An Open Letter to the Teachers of British Columbia on the Matter of the IDLE NO MORE Movement
I hope the season finds you well and that you are having an excellent and productive school year. My name is Robert Genaille and I am Stó:lō and Saulteaux from the Peters First Nation in the Stó:lō territory of what is now called British Columbia. I am a teacher in the BC public education system, employed in the Fraser-Cascade school district. I am also a former member of, and former Chair, of the BC Teachers' Federation Aboriginal Education Committee.
I am writing here today to discuss the IDLE NO MORE Movement, a grassroots, social media- driven protest movement of First Nations people, other Aboriginal people and allies, protesting the lack of consultation, by the Federal government, regarding the recent Omnibus Budget bill (C-45), and other, pending legislation that will have an effect on First Nations rights in Canada. The idea behind the movement has grown beyond just protesting the lack of consultation to encompass the need to address the Federal lack of respect and poor treatment of the First Peoples in Canada, and, to an extent, the connection to the land that is a part of the various cultures across Canada and the exploitation of the natural resources, both as a degradation of the environment, but also the lack of First Nation prosperity as a benefit. The movement is seeking to get Canada to honour the treaties that it has with First Nations, which promise adequate education and access to healthcare and housing.
With the understanding that much of British Columbia lacks a treaty with the Crown, which may seem to mean that we aren't as concerned with the Treaty Rights issues, it is a good time to remind that the government has fiduciary responsibilities in this province which are often found to be lacking, not to mention the fact of the ongoing fear that is our Highway of Tears and the Missing & Murdered women across this province and the country.
Dear teachers if British Columbia, I am writing to ask you for your help. There have been many rallies, protests, roadblocks and an ongoing hunger strike on Parliament Hill, but there has been very little media coverage from Canada's media, as well as muted response from the government, none from the Prime Minister. We are invisible in Canada and while that remains the case, our peoples will continue to suffer and struggle.
I am writing to you to ask for your assistance in making IDLE NO MORE something that cannot be ignored. The teachers of British Columbia and the BC Teachers' Federation have a long history of activism and social justice is a key component of your view of a fair and just world. Please teach about this issue. Please rally or get together in study sessions. Please show your support in some way for Chief Spence's ongoing hunger strike to get Harper to speak to her. Take a lunch hour and hold a sign outside your school to show you are our allies in seeking fairness and justice for First Nations. Write your newspapers, encourage the BCTF to take a stand. Take pictures, splash them all over social media. Check out idlenomore.ca, check out http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/12/15/indigenous-idle-no-more-movement-sweeps-canada/ , http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Media/2012/12/13/Monkey-Vs-Protest/ , http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/12/11/the-natives-are-restless-wondering-why/ and any number of other blog posts and sites. Check out the #idlenomore hash tag on Twitter.
It is an honour and a privilege to teach in this province. It is an honour to be affiliated to such an activist group of teachers. I know that you will stand with Chief Spence and the First Nations, Métis and Inuit in protecting our rights and survival.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Robert Genaille (Stó:lō/ Saulteaux)
Fraser-Cascade School District