PM Harper believes Idle No More movement creating "negative public reaction," say confidential notes

Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes the Idle No More movement has created a negative public reaction, according to detailed notes from his Jan. 11 meeting with First Nations leader obtained by APTN National News.

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes the Idle No More movement has created a negative public reaction, according to detailed notes from his Jan. 11 meeting with First Nations leaders obtained by APTN National News.

The nine-page, “confidential” document is based on notes taken by Assembly of First Nations staff during the meeting between Harper and 17 First Nations leaders. The draft “internal summary” outlines the positions and interventions from each person who spoke during the meeting and lays out the prime minister’s own views, point-by-point, on key demands from First Nations leaders.

AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo’s decision to attend the meeting proved to be controversial and chiefs from Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories boycotted the gathering held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Langevin Block, across from Parliament Hill.

The day of the meeting also saw widespread Idle No More protests in Ottawa and across the country. Atleo told APTN National News after the meeting that he could hear the protests out on the street through the walls of the room.

Harper also discussed Idle No More, according to the notes, and said the general Canadian public was not supporting it.

“Idle No More presents two realities. The first is the pressure felt by first Nations leaders. The second is the negative public reaction that this invokes,” according to notes on Harper’s statements during the meeting.

The notes, however, also reveal that Harper is willing to meet with First Nations leaders as a whole as long as the proper groundwork is in place before such an event.

“Reflected that in own experience, here and internationally, large scale meetings are more successful following work being undertaken and some results in place, rather than a mechanism to achieve these and he would consider that in the future,” said notes on Harper’s response to Atleo’s request that he “commit to a meeting with all First Nations.”

The notes also show that despite committing to “high level dialogue” on treaty implementation, one of the cabinet ministers selected to participate in the meeting, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, expressed concern over the level of focus First Nations chiefs were putting on the need for treaty discussions.

“Admittedly not understanding entire relationship with treaty or why that discussion needs to occur before economic development,” according to notes on Clement’s interventions. “Hearing the commentary and connection of treaty, Indian Act and legislation. Hard to unravel these. Concern that economic development stops until treaty discussions are resolved. No further ahead.”

Clement also said the chiefs were “at risk Canadians,” according to the notes.

“Meeting in good faith with a group of ‘at risk Canadians who deserve better,'” Clement is quoted as saying, according to the notes.

The notes also reveals a level of testiness on the part of some chiefs, including Grand Council of the Crees Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, who felt the meeting wasn’t getting anywhere.

“Concerned conversation not focused…Quebec chiefs sent him to this meeting to present a process, not to listen to statements or rhetoric,” according to notes on Coon Come. “Must build a bridge through this impasse

The notes also revealed a wide gap between Atleo and Harper over the Department of Justice’s approach to title and rights cases.

“Extremely political in nature. DOJ managers 100s of title and rights cases a year. Takes positions that we do not exist as a peoples. Advice is not in the interest of First Nations,” according to notes on Atleo.

Later in the meeting, Harper responded.

“Understands the frustration with DOJ as usually in court. Underscore that DOJ does not take the position that treaty rights are of no force and effect. On the contrary, DOJ reinforces that treaty rights are matters of constitutional law that supersedes ministerial authority,” according to notes on Harper.

Harper also appears to pour cold water on the push by First Nations to obtain resource revenue sharing by stating it’s not just about getting a cut of the money, but a much more complicated process.

“The question is not just benefiting from resource development, but full participating in all aspects of development and spin-off benefits. Need to not ‘just look for a cheque from somebody,'” according to notes on Harper. “Federal government doesn’t get resource revenues directly. Need to work with provinces on this and other areas (such as skills development, infrastructure).”

Despite hearing several statements from chiefs around the table on Bills C-38 and C-45 and their perceived lack of consultation on legislation amending the Indian Act and impacting Aboriginal and treaty rights, Harper appears to have barely addressed those concerns. Harper also makes no apologies for the approach the government is taking on changing the Indian Act.

“Regarding the new environmental assessment process, the government is seeking to streamline approvals but not to diminish nor absolve the duty to consult on development in any way,” notes on Harper state. “We all recognize the flaws of the Indian Act. The method the government has been trying to pursue is to give individual bands the ability to have flexibility and to adopt options of their own choosing….have observed an overall lack of consensus in this area. Why legislation is optional.”

