Editorial: Giving dialogue a chance

Fitting for the beginning of a brand new year, the first weekend of January 2013 saw breakthroughs.

Fitting for the beginning of a brand new year, the first weekend of January 2013 saw breakthroughs on two major different stalemates that have affected Canadians coast to coast — albeit for two dramatically different reasons.

The end of the first stalemate  took place on January 6 and has hockey lovers everywhere ­— who have anxiously awaiting the end of the pro hockey dry spell that began back in September — breathing a sigh of relief. The NHL lockout has ended after what’s been described as agonizingly slow negotiations and it’s game on, not only for the players but for the hordes of ecstatic fans and countless businesses that rely on the annual NHL season for the bulk of their revenue.

A second stalemate also came to an end when, on January 4, Prime Minister Stepher Harper — after weeks of sidestepping — finally agreed to a working meeting with key First Nations leaders, which was Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s condition to ending her hunger strike. When the meeting takes place on January 11, Spence will have gone without solid food for thirty days.

Two months ago, the ‘Idle No More’ movement was born after  a rally took place in Saskatoon protesting Bill C-45, a bill introduced by the Harper government in October as a follow up to March’s omnibus budget bill. The concern was that Bill C-45 would further erode indigenous rights as well as strip both the Navigation Protection Act, giving industry unrestricted access to the country’s waterways, and the Environmental Assessment Act, creating a faster approval process for projects that would have required assessments under the old provisions.

When Spence began her hunger strike on December 11 to force improved relations between First Nations and the Harper government , she became the hero for ‘Idle No More’ and the movement continued to grow, garnering first national then international attention and support.

What’s so signifiant about Harper’s new  willingness to start a fresh dialogue with First Nations leaders is that it reveals how a single woman’s effort to have her voice heard amidst the din on Parliament Hill has actually forced  change at the federal level, which has not only inspired her fellow Canadians, but people around the world as well.