A friend of mine asked me why, when he asked why Idle No More protested at Portage and Main instead of at the Legislative building, he was called a racist. After establishing that I would not be able to read his exact words, this was my response:
I couldn’t tell you why *you* were called a racist without reading your question – if the question was not inherently racist (“Stupid indians, I need to get home..”) or covertly racist (“Maybe if they were looking for a job instead of blocking traffic, they wouldn’t have so many problems”), then you probably just encountered a very angry and oversensitive soul who mistook your genuinely curious question for one of the above, because it came in the context of a tsunami of racist speech (if you mean a newspaper site’s comment thread).
As for Portage and Main, here is your answer: The terms of the treaties, as I understand it, are that we are two nations sharing one piece of this land mass. As such, Aboriginals are not, and have never been, Canadians, in the sense that WE are Canadians. They are Cree, Ojibway, Inuit, etc, living in a state that has colonized and signed a treaty with them.
In the treaties, they gave up certain things, in exchange for certain things. This was less than ideal – their preference was to simply go on living the life they led on the land that they occupied before we came over with guns, whiskey and smallpox. But they signed the treaty in good faith, believing that even if their traditional stewardship of this continent was over, they would at least be able to go on living as they had lived, in their own little spaces, and this was guaranteed to them.
That, as you know, is not what happened. Between residential schools, the complete contempt for what land rights remained, and the failure to honour even the most basic terms of the treaties, it is now clear, to anyone who gives even the most cursory glance to history, that while our nation’s leaders signed the contract with all the pomp and ceremony that such men demand for themselves when they Important Things, they did so in bad faith. To call it bad faith is actually to profoundly insult the phrase “in good faith”. I mean, to give any of the leaders of this country credit for good intentions is really a HUGE stretch, and tha’t applies from the first guy to sign a treaty all the way up to Fuck You Harper.
So why Portage and Main? Because this is not a protest movement of Canadians addressing their government. This is an occupied nation addressing their occupiers. So the people dancing at Portage and Main were reminding you that they were here first, that they *gave* us this land on the promise that we would honour a contract, and that we have not only not honoured that contract, we have shit on that contract, and them, from day one until today. And they are sick of being shit on. It’s that simple.
That’s why Portage and Main, and not the Leg. Because protesting at the Leg does nothing more than provide all the commuters with the opportunity to make sarcastic remarks about booze and laziness and drugs and gangs as they crawl by on their way back to the suburbs. Dancing in the middle of Portage and Main is *exactly* how this protest needs to be happening. Dancing at Portage and Main says “We gave you this space, you did not live up to the terms of your contract, and therefore we are taking it back.”
The fact that most white Canadians are too ignorant to put this series of facts together properly in their head is the entirety of the problem.