Five years later: #IdleNoMore drives conversation forward, especially in Winnipeg

Two local Idle No More activists credit social media and Indigenous women for continuing the social movement forward, five years later.

Two Winnipeg activists say Winnipeg and Saskatoon have embraced discussion more than other Canadian cities

Drawn to the sound of the drum, people gather at the round dance at Portage and Main in Winnipeg. (Eman Agpalza / ARP Books)

Two local Idle No More activists credit social media and Indigenous women for driving the social movement forward, five years later. 

MMIWG activist Sandra Delaronde and Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, University of Manitoba department of native studies professor, both credited Indigenous women for leading the #idlenomore movement and galvanizing a nation.

"What I loved about it was it was a grassroots campaign started by women," said Delaronde. "Really, it became grassroots because of the Idle No More hashtag.

"It was important that the women were the face of Idle No More, that took a stand and brought everyone along with them."

Idle No More grew into Canada's consciousness in the late months of 2012. Pushed forward thanks to the social media hashtag #idlenomore, on Dec. 10, 2012, a National Day of Action was proclaimed by the Indigenous community and saw tens of thousands of people gather in cities and towns across Canada.

Protesters were especially concerned with federal legislation that had been passed into law that removed protection of numerous waterways throughout the country and Indigenous sovereignty. 

"It was Indigenous peoples, and women in particular, leading the charge," said Sinclair. "It was inspiring and I remember when I saw the flash mob Indigenous round dance in Saskatoon — 4,000 people — I actually teared up. I sat down, I couldn't believe that I'd seen it."

The hashtag trended in Manitoba first, said Sinclair, then rippled throughout the country.

"When we first started, it hit Manitoba … a couple of days before [Dec. 10] … it gained the attention of two things. The chiefs and the mainstream public. There's 10,000 people marching across the country in one day, and the media had to pay attention for the first time."

"The round dances were completely invitational," said Delaronde. "I know in Winnipeg that year it was very, very cold, and to be able to gather at Portage and Main, in [freezing temperatures] that really spoke to the hardiness and the depth that people had to commit to change."

​While the hashtag is not being used nearly as frequently today, the awareness spread and continues in other ways, said Delaronde. 

"It's part of a continuum of development," she said.

"There was about 50 or 60 years ago, was the revitalization of Indigenous identity, and the call back to Indigenous sovereignty. And then we had Meech Lake and Charlottown and that mobilized people in a constitutional way. But what Idle No More did was to broaden those issues, and I think create a sense of change that it's not going to go away.

"It impacted people in a way to mobilize at Standing Rock, to come back home and mobilize against [pipelines]. People may not say 'Idle No More,' but really that reawakening as a result of Idle No More." 

Since 2012, reconciliation has become a priority at all levels of government and Sinclair said nowhere is that conversation stronger than in Winnipeg.

"Winnipeg is leading the movement in that," he said. "You just don't see the conversations that are happening in Vancouver and Toronto like you see in Winnipeg.

"It's not perfect, certainly we have struggles, but in Winnipeg here I see work being done with really brave, amazing activists who came to the forefront with Idle No More that are leading our community with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community."

Other issues such as MMIWG, the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canada's jails and the number of Indigenous children in provincial care have benefit from the activism demonstrated by Idle No More, said Sinclair.

"The entire country was shaped by Idle No More. Every single Canadian. Didn't matter if you were 10 minutes off the plane or you'd been here 10 generations or an Indigenous person who could trace your roots for millennia, you were impacted by Idle No More."

5 years later, many of the issues facing Indigenous Peoples in Canada still remain. So what did the movement accomplish? 1:37

About the Author

Elisha Dacey

Journalist

Elisha Dacey is a journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is the former managing editor of Metro Winnipeg and her work has been seen in newspapers from coast to coast. Reach her at elisha.dacey@cbc.ca.