Waddell: Idle no more?


By: Ken Waddell


“Idle no more” has become a rallying cry for First Nations (FN) people across Canada. It’s about time on a number of fronts.

For some people, it’s about time they quit being idle, there’s plenty of it going on. Ever watch a group of people work. Some are much more productive than others. Some work quietly and effectively, some are too busy with their smoke breaks, their days off, their sick days, their complaints about real and imagined aches and pains, real and imagined affronts.

For First Nations people it’s about time they woke up to the fact that the government, be it local (band or municipal), provincial or federal, may well be messing them over and have been for years. Welcome to the club. Canadians in all walks of life are being harmed by governments, not so much in what governments don’t do, but in what governments do.

It used to be that local governments and local groups like lodges, benevolent societies and churches looked after our “welfare” needs. Now that’s all been taken over by government and they have pretty much messed that up. One small example: just try and get someone from the province to respond to an emergency need, a real need, on a Friday night. Worse yet, on a long weekend Friday night.

You can call the 1-800 line until your face falls off but nobody is going to respond until mid-morning on Tuesday and by then, the person in need might well be dead. So whenever emergency welfare needs come up on a weekend, it’s up to the church or the community or some kind-hearted soul to take up the slack and fill in for highly paid unionized government employees who are off doing their thing on a long weekend.

First Nations people and everyone else in Canada  have become too dependent on governments, be they local (band or municipal), provincial or federal.

But let’s look at one of the FN peoples’ major complaints and that is about jobs. There’s not enough jobs on the reserves and that’s regrettable. It’s also unrealistic that there will ever be enough jobs on many reserves, even less so if mines, minerals and oil reserves aren’t allowed to be developed on reserve lands.

So what’s an employable FN person to do? There are four FN reserves within an hour and half drive of Neepawa. There have been over 600 new jobs created in Neepawa and they have been taken up mostly by people who have travelled half way around the world to take those jobs. Very few have been taken up by First Nations people who only had to move an hour an a half from home to get a job.

Filipinos, Koreans and Ukrainians can travel 5,000 miles, my grandfather travelled that far, my father traversed Canada several times in search of work and I have moved several times to improve my work situation. Bless those First Nations people who have moved anywhere in Canada to find work. It can be done. I rest my case.

Idle no more is attempting to ramp up their engagement level in the political process. It’s also about time. Voter turnouts in most Canadian communities are dismal, in FN communities they are almost non-exisitent. I have seen political races where the FN vote could have decided the outcome easily but for a variety of reasons, they didn’t come out and vote.

Not voting, not moving to a new job, letting the government look after welfare and child care needs and all the other things we should be able to do as a community ,simply empowers a smaller and smaller group of elite, out of touch people to control our lives. This idle no more thing just may catch on. If it motivates people to seize real solutions that’s great. If all it creates is more moaning and complaining, then it will be for nought. It’s up to all of us to be “Idle no more.”