‘Idle’ needs modern Gandhi

Wilhelm Waldstein voices his support for the Idle No More movement.

Dear editor,

This is the time for all Canadians of good will to unite in their support of First Nations and Chief Theresa Spence, who underwent a hunger strike hoping to bring the attention of the world to the plight of many of her people.

It seems it will take a Canadian Gandhi, using the methods he employed at his time against the colonial masters in India. We need to remind ourselves that it did not take guns and violence but peaceful demonstrations and hunger strikes and defying the salt laws and reminding the people of that great land not to buy any British Empire-made textile goods. (Gandhi used the spinning wheel for one hour each day, to make a symbolic point.)

In the case of India and the British Empire it turned out to be a win-win situation. India became a democracy with English as the dominant world communication language.

What is needed for our isolated Native communities from coast to coast and from the USA/Canadian border up to the Arctic Circle are manufacturing plants and/or small shops to produce “essential goods and services” everyone needs.

I am reminded of a recent news item regarding Bolivia. Bolivia has lithium deposits. The world needs lithium to produce batteries and wants that lithium, and now the people of Bolivia say, “Show us how to make batteries so we can process our own lithium.”

Should this, and many other examples, not be a lesson for Canadians? Why, for instance, export all the raw materials?

Keep the oil in Canada and build the plants here that need that oil to run the plant, and, close to home, keep the raw logs in Canada and process them into lumber and furniture and then export the higher value goods to the world.

As R.B. Bennett said in 1935 at a re-election rally: “Canada with unemployment is like a young man (or woman) on welfare. It doesn’t make sense.”

It takes land and resources for human beings to exist, and Canada has all of that in plenty. Let’s dust off the books by E. Fritz Schumacher: Good Work, Small is Beautiful, and Guide for the Perplexed. He points out what the world needs is essential goods and services, and not an economy that produces anything under the sun to ‘make money’ and then forgets to distribute that money evenly to everyone, like our native population in these isolated communities, helpless by themselves and deprived of the huge land area it once took to support their age-old life style of hunting, fishing, gathering and barter.

What it takes is good government to act and not to be locked into a modern life-destroying defense industry, creating jobs for city people and forgetting that to employ everyone in the country we must put the brakes on the goods imported and start producing for ourselves what we need, from what goes on the table in agricultural products to building material to building homes and furniture and clothing, and that takes more of a ‘command’ economy and not a free-for-all global ‘anybody can dump their cheap goods on us’ economy.

As Schumacher pointed out, any item imported that could be produced in the country that consumes it, no matter how cheap, will always be too expensive if it keeps local people unemployed and idle. Let’s get at the root of the problems and find out why so many of the aboriginal people are not working, and then act accordingly and use a command economy approach to correct the problems — problems that should not be problems in a land- and mineral- and oil resource-rich country like Canada.

Idle no more.

Wilhelm Waldstein

Port Hardy