Law professor says Idle No More is lacking focus

By Nigel Maxwell
January 17, 2013 - 12:04pm

Dwight Newman, a law professor at the University of Saskatchewan, is offering some advice to the Idle No More Movement: Get focused.

"Right now it's reflecting a lot of different concerns that are mixed together; and if it's going to have as much effect as it could, I think it's important that individuals from the movement start to offer more specifics in terms of particular changes they would make," said Newman.

He said there is a lot of misinformation within the movement regarding the impact of Bill C-45 on First Nations people. The biggest "rumour" circulating is that Bill C-45 provides the means by which reserve land can be taken away without the consent of the first nation.

"That's a rumour that is widely out there but is not a correct description of that part of the bill," said Newman.

In actuality, the bill makes it easier for band leaders to lease their land to private developers for the purpose of economic gain, essentially cutting the red tape. Band leaders still all make the final decisions.

Newman said some of the problems have arisen due to division amongst the band leaders.

"Some communities want to be able to lease out their land for developmental purposes, in fact some chiefs did speak in favour of the amendments. Other communities don't agree with that and don't want to do that, and worry that this is a longer-term threat to them," said Newman.
Another hot issue for protestors has been the proposed de-regulation of navigable waters.

"Some of it was sought by farmers who wanted to be able to build bridges without a complex permitting process to do that, and I'm not sure that's going to have a negative impact on fishing rights," said Newman.

That being said Newman said there may be some unforeseen implication that he is not identifying.

He said it is regrettable that there was not more consultation with the public, adding it may have cleared up many of the misunderstandings. He said it will now be up to the courts to decide if there was a breach in the constitutional duty to consult.

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On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell

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