Engaging Citizens: A civil rights movement for all Canadians

25 Mar

A white girl is born on reserve and is not able to revisit the horrific memories she has of growing up. She witnesses children being beaten, humiliated and shamed at the hands of teachers. She thought that they were orphans as she sees they are living in dormitories. She doesn’t realize, at that time, that the parents of those children loved them and hated that they were sent away to be abused.

Today this girl is now a reporter for the Star and speaks out against the atrocities that are still happening to aboriginals in present day. It is terrible times for aboriginals as they still face many obstacles: racism, formidable government, marginalization, oppression and isolation. Many Canadians don’t know how terrible the living conditions First Nations are dealing with on reserve. Poverty runs rampant on reserves; there is a shortage of housing and meeting basic needs almost non-existent. Many do not see the conditions First Nations are living under because reserves are often situated away from cities and located in isolated areas. More specifically, people put blinders on and won’t look at what they don’t want to see; it is ignored because it does not affect people directly.

When we sit down to watch the evening news we may be impacted by what is happening to our land and resources. We may be so upset by it but not really sure what to do about it. We are still thinking about it as the Big Bang Theory comes on but Sheldon is so funny we are soon laughing along. Not necessarily are we forgetting about the serious issues but our thoughts have flowed onto easier things to enjoy. Maybe we are forgetting, but as Williams (1974) points out we are more interested in the medium rather than the content while watching TV as the above example alludes to. We do not critically engage in the context as the constant flow on TV doesn’t enable us to. The Idle No More movement stayed in the news briefly, prolonged slightly by Chief Spence’s hunger strike, albeit for her own cause. It has maintained a stronger presence on the internet.

When the omnibus bills came to light to the citizens of Canada, the Idle No More Movement was born by 4 professional aboriginal women. It brought the omnibus legislation to the forefront of the news. Initially, the Idle No More was everywhere in the news and it become more difficult for citizens to ignore the omnibus legislation bills that the Harper government is trying to push through. It becomes difficult to ignore when roadblocks puts folks behind schedule or audits are conveniently leaked. It is much easier to ignore when the choice of watching a special edition newscast on the object or “Highway to Hell” is about to come on TV too (Williams, 1974).

This movement created fervor of extreme racist comments as news stories were published online. However, what I find perplexing is, this is not just a First Nations issues it affects all Canadians. The federal government’s apparent disregard for the natural resources of our country requires scrutiny. Come on people – stand up and share your voice to challenge the omnibus bills as Canadians rather than as separate cultural groups.

We may lose our critical thinking skills while watching TV but new media we are able to stop, think about, reread and discuss the information presented to us. Media convergence alters the relationships between existing technologies and audiences and we use these new media to relate to each other says Jenkins (2004) in “The cultural logic of media convergence.” The Idle No More movement would not have had the same impact 20 years ago as it does today for a variety of reasons but particularly the internet and blogs. The INM message has proliferated through various new sources. For example, blogging took off when the Vietnam War was being reported on through the antiwar movement. Although it was slow to build up during that time, now, in the digital era social cause movements such as Idle No More occur instantaneously. It is that horizontal spread of power that enables individuals or groups to share and comment in empowering media forms. Mainstream reporters also use blogs to cull for content for stories to report on which in turn may move up the media ladder to end up on the evening news.

The time and place is now to reconnect or reengage people as Jenkins attests to in his 9 points of consideration for media convergence. Kalle Lasn of Adbusters says it is ‘hit and miss’ of what gets snatched up as important. His buy nothing at Christmas campaign was a wash but the Occupy Wall Street initiative gained surprisingly immediate support. The Idle No More movement is more than consumerism it is about constitutional rights. It is not going anywhere anytime soon, and it too might initiate cultural changes.

Jenkins, H (1974). The cultural logic of media convergence. Retrieved from http://ics.sagepub.com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/content/7/1/33

Mallick, H (2013). Mallick: Finally, native Canadians defend themselves at every level. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/after-adbusters-and-occupy-kalle-lasn-is-spoiling-for-brand-new-fights/article8384486/

Williams, R (1974). Programming as sequence or flow. In S. Thornham & C. Bassett & P. Marris (Eds.) Media studies: A reader (pp 192-198). London: Panther Books.



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