EDITORIAL: Idle No More stokes the fire

Both sides need to come to the table with a goal of finding tangible solutions to the most serious aboriginal issues

The Idle No More movement continues to pick up steam around Greater Victoria as various groups, including the students who rallied here last weekend, jump on board.

But is all the drumming and chanting doing any good?

A Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll done earlier this month found that only four in 10 Canadians is sympathetic to the goals and aims of Idle No More. But the same poll found that fewer than four in 10 Canadians were even familiar with the goals and aims of the movement.

To us, that’s a big disconnect and a sign that supporters aren’t piquing the average citizen’s interest with demonstrations, sit-ins and hunger strikes. That doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of work to do to resolve systemic problems in the relationship between First Nations and government.

Getting key players on both sides to sit down and talk about those issues is a good start.

Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo, who met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Jan. 11, says his organization will pressure the feds to continue working toward improving that relationship.

Atleo and Harper met a year ago in what the Prime Minister’s Office called “a historic meeting.” In optimistic, yet vague fashion, the government titled the meeting Strengthening Our Relationship – Unlocking Our Potential.

No doubt, work has since been done to clarifying agreed-upon goals around governance, access to education, community self-sufficiency and other areas. Idle No More emerged, nonetheless, which makes one question whether Harper and company were paying lip service to First Nations last January.

Despite the seeming disconnect with the majority of Canadians, the grassroots protest movement has restoked the fire in First Nations and is slowly getting non-aboriginals to pay more attention to grassroots aboriginal issues.

But progress won’t come through noisy demonstrations and hunger strikes. It’ll be achieved through First Nations leaders working together with government using a focused, unified, businesslike approach.

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