be changed…

    “The Government believes that its policies must lead to the
    full, free and non­discriminatory participation of the Indian
    people in Canadian society. Such a goal requires a break with
    the past. It requires that the Indian people’s role of
    dependence be replaced by a role of equal status, opportunity
    and responsibility, a role they can share with all other

    “The policies proposed recognize the simple reality that
    the separate legal status of Indians and the policies which have
    flowed from it have kept the Indian people apart from, and
    behind, other Canadians…

    “The treatment resulting from their different status has
    been often worse, sometimes equal and occasionally better than
    that accorded to their fellow citizens. What matters is that it
    has been different…

    “The Government does not wish to perpetuate policies which
    carry with them the seeds of disharmony and disunity, policies
    which prevent Canadians from fulfilling themselves and
    contributing to their society…

    “Governments can set examples, but they cannot change the
    hearts of men. Canadians, Indians and non-Indians alike stand at
    the crossroads. For Canadian society, the issue is whether a
    growing element of its population will become full participants,
    contributing in a positive way to the general well­being or
    whether, conversely, the present social and economic gap will
    lead to their increasing frustration and isolation, a threat to
    the general well-being of society. For many Indian people, one
    road does exist, the only road that has existed since
    Confederation and before, the road of different status, a road
    which has led to a blind alley of deprivation and frustration.
    This road, because it is a separate road, cannot lead to full
    participation, to equality in practice as well as in theory…

    “Canadian society as a whole will have to recognize the
    need for changed attitudes and a truly open society…

    “The Government could press on with the policy of fostering
    further education; could go ahead with physical improvement
    programs now operating in reserve communities; could press
    forward in the directions of recent years, and eventually many
    of the problems would be solved. But progress would be too slow.
    The change in Canadian society in recent years has been too
    great and continues too rapidly for this to be the answer.
    Something more is needed. We can no longer perpetuate the
    separation of Canadians. Now is the time to change.

    “This Government believes in equality. It believes that all
    men and women have equal rights. It is determined that all shall
    be treated fairly and that no one shall be shut out of Canadian
    life, and especially that no one shall be shut out because of
    his race.

    “This belief is the basis for the Government’s
    determination to open the doors of opportunity to all Canadians,
    to remove the barriers which impede the development of people,
    of regions and of the country.

    “Only a policy based on this belief can enable the Indian
    people to realize their needs and aspirations…

    “The Government would be prepared to take the
    following steps to create this framework:

    Propose to Parliament that the Indian Act be
    repealed and take such legislative steps as may be necessary to
    enable Indians to control Indian lands and to acquire title to

    Propose to the governments of the provinces that they
    take over the same responsibility for Indians that they have for
    other citizens in their provinces. The take-over would be
    accompanied by the transfer to the provinces of federal funds
    normally provided for Indian programs, augmented as may be

    Make substantial funds available for Indian economic
    development as an interim measure.

    Wind up that part of the Department of Indian
    Affairs and Northern Development which deals with
    Indian Affairs. The residual responsibilities of the
    Federal Government for programs in the field of Indian affairs
    would be transferred to other appropriate federal departments…


    “Canada cannot seek the just society and keep
    discriminatory legislation on its statute books. The Government
    believes this to be self-evident. The ultimate aim of removing
    the specific references to Indians from the constitution may
    take some time, but it is a goal to be kept constantly in view.
    In the meantime, barriers created by special legislation can
    generally be struck down.

    “Under the authority of Heading 24, Section 91 of
    the British North America Act, the Parliament of Canada
    has enacted the Indian Act. Various federal-provincial
    agreements and some other statutes also affect Indian policies.

    “In the long term, removal of the reference in the
    constitution would be necessary to end the legal distinction
    between Indians and other Canadians. In the short term, repeal
    of the Indian Act and enactment of transitional
    legislation to ensure the orderly management of Indian land
    would do much to mitigate the problem…

    “Services must come through the same channels and from the
    same government agencies for all Canadians.

    “This is an undeniable part of equality. It has been shown
    many times that separation of people follows from separate
    services. There can be no argument about the principle of common
    services. It is right.

    “It cannot be accepted now that Indians should be
    constitutionally excluded from the right to be treated within
    their province as full and equal citizens, with all the
    responsibilities and all the privileges that this might entail.
    It is in the provincial sphere where social remedies are
    structured and applied, and the Indian people, by and large,
    have been non-participating members of provincial society.

    “Canadians receive a wide range of services through
    provincial and local governments, but the Indian people and
    their communities are mostly outside that framework. It is no
    longer acceptable that the Indian people should be outside and
    apart. The Government believes that services should be available
    on an equitable basis, except for temporary differentiation
    based on need. Services ought not to flow from separate agencies
    established to serve particular groups, especially not to groups
    that are identified ethnically…

    “The Government is therefore convinced that the traditional
    method of providing separate services to Indians must be ended.
    All Indians should have access to all programs and services of
    all levels of government equally with other Canadians…


    “The terms and effects of the treaties
    between the Indian people and the Government are widely
    misunderstood. A plain reading of the words used in the
    treaties reveals the limited and minimal promises which
    were included in them. As a result of the treaties, some
    Indians were given an initial cash payment and were
    promised land reserved for their exclusive use,
    annuities, protection of hunting, fishing and trapping
    privileges subject (in most cases) to regulation, a
    school or teachers in most instances and, in one treaty
    only, a medicine chest.

    “There were some other minor considerations, such
    as the annual provision of twine and ammunition.

    “The annuities have been paid regularly…

    “The significance of the treaties in meeting the
    economic, educational, health and welfare needs of the
    Indian people has always been limited and will continue
    to decline. The services that have been provided go far
    beyond what could have been foreseen by those who signed
    the treaties…

    “A policy can achieve no more than is desired by
    the people it is intended to serve. The essential role
    of the Government’s proposed new policy for Indians is
    that it acknowledges that truth by recognizing the
    central and essential role of the Indian people in
    solving their own problems. It will provide for first
    time, a non-discriminatory framework within which, in
    an atmosphere of freedom, the Indian people could,
    with other Canadians, work out their own destiny.”

    –from “Statement of
    the Government of Canada on Indian policy (The
    White Paper, 1969)”,