The reader may recall my last Commentary in which I reviewed the latest omnibus budget bill, C-45. It was Bill C-45, with its changes in the Indian Act and its amendments trashing environmental protections, that sparked the Idle No More movement centreing on the hunger strike of Theresa Spence.
Since Chief Spence brought her hunger strike to a close, the Idle No More movement seems to have lost momentum. One searches the net in vain for an equal number of ongoing events.
I find the situation eerie. Does this mean that the enormities of Bill C-45 will now collapse into the background of public consciousness, to disappear in the clutter of other questions dismissed by the federal government? After this brief awakening, do we slump back into business-as-usual? Such is my fear.
Bill C-45, you may remember, is a but a modified draft of Bill C-38, the budget bill for 2012, rushed through without noticeable public outcry. To our peril we grant this lack of mindfulness another term.
First Nations people have come alive to the dangers inherent in these two bills, both designed to avoid proper consultation regarding big-scale industrial development on native lands. (Take note that non-natives have not been consulted either!)
For years now, First Nations people have been the main defense (some would say obstacle) against the crazy, limitless schemes of industry, threatening the integrity of our eco-systems. Native people are on the front lines of protest against Bill C-45. Their sorrows, their struggles and their sacrifices are carried out for the sake of native and non-native Canadians like.
It is true there has been opposition in parliament. The persistent reasonableness of the Green Party's Elizabeth May springs to mind. Yet once again the current winner-take-all system has failed to produce equitable results.
Clearly, one of the evils of the present system is the ethic of "solidarity." Solidarity is anti-democratic. It silences criticism within the party. Under such an ethic, independent judgment is stifled. Surely some neo-conservatives disagree with C-45. Good. So why don't they speak up? Why don't we hear from them, loud and clear?
There's something ironic or plain nuts about the federal government in Canada. According to custom in a nation state, a central government is deemed necessary. It is put in place and supported at vast expense. To the citizen's grief, it commonly turns around and bullies its constituency, and in the Canadian case, shrinks back and withdraws from the responsibility to govern.
Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 represent deliberate declarations of irresponsibility - towards the environment, towards indigenous rights, towards the global threat of climate change - not to mention the government's eagerness to make treaties with foreign nations that infringe on our right to modify environmental regulations when necessary to protect the public interest.
It might seem comical for a bioregionalist like myself to call for more government. But times have changed. Just as competitive games submit to governance, so must the limitless visions of the oil and mining cartels, who will use up and pollute our rivers, empty our lakes and send mega-tankers of dilbit through Douglas Channel and the tempestuous Hecate Strait.
Corporate development must be governed
I would add that protesting alone does not let you and me off the hook. Not only government needs to make an adjustment to current social and planetary conditions, we too, we-the-people are under the necessity to make changes in our daily habits. I cannot demand an end to the Age of Fossil Fuels and drive around heedless in my Toyota.
The immediate need for consumer society to invent a new adaptation, a new lifestyle, is the looming dilemma of the present. We can only wonder how this "inconvenient truth" is to be played out. While good ideas abound, their application in familiar worlds remains obscure.
The simplest answer is, we'll just have to work it out as best we can. That work is our historic burden. Every age has one. Meanwhile, the shadow of Bill C-45 falls over the land. Wisdom prompts us to join with Indigenous people in building up resistance.
Our best hope is to keep adding fuel to the flame of public consciousness.
Towards this end, there will be a spontaneous Idle No More Unity Ride and Rally on Sunday, Feb. 24, in Lillooet. The Ride and Run will begin at 10.a.m. at the entrance of Texas Creek Rd., while the Rally convenes at the MP's office on Main Street at 10:30. See you there.