Four protesters block traffic on Highway 16 west of Portage la Prairie, Wednesday, as part of an Idle No More protest.
Credits: ROBIN DUDGEON/QMI AGENCY
If the threats and extreme actions by Idle No More to bring Canada's economy to its knees should continue -- critical railway lines being Wednesday's prime target -- then the Harper government must deal swiftly with the real issue fuelling the protests.
The First Nations threats of future, damaging disruptions to Canada's economy won't resolve the chronic problems plaguing ordinary Natives living on this country's reserves.
Neither will throwing more money at First Nations problems or pretending the current system can cope with those problems -- a lengthy list ranging from bad water to abysmal housing and inadequate schooling and health care.
Long before Canada's historic apology to First Nations over the travesty of residential schools and its attempt to "kill the Indian within the child," it has been funding Canada's over 600 reserves and, until recently, demanding little or no public accountability in return.
This, clearly, cannot continue.
There have been many dark warnings that Wednesday's protests are "just the beginning," and that a "summer of discontent" is on the horizon.
While these threats were being made, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was warning that Canada's modest 2% GDP growth projections this year would be threatened by ongoing rail and bridge blockages.
"This is not a time to have even more challenges to the Canadian economy," said Flaherty.
"Having said that, we're doing relatively well in the world, but additional challenges are not desirable." What troubles us most about Idle No More, once a well-intended grassroots movement, is its hijacking by extremists and disgruntled chiefs who lost an election to Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo.
The result is a muddied message.
Instead of focusing on the Harper government, Idle No More should be demanding answers from their own chiefs and band councils about how $8 billion a year in taxpayer money has done little to better their lives.
Why, for example, is Attawapiskat's chief driving around the reserve in a high-end Cadillac Escalade while her people continue to live in unheated shacks?
It's a question Chief Theresa Spence has never answered.
Our suggestion? Refocus. Follow the money on the reserve.
That's where the answers lie buried.