Discontent was brewing - MLA
When Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser first heard about the eruption of the Idle No More movement, he wasn't surprised.
The B.C. NDP's aboriginal affairs critic said he has seen discontent brewing among B.C. First Nations members since shortly after the Harper government was first elected.
"It wasn't unexpected for something like this to happen," he said. "Many aboriginal people are living in Third World conditions in this country and it's boiling over. When Prime Minister Harper was elected, one of the first things he did was gut the Kelowna Accord. That set the stage."
Since then, he said, one of the main catalysts has been the federal government's omnibus bill that he said stripped environmental protections from waterways and could have a major impact on traditional First Nations territories.
He said the future direction of the movement is unclear, but he said it will most likely have a future if no real action is taken to address aboriginal concerns.
"I don't know where this movement is going to go," he said. "I think there has to be some acknowledgment from the prime minister and I hope he is taking this seriously. I think it's very wise for the prime minister to listen to Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo and make significant, real changes."
Fraser said the future direction of the movement is doubly difficult to predict because it is decentralized and comes from the grassroots, rather than First Nations leadership, and is driven by disaffected youth.
"Many respected First Nations elders are involved, but the population in First Nations is 50 per cent under 25," Fraser said. "You have the fastest-growing youth population of any group in Canada and many of them are becoming educated and learning about the injustices of the past and they understand the court decisions have been largely in their favour in demanding real government-to-government relationships and when they see that's not happening, the youth will speak louder than some of their elders."
Fraser said he expects more protests to spring up autonomously if nothing is done to address First Nations concerns.
"I'm a fan of peaceful protest and if anyone has a right to do so, it's them," he said. "However, it's going to slow the economy."