Idle No More event aims to teach, build support for movement

Edmontonians packed Allendale Community Hall Sunday evening for a discussion of Idle No More, as communities and organizations worldwide planned for a show of solidarity with the movement on Monday.

"The goal here is to educate," said Richard Merry, chair of the Council of Canadians' Edmonton chapter. The group organized Sunday's event, titled Building Edmonton Solidarity with Idle No More.

The discussion was a chance for people of all backgrounds to learn more about the movement and how to participate.

"We hope to stimulate people to support the grievances of First Nations people much more directly, not just to watch it," Merry said.

More than 100 people gathered in the hall to hear Tanya Kappo, a member of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation who launched the Alberta version of Idle No More, speak about the movement.

Darian Selander, 24, attended the discussion with her brother, William Selander, 15, and friend Ellen Parsons, 24.

"It's a cause I want to know more about," said Selander, who has not been to any other Idle No More events.

"I've heard a lot of negative stuff about Idle No More, so I wanted to hear more about it from people who support it and are involved with it," Parsons said.

Mervin Grandbois, a member of the Cold Lake First Nation, was pleased to see so many people show an interest in learning about the movement.

"We need events like this to show that this is not only an aboriginal thing, it involves all people," Grandbois said.

The Edmonton event came as an assembly of 47 groups across Canada, including the Council of Canadians, prepared to launch a national effort Monday in support of Idle No More, timed to coincide with Parliament resuming in Ottawa.

United under the banner of Common Causes, the assembly's mandate includes defending democracy, social justice, the environment and human rights.

"We see the First Nations' struggles as a struggle of all Canadian people," Merry said.

Public Interest Alberta is one of the organizations joining Common Causes.

Executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon helped put together an event at Churchill Square Monday that will feature speakers and a tea dance with the Dene Tha' Drummers.

"We are all deeply concerned about how we, as citizens, can make sure those voices that are concerned about the environment, health care, foreign policy, and human rights are being heard. Common Causes joining up and supporting Idle No More is really what (Monday) is all about," Moore-Kilgannon said.

While flash mobs and rallies have been used to protest Bill C-45 and C-38, Moore-Kilgannon said teach-ins are now helping people, many of whom are not First Nations, delve deeper into the issues the Idle No More movement addresses.

A teach-in session on Sunday afternoon connected the labour movement with Idle No More, attracting close to 100 people. Morningstar Mercredi, who has been active with Idle No More, was the main organizer of the event.

"We are all idle no more because of the bills, because of (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper's mandate, because of his inability to consult," said Mercredi.

Mercredi isn't surprised Idle No More is expanding to labour groups and other organizations.

"The bills will affect and have direct impact on every person, every single women, child, elder, man, everyone," she said.

Amanda Freistadt, a representative with the Canadian Labour Congress, attended the teach-in Sunday and plans to be at Churchill Square Monday.

"If we make connections with each other and we share commonalities and we build relationships with each other, we have the ability to influence progressive change in a way that we wouldn't if we didn't get together," Freistadt said.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, was also in attendance.

"We in the labour movement share the First Nation communities' concerns about this breakneck approach to development, because we don't think that it's in the long-term best interest of Canadians who own the resource, whether they're aboriginal or non-aboriginal," McGowan said.

"It's not just about First Nations, it's about all of us and all of our relations to each other and to our environment," Moore-Kilgannon said.

Edmonton Journal, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013
Byline: Carilynn Klingbeil

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