Sudbury

Indigenous rights movement Idle No More marks five years

Crystal Kimewon still remembers what it felt like to see hundreds of people come together at the Idle No More rallies in Greater Sudbury.

"It filled a part of you that you didn't even realize was empty," says Crystal Kimewon

The Idle No More movement is marking five years since it first sparked a wave of talks nationally about Indigenous rights and sovereignty. (CBC)

Crystal Kimewon still remembers what it felt like to see hundreds of people come together at the Idle No More rallies in Greater Sudbury.

She was a student in her final year at Laurentian University when the wave of Indigenous rights activism that had been rushing across the country in late-2012 swept her up. That was at the same time that Theresa Spence, then-chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, was on a high-profile six-week hunger strike that catapulted Canadians into the discussion. 

"It was just amazing and empowering to be a part of something so large and so important," she said. 

"It filled a part of you that you didn't even realize was empty." 

She traveled to Ottawa to join the protests on Parliament Hill.  At that event and others, Kimewon said people from all across Canada shared ideas about how they could best create change for Indigenous peoples. 

"Numbers were being exchanged, and contact info. 'Let me have your number, I would love to see this program start up in my community'," Kimewon recalls of the excitement. 

Kimewon said she brought the lessons she learned from those experiences back to her community.

"I've been able to take that information, and that feeling, you know, the feeling of taking part in such a huge and worthwhile event. It ignites a fire."

Crystal Kimewon first got involved in the Idle No More movement five years ago, as a student at Laurentian University. (Supplied)

Drawn to the message of movement

That first Idle No More rally in Sudbury was held on Dec. 21, 2012.

Cassandra Mandamin of Wikwemikong was there. The Cambrian College student said she was drawn to the message of the movement.

"A lot of people like myself, especially youth, were idle."

Mandamin said she does worry the movement fizzled out too quickly, and hopes further changes can still happen.

"To ensure that the government makes the necessary changes to our land and treaty rights," Mandamin said.

She wants to see more effective planning to better represent the unique needs of Indigenous communities.

"Geographically, Indigenous people, we all have different needs. It's going to take a lot more time for us to get together as a people and plan."

With files from Robin De Angelis