By: Pierry Parmera
When Chief Theresa Spence embarked on a hunger strike that would eventually last 44 days, Canadians were once again reminded of the significance of the Idle No More movement for Aboriginals. Indeed, the Idle No More movement is a final call to the federal government to enact real social policies that will drastically improve the lives of the Aboriginals Peoples of Canada—now.
The urgency of the situation captivated the attention of Canadians of all background as the first Nation Community spread its message to college campuses like Algonquin, urging young people to pay attention to their plight.
Among all the issues Natives have to face, the concerns about the housing inadequacy are the most urgent. I was disheartened to learn that, as of 2006, 44 per cent of First Nation people living on reserves inhabited houses that required major repairs.
In fact, Theresa Spence’s strike was an effort to demand answers from the government on issues that matter to Aboriginals. The appalling conditions at the Attawapiskat reserve were certainly one of them.
Given the poor living conditions on reserves, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of Aboriginals also struggle to get a good education. According to a survey conducted by the First Nation Statistical Institute a few years ago, the majority of the First Nation people—most of whom are young—do not have the basic high school degree that most Canadians have.
Equally worrying is the high unemployment rate among First Nation people, especially those living on reserves.
Like all Canadians, Aboriginals have the right to live a decent life with dignity. They deserve to have proper housing and education. In order to achieve that, they need to have equal opportunities to pursue their dreams. They rightly feel that they have been neglected by the authorities.
Indeed, the government is responsible for promoting fairness and social justice. It simply has not done enough to provide First Nations people with enough opportunities to thrive in the Canadian society. The evidence of that is overwhelming considering the stark social inequality between the Aboriginal people and the rest of Canada.
Incidentally, the concern about social inequality is not unique to the Aboriginal people. Many Canadians believe that Aboriginal issues need to be addressed quickly. That is why the Idle No More movement has been so successful in delivering an effective message.
All Canadians, especially young students, need to care about these issues because they have the opportunity to interact with Aboriginals. For instance, here at Algonquin, we have an active Aboriginal community that reminds us all the Idle No More movement is not simply an Aboriginal issue about social inequality—it is a Canadian issue.