It has received a significant amount of media attention, but will the aboriginal protest group known as Idle No More achieve any significant gains, other than raising public awareness of the pressing problems facing many aboriginal communities?
It's hard to see how it will - particularly if the protest turns into a general protest against the Harper government over a number of issues, or takes on the vaguely anti-capitalist tone that wrapped itself around the Occupy movement last year.
If the group engages in such tactics as blockades and such, any public support for it will quickly dwindle and could even spark a backlash against First Nations, which would be tragic because the deeply entrenched problems of poverty and poor health that plague their communities would continue to be shut out of the public eye.
And the movement just got a kick in the teeth with the leaked release of a damning financial audit of the Attawapiskit band, whose chief Theresa Spence is engaged in a hunger strike in an effort to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The audit, however, damaged Spence's credibility as it uncovered the misspending of millions of dollars in funding.
It's not even clear what, exactly, the Idle No More group is looking for. There has been jumbled talk of rights, respect and recognition, but that's all been said before.
Even First Nations leaders, some of whom are understandably frustrated that the group's name suggests they've been "idle" when it comes to fighting to improve their members' lives, seem to be split on whether Idle No More is effective.
In any case, whatever comes from Idle No More's protest campaign can't match the overheated rhetoric that flows from their leaders, who are raising expectations that some kind of miracle is going to occur that will dramatically change the landscape, as long as they simply hold enough demonstrations and stage blockades.
And so the realistic actions - negotiations, court battles and the like - may be viewed as some kind of sell-out by militants who think they can somehow force the federal government (or any government for that matter) to its knees.
Something has to give here, and I suspect it will be the Idle No More movement that loses out.
PIPELINE PANEL GETS EARFUL IN PEACE
It shouldn't come as a shock that the federal panel holding hearings in Victoria on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline decided to bar the public from those hearings.
The capital city is the political protest capital of the province. Demonstrations and rallies are routinely held on the legislature's front lawn or steps, and they have addressed all sorts of causes over the years.
Environmental protests are the most common, and there is a local element that can be depended upon to refuse to play nice when the time comes.
There have been several violent protests on the legislature front lawn over the years, most notably a near-riot by environmental protesters in 1994, and a more recent homeless camp-cum-environmental-protest-camp that saw a television cameraman assaulted by one of the protesters.
Security at the legislature has increased dramatically as a result, and now the building is in lockdown mode during major protests. In other words, the public doesn't get in, even if the legislature is in session.
Just last month, a public meeting held by Kinder Morgan in Victoria to discuss its own pipeline proposal was shut down by protesters, who tore presentation materials from the walls and sat on them, preventing the public from viewing them.
So no doubt the federal joint review panel took Victoria's history of unruly environmental protest (although there have been many peaceful protests too) into consideration when it decided not to take a chance on allowing one of its hearings being disrupted or even shut down by demonstrators.
Having covered many of these protests, I have to say it is a reasonable assumption to think that a public meeting on such a sensitive issue as the Northern Gateway pipeline would face serious disruption from protesters if it were held in the capital city.
In the end, the panel heard from more dozens of presenters, almost all of whom were against the pipeline. So the panel got an earful about why the pipeline proposal should be shelved, something that probably wouldn't have happened had the predictable disruptive protest occurred in the hearing room.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca
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