Thursday, December 27, 2012

How a Canadian budget bill can affect American shoppers (Idle No More)

Earlier in December, Canada adopted its budget.

The Harper government’s budget was set to become law, after the Senate approved a second omnibus implementation bill on the last day of the 2012 parliamentary session.

By a vote of 50-27, the Senate passed the government’s second budget implementation bill.... The bill was then sent to the Governor General to be signed in to law. A royal assent ceremony was to take place soon thereafter....

The bill passed through the Commons with little debate, garnering support from all parties in the House.

The budget bill, Bill C-45, includes changes to public sector pension plans, a new electronic travel authorization system, pay raises for judges and changes to environmental protection and reviews for lakes and rivers.


Bill C-45...amends the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canada Labour Code....

Now, would anyone be upset about that?

Over the past number of months, First Nations across Canada have been up in arms about the suite of legislation being considered in the absence of the fiduciary legal duty to consult and accommodate, these include: (1) Bill C-27 – First Nation Financial Transparency Act, (2) Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, (3) Bill S-2 – Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, (4) Bill S-6 – First Nations Elections Act, (5) Bill S-8 – First Nations Safe Drinking Water Act, (6) Bill S-207 – An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act and, (7) Bill S-212 – First Nations Self Government Recognition Act.

For those who are not familiar with the term "First Nations," that is the Canadian way to talk about Native Americans (in this case, Native Canadians). And while different names are used, both the Canadian and American native peoples have concluded treaties with the national governments - treaties which have at times been ignored.

In this case, the First Nations took action.

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy along with members of the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy comprising of—Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Anishinabek Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians and Independent First Nations—representing close to 250,000 First Nations in Ontario, reiterated the position of the Chiefs that Bill C-45 will not be enforced or recognized by their First Nations.

But even before Bill C-45 was formally passed, a movement called Idle No More had begun among the First Nations.

Idle No More began with 4 women, Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon, sharing a vision of bringing together all people to ensure we create ways of protecting Mother Earth, her lands, waters and people. The women began discussing the possible impacts that some of the legislation would carry if people do not do something. It became very evident that the women MUST do something about the colonial, unilateral and paternalistic legislation being pushed through the Government of Canada’s parliamentary system. They began with a piece of legislation called Bill C-45 which attacked the land base reserved for Indigenous people.

The women decided that they would call a rally to inform the public that this bill intended to, without consent give the minister of indian affairs power to surrender the lands reserved....

The women seen that there were many other communities that needed to come together in an act solidarity and resurgence to assert their inherent rights as a sovereign Nation, thus The National Day of Solidarity and Resurgence was called for December 10, 2012. This was an enormous event that never in history seen many nations and diverse groups of people come together.

But the rallying didn't end on December 10. I should clarify (again for we Americans) that "Boxing Day" occurs on December 26.

A mall on Boxing Day is not where you would expect to see a round dance, especially not as part of a national protest, but that’s exactly what happened at the Cornwall Centre in Regina on Wednesday.

There aren’t many occasions when First Nations, Christmas, a hunger strike and a dancing flash mob converge at one common juncture — but it happened at Carrefour Angrignon in LaSalle on Monday.

But take a look at these two:

A social-media organized "Idle No More" flash mob drew an estimated 100 participants to the Grand Traverse Mall in Traverse City on December 22nd and over 300 participants to the RiverTown Crossings mall in Grand Rapids on December 23rd. Participants engaged in drumming and singing in a common area of the mall to draw attention to the "Idle No More" movement. Those in Traverse City were met with police presence but no arrestable offense was made.

A group of several dozen Native Americans occupied the Tacoma Mall food court this afternoon as part of a series of actions protesting proposed legislation in Canada that they believe would erode aboriginal treaty rights in that country.

In the latter case, mall security eventually asked the protestors to leave, and then banned them from the mall for 24 hours. (Some reports claim that "Native Americans" were banned from the mall for 24 hours, but I can't substantiate that.)

Flash mobs in malls are, at least presently, an attention-getting tactic for the Idle No More folks. But, as the Occupy movement demonstrated, there can be negative consequences to disrupting business.

Last year, an influx of minority-owned shops and galleries helped revive downtown Oakland and freshen the city’s image. But as the Occupy Oakland protests escalated, enterprisers saw their buildings vandalized, their wares stolen and their dreams dashed. For Alanna Rayford, whose Afrocentric art once drew admirers to her cathedral building space, the looting of the site she does business in has given her pause. When windows were broken and artwork was stolen on November 2, “It was really disheartening,” she said. Although initially supportive of the Occupy movement, Rayford soon found herself explaining to protestors the impact that property destruction has had on her business.

Now people can argue that mall businesses are at least somewhat controlled by the 1%, and that mall businesses differ from independent shops. But whether a business is big or small, people are affected:

Twenty-one restaurant workers lost their jobs last week because of the disruptions caused by the Occupy Wall Street protests, the cafe owner said Tuesday.

Marc Epstein, owner of the Milk Street Cafe at 40 Wall St., said he had no choice but to let nearly a quarter of his staff go last Friday after he saw his sales drop by 30 percent in the six weeks since the protests started.

"What are [the protesters] trying to accomplish here?" Epstein asked Monday. "The end result is that I and all the wonderful people who work for me are collateral damage."

Epstein said he supports people's right to protest, but said the biggest problem is the police barricades that have lined Wall Street since Sept. 17, making it difficult for people to see his restaurant and cross the street to get to it. Epstein has also had to contend with closed subway entrances, police checkpoints and frequent Occupy Wall Street marches, which he said have dampened the Financial District's formerly thriving street life.

In the end, Milk Street Cafe survived, and it's important to note that the Idle No More protestors are staging one-off events and are anywhere.

But now, if you're in the United States and hear drums and chanting in your favorite mall one day, you now know why.

P.S. Credit to Allan Barry Laboucan, who alerted this American to what is transpiring in his country, and in mine.
blog comments powered by Disqus