Idle No More Quebec Gaining Momentum

Chief Spence Ends Hunger Strike, But Movement Still Growing

  • Idle No More Quebec has made it clear that despite Chief Theresa Spence ending her hunger strike, the movement in the province is no where near done. Photo Megan Dolski

After 44 days of subsisting on nothing more than fish broth and herbal tea, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence ended her hunger strike on Jan. 23.

But while Spence’s liquids-only diet has ended, the nationwide Idle No More movement that grew alongside her has not.

In fact, it’s thriving.

The overflow of people packed into the top floor of McGill’s Thompson House on Jan. 25, all of whom were attending a teach-in to learn more about the First Nations rights movement, serves as proof.

Hosted by Idle No More McGill, the event featured three panelists: teacher and blogger Chelsey Vowel, and lawyers Jamila Jeeroburkhan and Aaron Detlor.

The discussion explored issues at the core of the Idle No More movement, in an attempt to establish what those even were.

The panel addressed the fact that, despite garnering much attention and many followers over the past two months, much ambiguity and confusion still surround what exactly is at the heart of the movement.

“What even is this thing?” Vowel asked the audience.

The question sparked murmurs across the room and produced a wide range of responses.

Some said the movement stemmed from qualms with the Conservative government’s new omnibus budget Bill C-45, others cited tackling forced assimilation, and some believed educating an ignorant society on native issues was the goal.

“You are all right,” Vowel responded. “This is not an isolated movement.”

Detlor furthered Vowel’s point, addressing the mainstream media’s criticism that the movement is too vague and lacks a distinct goal.

“We are coming to a realization that all these issues are connected on a horizontal and lateral fashion—this is the idea about the people, and Idle No More is about the people.”
—Aaron Detlor, lawyer and panelist

“It’s not supposed to have a focus,” he said. “If you want a focus, talk to [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper—if you focus something, you want to draw lines around it, control it, you want a certain message to get out and you want to deny the interconnection between all these different issues.

“We are coming to a realization that all these issues are connected on a horizontal and lateral fashion—this is the idea about the people, and Idle No More is about the people.”

Jessica Dolan, a PhD student at McGill that helped organize the teach-in, said she hoped the event would be accessible for a diverse audience and was pleased with the overwhelming turnout.

“I wanted to put together something that would allow people to join the movement,” she said. “I think it was excellent, everyone worked together, and a beautiful synergy was created here today.”

The teach-in is part of a planned series, set to take place over the coming weeks. Part two will be organized in tandem with McGill’s Indigenous Students Alliance and will focus on cultural dimensions of Idle No More. A date and location should be announced shortly.

McGill is not alone in continuing to pursue the movement—a slew of Idle No More events are scheduled to pop up around the city in the coming days.

Since the announcement that she will resume eating, Spence has been praised and thanked by Idle No More Quebec for being a voice to her people and to all Canadians.

Idle No More Quebec has pledged to ensure that the movement will continue in the form of demonstrations and teach-ins that promote collaboration between nations.

On Jan. 27 another teach-in will take place at Le Centre Scalabrini de Montreal. Monday will see another global day of action) under the hashtag #J28. The day’s planned events range from a sunrise ceremony to minute-long geurilla teach-ins.

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