First Nations force their way onto Stephen Harper’s 2013 agenda – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – December 19, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA—The movement is known as Idle No More. In the next couple of days we will learn whether this is the latest venting of aboriginal frustration in this country or whether it grows to become a sleeper issue in 2013.

Aboriginal discontent could muscle its way onto Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s agenda very early in the new year.

The protests have been surprisingly robust, although Idle No More, born of opposition to the government’s omnibus budget bill, is only days old.

It has moved beyond the angry flare sparked by the bill and has grown, fuelled by young aboriginals deftly using social media, to represent the latest iteration of the festering conflict that has marked the Harper government — its determination to economically exploit resources over the objections of environmentalists and aboriginals who believe this regime is running roughshod over its ancestral lands.

But there is more, something even more fundamental, because movement leaders count 14 pieces of legislation — dealing with everything from education to water quality to financial accountability — that they believe are the laws of an adversary.

“The government of Canada has not upheld nor fulfilled its responsibilities to First Nations, as committed to by the Crown including at the Crown-First Nations gathering of January, 2012,” said Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, in an open letter to Harper and Gov.-Gen. David Johnston.

Atleo, until now, has been the calm face of an increasingly angry aboriginal population. But last month he told Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan that any goodwill and spirit of co-operation from last January’s summit has been squandered.

Idle No More spokeswoman Pam Palmater says there must be a “fundamental shift” in the relationship between Canada and First Nations.

“The treaty relationship was about mutual prosperity and sharing of the wealth,” she says. “Only one treaty partner has been wealthy and prospered.’’

The frustration boiled over earlier this month, when a delegation of chiefs tried to get into the Commons chamber to protest the omnibus bill. And on Tuesday Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence entered her second week of a hunger strike in the shadow of Parliament Hill.

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