250 years ago today King George III issued a Royal Proclamation (sometimes called the "Indian Magna Carta"). It started the process of establishing the legal and societal relationship between the British Crown and Canada's First Nations. To mark the occasion, the Idle No More movement planned 63 protests across Canada, with solidarity events expected in 12 other countries.
One goal of today's protests is to revive the visibility of the movement. Idle No More began a year ago. Since then, it has gained a lot of attention, but its level of visibility "probably peaked in January," CBC News reports, when a Global Day of Action drew 56,294 tweets, according to a study by digital public affairs strategist Mark Blevis. Since then, things have quieted down somewhat (although Idle No More organizer Alex Wilson says "events didn't slow down, they just changed form").
Aiming to "reinvent the relationship"
Activist Niigaan Sinclair says that another, longer-term aim of Idle No More is "to reinvent the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada." Sinclair, a professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba, told CBC News the movement is also "about love and about community building and it's about education and it's about honesty."
Some First Nations view the Royal Proclamation, issued on October 7, 1763, as "a precursor to colonization," according to a statement from the Assembly of First Nations. The statement adds, though, that the Proclamation is responsible for "setting the foundation for Treaty-making between First Nations and the Crown (now Canada)."
"For 250 years the laws and policies of federal governments have been paternalistic at best, and assimilationist at worst," National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo said at a press conference today. "We must resolve the long-standing issues of first nations control over our lands and our lives."
UN Special Rapporteur begins visit
Also today, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, begins his nine-day visit to Canada to investigate the human rights situation for aboriginal peoples in Canada.
His arrival for the trip has been delayed: Anaya says he has been asking the government for permission to visit since early 2012, and that his requests were ignored until recently, Yahoo reports.
"I will be looking at the issues faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada, including in relation to matters of reconciliation, governance and self-government; lands and resources; and health, education and economic development,” Anaya said in a statement.
In the past, Anaya has expressed concerns over the state of housing on the Attawapiskat reserve, calling it "akin to Third World conditions."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently rejected several recommendations made by the UN's Human Rights Council, saying the Canadian government had launched its own inquiries and would oversee improvements itself.
Moccasins with meaning
Another issue that Idle No More has touched on in the past is missing and murdered aboriginal women. A new art show called Walking With Our Sisters aims to raise awareness about the situation. The collaborative project was created by Christi Belcourt, a Michif (Métis) artist who lives near Sudbury, Ontario.
The show uses hand-made moccasins, most of them submitted by artists and craftspeople from North America and beyond, to raise awareness about missing and murdered women. Check out some samples of the beautiful handmade artwork at the Walking With Our Sisters site.
The show just began a six-year, 32-stop exhibition tour, The Globe and Mail reports. It's on display until October 13 in the Telus Centre Atrium at the University of Alberta.