Indigenous people never idle in struggle for liberation

Statement of ILPS-Canada Coordinating Committee

February 11, 2013

ILPS-Canada acknowledges the front-line role that the indigenous people are playing, and have always played, in the struggle against Canadian imperialism.

The indigenous people have never been idle when it comes to demanding their fundamental human, environmental, spiritual, and territorial rights. Canadian capitalism has never taken a day off in its effort to strip the indigenous people of Turtle Island[1] of these rights. From Ipperwash, Oka, Six Nations, and beyond the struggles have continued over the years, the result of tremendous acts of bravery and determination.

The emergence of the “Idle No More” movement has once again put the ongoing struggles of the First Nations back on the centre stage of Canadian politics. As one Native comrade in ILPS-Canada put it : “Our people (all Native peoples) have been pushed for too long. Everyone has finally said enough is enough.”

Idle No More, despite its misnomer, also reflects support among growing sectors of the non-indigenous population whose future is tied to that of the indigenous peoples in the struggle against the capitalist and imperialist policies of exploitation, oppression, imperialist war and environmental destruction.

“Flash mobs,” street demonstrations, teach-ins, and blockades of roads, bridges and railways took place across Canada, dramatically reminding us that the whole Canadian state was built on the theft of the First Nations territories and the dispossession of their ancestral rights.

The oppression, theft and genocide of the First Nations played a fundamental role in the process of capital accumulation and the formation and further development of an imperialist Euro-Canadian bourgeoisie. First Nations constitute “internal colonies” that play a similar role for the Canadian bourgeoisie that the Third World countries generally play for the imperialist countries.

The indigenous people of Turtle Island have fought to ensure the continuing existence of their way of life, which is to live in balance and harmony with nature and Mother Earth in shared ownership of the resources and riches.  Our indigenous brothers and sisters tried from the outset to share the resources since the first colonialists and settlers arrived on these shores, sent by the expanding feudal and then capitalist powers of Europe. They bravely resisted attempts to annihilate them using all forms of struggle, but united with those working people and other sectors of the population who were willing to build a life together based on mutual respect.

They proposed agreements with the new arrivals, the Two Row Wampum, 24 Nations Wampum, and 1764 Silver Chain Covenant Wampum, which were founded on Peace, Coexistence and Non-interference. The Native people have diligently honoured these agreements to this day. They have even attempted to get the governments to respect the other numbered treaties which, as an ILPS comrade points out, “were often signed under duress with guns pointed at the Chiefs heads (often killing them), starvation of the people, military intimidation, accompanied by a “sign or else” ultimatum”.

Meanwhile the capitalist class and their state that eventually replaced the colonial and monarchist forces that first occupied this land have never respected any of the treaties. Their sole aim is to assimilate the indigenous people, their lands, and their shared resources into the capitalist system of private ownership of the mean of production and the for-profit exploitation of the people and the land. They do it by buying off certain leaders when possible, and by force when that doesn’t work. The murder and disappearance of hundreds of indigenous women in the past decades in one more example of the slow genocide of indigenous peoples.

There are many forces attempting to limit the Idle No More movement to a dead-end of only pushing for reforms and relying on meetings with government officials. Under imperialism, while certain victories and positive reforms can be won by intense struggle, in the end it is only a fundamental revolutionary change in the nature of the social and political system — the end of colonialism, capitalism and imperialism — which will ensure the liberation of all oppressed and exploited peoples. Otherwise the capitalist system, in its furious search for short term profit, will ensure that its political representatives and its state (legal system, prisons, police, and armed forces) will claw back those partial victories by subterfuge and brute force.

“Idle No More” was officially established in October, 2012 to protest Bill C-45 (the omnibus budget implementation bill called “Mammoth II”) by the federal government of Stephen Harper. This new law, rammed through on December 14, 2012, introduces a change in the consultation process of the band councils established under the infamous Indian Act in order to facilitate the sale or lease of reserve lands. The initiators of “Idle No More” also opposed changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the weakening of other federal regulations protecting the environment and natural resources which will have a particularly negative impact on the future of aboriginal communities.

Following the start December 10 of the hunger strike of the Chief of the Attawapiskat[2] band council, Theresa Spence, the “Idle No More” movement expanded to almost all indigenous communities. Women have played a key role in the movement, whose impact was even felt in many other countries. Grassroots activists from various communities, as well as the leaders officially recognized and appointed by the Canadian government at the head of band councils and groups such as the Assembly of First Nations were swept up in the movement.

The current crisis of the world capitalist system, along with the intensification of rivalries between the major imperialist powers, are forcing the Canadian bourgeoisie to expand and accelerate its exploitation of the territory it occupies and controls —especially of the natural resources which are heavily concentrated in Canada’s north but still not fully tapped. Thence, the pressure to weaken or even abolish the Indian Act, since it “protects” in word some territories coveted by Canadian and/or transnational corporations.

We have thus arrived at a situation where repealing this infamous Indian Act —which constitutes the legal basis for the denial of the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada— could result in an even further weakening of indigenous peoples’ rights. It is correct to oppose efforts by the Canadian government to replace the Indian Act by something even more blatantly oppressive and which clears the way for the rape of the environment. This does not mean in any way support for the Indian Act, which must be scrapped and replaced by policies that fully respect the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and their inherent rights to their languages, social systems, and territories. No number of meetings between the Harper government and Indian band officials will solve the fundamental issues raised in the past few months by Idle No More  and by the entire national liberation movement of indigenous peoples that has emerged over the past decades.

As anti-imperialists in ILPS-Canada, we see the liberation struggle of indigenous peoples at the heart of the fight against capitalism and the imperialist bourgeoisie in Canada.

We are all united by our desire to put an end to a rapacious system and to support the struggle for complete self-determination for the First Nations, to support the struggle for justice of the missing and disappeared indigenous women and the other legitimate demands of First Nations communities.

Since its founding in 2001, the ILPS has set out to build a broad revolutionary anti-imperialist alliance of all the oppressed and exploited people in Canada and around the globe. The members of ILPS-Canada pledge to continue never being idle when it comes to struggling side-by-side with our Native brothers and sisters for justice and true self-determination of all indigenous people in Canada.

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ILPS Canada would like to acknowledge taking inspiration for this statement from several sources and good friends, including the blog of ILPS-Canada CC member Giibwanisi.


[1] “Turtle Island” is a term used by many Northeastern Indigenous nations, especially the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, to refer to North America.

[2] This community located on the west side of James Bay in Northern Ontario is facing a major housing crisis.

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