This is a guest post by CYH volunteer, Lyon Lin.
Suddenly, I became an activist, something I have never truly done… This has definitely been one of the most moving life experiences that I’ve had recently, and all within the span of only an hour. Everyone was there, people of various ages and ethnicities came in solidarity… [As] the Idle No More movement wants for all of us, I invite you to participate, any way you want to.
I try not to follow news anymore.
Yes that sounds naive, and something impossible to pragmatically undertake, but in my past, news has had the ability to make me so depressed that I react by sleeping in all day. I would also experience very hostile thoughts that hamper me from actually sleeping. Fun little catch-22.
Nevertheless, major news such as the American presidential race to decide who becomes the next ruler of America’s empire, the incumbent president Barack “Bronco” Obama or the challenger republican candidate Mitt “Mittens” Romney, still reaches me even though I find the Canadian fascination with American politics rather silly when poor voter turnout here demonstrates the lack of interest to participate in our own politics.
Over this past holiday season, I’ve been directly told about American stories such as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut where another young man with an untreated mood disorder murdered twenty children, six adults and himself. I did find it touching that the person told me that Obama cried a little at the press conference. Nobody, however, told me about Attawapiskat’s Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike to elicit a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several key members of his executive office, something I only recently learned about. Immediately I thought of the documentary film The Cove where dolphin trainer turned dolphin liberation activist Ric O’Barry talked about two of his colleagues that were murdered while on different hunger strikes and the hunger strike by students during the Tiananmen Square protests in which the government eventually intervened to save them from starvation. Being staunchly cynical, I wasn’t confident that Harper would treat her seriously, although optimistically thinking now, she reminds me of a First Nations Gandhi, someone uniting First Nations Bands across Canada, and others, to demand that Harper will grant Canada’s Indigenous a voice in our public policy. I’ll admit that’s a bit clichéd, but I’m a very clichéd person.
Despite my admitted lack of knowledge about the lives of indigenous groups, Kyla from CYH invited me to join her at last Friday’s (January 11) Idle No More protest at Vancouver City Hall. Knowing only that this was also the day that the chiefs from the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) were to meet Harper and his colleagues thanks to Spence’s courageous protest action, I knew I had to go.
The rally was tightly packed around the central speaker and turnout seemed good, probably in part thanks to rare, sunny Vancouver weather. I struggled to listen to what the speakers were talking about, though that was probably my fault because I ended up standing behind them after not finding Kyla and my hearing has been deteriorating ever since I started listening to inane pop songs at high volume for hours at a time (Taylor Swift, I hate you). A few people were holding signs about the hostility of Bill C-45 (what started this movement), and slogans such as Nikola Tesla dreaming of the endless possibilities for generating electricity or how much of our society is focused on becoming wealthy when money is simply fiat, a representation of value, and cannot be used pragmatically such as being eaten or used as fuel in a car gas tank. I’m sorry that I couldn’t quote these verbatim because they are actually shorter than my descriptions. I’m mentioning these because people around me were passing on a sign that I eventually took on that closely went like this:
Indigenous Canadians support opposition from teachers, nurses and unionists to kill omnibus bill C-45. (See, for example, this statement from CUPE)
Suddenly, I became an activist, something I have never truly done; people approached me telling me about other political issues, I got a socialist newsletter and a First Nations man even thanked me for simply participating. A few people took pictures, although I was also next to a group calling themselves Immigrants for Idle No More. Eventually, a friendly couple began talking to me compassionately about politics and offered to take the sign that they knew organizers handed out at the beginning because I had to return to the CYH office to work on a research project.
Stranger to stranger, the sign passed on to activate the next recipient.
Some eagles flew over us, and I since I don’t know anything about their symbolism for BC indigenous groups, I’ll spare you an attempt at fabricating an interpretation in the way that students are commonly taught to do. People seemed to like the eagles’ presence, though.
This has definitely been one of the most moving life experiences that I’ve had recently, and all within the span of only an hour. Everyone was there, people of various ages and ethnicities came in solidarity, as they told me.
As Kyla did to me, and the Idle No More movement wants for all of us, I invite you to participate, any way you want to. Even if you doubt your knowledge levels or have never taken part in a protest (like me), I assure you that it is alright because this isn’t about being an expert activist, it is about participating in solidarity.
Indigenous activists have been campaigning against the climate change causing, environmentally ruinous, cancer-causing Canadian unconventional fossil fuel industry for years. They have been strongly present at every opportunity to oppose the Tar Sands and its related development. They have been colonized and now corporatized, and as pipelines and mines threaten to overtake their meagre reservations, they were the first to fight hard to stop unconventional oil development. We can’t let them be the last because it’s not just their problem, it’s our problem.
Oh and, Idle No More will definitely be news that I’m following.
And, hopefully, participating.