Idle No More organizers designated Wednesday as a national day of action for the movement, planning an array of demonstrations to raise awareness about the plight of Canada's Aboriginal peoples.
There has been much debate, both within and outside the movement, about which protest tactics are effective and which ones are not, whether because they attract too little attention or function to alienate Canadians who'd otherwise be sympathetic to the cause.
An expert on social movements, McMaster sociologist Tina Fetner, weighed in on the issue on CBC Radio on Wednesday morning. She said that actions like blockades and sit-ins can be, but aren't always, effective ways of making a point.
“It's a mixed bag,” Fetner said. “If you look historically at different movements, though, there are a lot of disruptive tactics that have resulted in the kind of social change that activists were looking for.”
She cited the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, as well as the recent Quebec student protests, as instances in which agitators used civil disobedience to bring about changes in policy.
When asked whether blockading bridges would alienate other Canadians whom the Idle No More protesters might want as allies, Fetner gave the following nuanced response:
“Some people are just going to shut down and never want to hear Aboriginal concerns again,” she said.
But demonstrators, she added, are hoping to grab the attention of enough “people with their fingers on the powers” and to “encourage them through these tactics to think about implementing the social changes that really have been on the table for decades now.”
Listen to Tina Fetner's full interview through the link at the top-left of this story.