Sunday, June 02, 2013

A Tale of Two Rallies: Idle No More and Walk for Values

Idle No More Solidarity Summer

On Saturday, June 1, I went to Gazebo Park with the intention of attending a rally relating to Idle No More and Occupy Edmonton. The topic was questionable actions made by the Harper government, and their effects on the country's indigenous population and the population in general.

When I arrived at the park, I noticed another, larger rally taking place. Walk For Values, I learned, is an annual event and supports values like peace, love, and right conduct and is organized by Edmonton's Sai Baba community.

I got very excited when one of my friends in Occupy told me that the rallies would be marching together. After all, they stood for similar values. Solidarity and working towards common goals is part of what movements like Idle No More and Occupy are all about.

As I filmed the Walk for Values people starting their march, I noticed the Idle No More folks were staying behind. Instead of following Walk for Values to Whyte Avenue, I went back to find out what was going on. After all, I have been documenting both Occupy and Idle No More since their inceptions, and that was the main reason I was there.

Walk For Values

The person with Occupy who had originally told me that they had been invited to join Walk for Values now said the invitation had been rescinded on the explanation that they were "political." I found this rather odd considering speakers with Walk for Values were talking about the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi - someone who preached non-violence but was very political.

The Idle No More/Occupy rally began and I grew even more disturbed when an elder spoke, saying she had asked an organizer with Walk for Values if she could take the microphone for three minutes just to welcome everyone to Treaty 6 territory. She was refused and said she was told the person "did not care" when she tried to explain that this event was indeed on Aboriginal land. I was not privy to this conversation, but I do respect and trust this woman and totally believe her when she explained to the smaller rally how disrespected she felt.

Idle No More Solidarity Summer

Later on, as a woman from the NWT spoke, the Walk for Values group returned, blaring music (as it was when it left). I think someone realized there was another rally going on and the music got lower and was then totally shut off. I believe that this was done out of respect by someone who realized it was the right thing to do. This redeemed the Walk for Values in my eyes somewhat.

While I admit I am not familiar with the Walk for Values, and an hesitant to paint an entire group on the actions of one or two individuals, I do question the way the elder was treated to the point that I question the entire event. There are many who give peace, love, and other values lip service because, well, it's the right thing to do. When it comes time to walk the talk, things change. Actions do speak louder than words and an organizer should represent what a group is all about.

Walk For Values

At the same time, I have been involved with organizing numerous events where people or organizations try to jump in on the agenda - with their own. This is why an agenda is often referred to as "set" and a reason why sometimes open mics are not a good idea. However, what happened at Walk for Values is somewhat of a different situation, whereby another group was invited to join, so naturally the elder thought it appropriate to speak and according to her, she told the organizer what she intended to say. All things taken into consideration, from what I know of the events, I definitely felt like there was hypocrisy in action.

This is what I think needs to happen: the organizer in question needs to apologize to the elder. The groups involved need to dialogue with each other to emphasize points of commonality and to plan ways in which they can work together in the future. Focus on the common goals - not the politics behind them. If a group that says it stands for "right conduct" does so in a way that excludes other groups, something is wrong.

Idle No More Solidarity Summer


Muffy From Legal said...

Paula you are definitely a lady of many talents. Wonderfully written and love your perspective. Thank you for always being there recording and photographing the grassroots people trying to promote positive change. You are a great asset to many organizations. Blessings to you!

Doug Brinkman said...

Sad INDEED ! Back in 2008 our little Edmonton 9/11 Truth group that could, would and did (Very Political) joined the Walk For Values at sharing the same park that sits on Treaty 6 land. We did not march together cause our purpose was to share leaflets with Saturday Farmer Market shoppers. Friendly interactions were shared with the good folks Walk for Values. Idle No More, Occupy and Anonymous also Good Folks!

Tonja said...

This is cool!