Canada is “Idle No More”

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In this article adapted from the website of the Socialist Workers Party (US) Brian Ward reports on the rise of the Idle No More movement, which is demanding that long overdue attention be paid to Canada’s impoverished First Nations communities.

Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by means of its bountiful land and natural resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are some of the most powerful in the world. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land, but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned–the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.

— Idle No More Manifesto

Since December 10, the First Nations movement called Idle No More has taken Canada by storm. On that day, Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat Cree band began a hunger strike in a tipi on Victoria Island, not far from the centre of the federal government in Ottawa.

Six days later, the Toronto Star wrote an editorial calling on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to accede to her demand for a face-to-face meeting.

Finally, on January 4, Harper agreed to meet, but Chief Spence is taking nothing for granted, given Harper’s record of broken promises to Canada’s First Nations. Prior to Harper’s announcement of his intention to meet with her, Spence expressed her willingness to “die for her people.” She plans to continue her hunger strike until the meeting actually happens.

Nothing approaching the scale and intensity of this indigenous uprising has taken place in Canada or the U.S. in many years. There have been grassroots protests across Canada, including flash mobs at malls and daily drum circles in every major city, with anywhere from a couple hundred people to more than 60,000 attending. [Read more…]

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Canada’s election: NDP gains widen space for social struggles

This article by Roger Annis, a long-time socialist and retired aerospace worker in Vancouver BC, was first published in Green Left Weekly but was also written with publication in The Spark in mind. It was published by Green Left Weekly on May 23 and also in the June issue of The Spark.

The incumbent Conservative Party sailed to victory in Canada’s federal election on May 2 with the first majority government in the federal Parliament since the 2000 election. There was celebration in the boardrooms of the country. The victory caps a decades-long drive by much of Canada’s business elite to fashion a strong national government on a hard-right agenda.

The result is a deep disappointment for progressive-minded people in Canada. The Conservatives led by Stephen Harper will form the most right-wing government in modern Canadian history, extending the regressive path of their two minority governments won in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

But there is much in the election outcome from which to take encouragement. The Conservative vote rose only by a modest two percentage points (to forty percent), notwithstanding the huge sums the party spent on its campaign and the support it received from nearly every daily newspaper in the country. In Quebec, its electoral fortunes continue to decline, down 25 percent from 2008 and 33 percent from 2006. [Read more…]