rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Harper, it's no joke: Indigenous people are demanding justice

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Change the conversation, support rabble.ca today.

Well, we're all still here. December 21, 2012, it turns out, was just yet another occasion for jokes on Twitter...

Seeing the social media frenzy last night actually had me feeling a bit despondent and hopeless. Not everyone can enjoy the luxury of the limitless irony and wit to be had at the expense of New Agers' silly misinterpretations of the ancient Mayans.

Couldn't the Twitter fun pause, even for a moment, to contemplate the millions of actual Maya who live today in Guatemala and southern Mexico? Today's Maya are less interesting than their fictionalized/essentialized ancestors -- granted; they are, after all, people who continue to suffer the burdens of racism and oppression. 

Today's Maya people sometimes have to die for the profits of Canadian mining companies. For these communities, as for so many others living on top of the fossil fuels and minerals of this world, it's Apocalypse Now. Modern doomsday industries are most often an indulgence of populations not facing an existential threat.

This morning my despair turned to anger, as even Stephen Harper -- or rather the highly paid communications staff hired to come up with jokes for the @PMHarper account -- joined the fray, Tweeting: 

"Mayans were wrong. I guess I should start Christmas shopping..."

Unoriginal in the extreme, the joking Tweet is also insensitive in the extreme on this day in particular.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now on Day 11 of an indefinite hunger strike demanding a meeting with the prime minister. There has been a wave of support for her, as part of the Idle No More movement -- with a barrage of Tweets directed to @PMHarper asking him to meet with Chief Spence and to respect First Nations. 

In response, @PMHarper has been completely silent about Chief Spence and Idle No More, while cracking jokes about everything from the CBC to Chinchillas. (Update: Just after 4p.m. EST today, @PMHarper Tweeted "mmm... bacon," accompanied by a video clip from the Simpsons. No, seriously.) 

This social media performance is utterly typical of a PM who serially disrespects and attacks the rights of Indigenous people. 

Back in 2009, Stephen Harper even went so far as to claim Canada has "no history of colonialism." Usually the denial is more subtle.

But then Harper's government has served corporate interests un-subtly and relentlessly, harming Indigenous people, the environment and human rights, both at home and abroad. 

A few years ago, Stephen Harper killed a Bill (C-300) that was intended to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for what they do abroad. Harper initially refused, along with only a handful of other world leaders, to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. (Eventually his government agreed, with conditions, to sign on.)

Widespread ignorance of the real history of Canada makes possible the continued marginalization and disrespect of First Nations here, and allows a blind eye to be turned to corporate Canada's crimes abroad. The Idle No More movement offers a chance to expose the real history of colonialism in Canada, and an opportunity to unite Indigenous and non-Indigenous movements to push back the Harper government and its neo-colonial agenda. 

A couple of weeks ago, I got to participate in a wonderful forum, Cafe Rebelde, held at Rhizome Cafe. The theme was Indigenous people's struggle against extractive industries, from Guatemala to First Nations here in Canada. A Mayan speaker from Guatemala spoke about the injustices visited on his people today, while Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation spoke about his people's resistance to the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline project. 

It was a powerful reminder of the centrality of Indigenous struggles to all of the efforts to stop Harper and the corporate agenda. And now, just in the past two weeks, a mass movement has started to blossom -- in the middle of winter, no less. 

At the darkest time of year, Idle No More lights a way forward. A creative, spirited movement taking over even the shoppings malls of the land, interrupting the consumerist rituals of the season. We can now dare to imagine a mass movement led by Indigenous peoples that can sweep away this rotten, cynical Harper regime.

So, December 21 is not the end of the world at all. In Canada, it is the beginning, or at least an important early milestone, of something truly beautiful and full of potential (which, by the way, is a lot closer to what the ancient Mayans may actually have been getting at.)

I'm now over my bout of social media despair. And, besides, I have no doubt that by later today #IdleNoMore will be soaring well above Apocalypse jokes when it comes to trending on Twitter.

You know, Harper, this isn't a joke.

This is a movement led by Indigenous people demanding justice long overdue. May none of us rest idle until they achieve it. 

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.