The prime minister, however, told the gathered chiefs the relation between First Nations and Canada was essential for the country.

“Our relationship lies at the heart of this country,” according to notes on Harper. “River analogy: moving down the river together-respectfully paddling in the same direction but must watch we do not get caught in the eddies.”


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20 thoughts on “PM Harper believes Idle No More movement creating "negative public reaction," say confidential notes

  1. Cody Biles says:

    Harper mentions this because it’s exactly what he wants to happen. He doesn’t speak of it as a “growing concern,” it’s progress in his eyes. Why else would all of the neo-con news agencies only be reporting news to defame the movement and attempt to take power away from aboriginal people? The negative public reaction was obviously instigated by groups like Sun News, and all their followers regurgitating the same reports and ‘research’ everywhere else. If it weren’t for biased media convincing people not to sympathize, there would be more respect and concern for the land and those with whom it is shared with.

    1. INM
      should expect astroturfed counter protesters sponsored by the energy industry
      and the use of negative propaganda.

  2. Harper’s note of “full participat[ion] in all aspects of development and spin-off benefits” instead of a cheque is right

    1. See I read that an attempt to confuse the issue. Instead of acknowledging our inherent and legal rights to our lands and resources he’s dodging the issue by saying ‘how about some jobs instead?’ Tokenism.

  3. Bill C-45 and C-38 Provoke negative reactions. First Nations people living in squalor in one of the most abundant places on Earth is a disparity. People being oppressed due to the disease of greed, is a negative condition. It must be addressed.

  4. Two question enter my mind when thinking about this issue.
    First, what would the outcome have been if the chiefs had stood behind Chief Spence in her demand to have both the PM and the Governor General present at a FN meeting? Would the GG and the PM have buckled? In my opinion I believe, based on watching how Harper works, that Chief Theresa would have starved to death.
    Finally, the big question. How to wrestle land use age out of the hands of provinces.
    From my reading and understanding of the Constitution, the transfer of land usage to provinces back in the 30’s was illegal. This of course means a long protracted legal battle and knowing how the Harper government works it will be a nasty battle.
    In my opinion the battle has been underway for some time beginning in the 60’s, but nowHarper has accelerated it’s pace. Funding cuts to FN programs and legislation to undermine treaty rights have already put AFN behind the eight ball.
    Looking at the nature of Harper and his closest supporters, you can bet there will be a nasty underhanded fight in store for Canada.

  5. If this is all that we have accomplished we have not accomplished much! Chief Spense put up the spotlight, it is still up to all First Nation people to drive the issues, we all need to talk to our leaders and explicitly assert what it is that needs to be done. Idle No More can not exsist with out our elected leadership because that is who the Government will speak with, therefore we need to confirm with our leaders what must to be done. Our leadership must initiate this process with the First Nation people who elected them!

  6. “Harper also discussed Idle No More, according to the notes, and said the general Canadian public was not supporting it.” Harper has NO IDEA how much the Canadian Public is supporting Idle No More… The First Nations are the ONLY people in Canada who care about this land… and most of us know it!

    1. Really? Do you think the majority of Canadians support protesting in the streets, blocking railways. interfering with traffic, flash mobs in malls, threats to bring this country to its knees. A large contingent in this country may not like different sections of Bill C-45 but that doesn’t mean they support INM. Furthermore First nations have never demonstrated that they cared about this land, they just laid claim to it.

      1. we love this land how can you sit there behind your computer and say a statement like that. we are not perfect but the land mother earth means alot to us we relate to her like a mother and your statement is not true first nations have always protested against big oil and tar sands your statement about first nations laying claim to the land is true simply because this land belonged to them solely prior to settlers coming. first nation groups have mostly always been on the front lines when the land was been wrecked. And that is why we are called stewards of the land the first nations were the original environmentalists. your ignorance is coming through

      2. “Do you think the majority of Canadians support protesting in the
        streets, blocking railways. interfering with traffic, flash mobs in
        malls, threats to bring this country to its knees.”

        I think those that do not understand what’s at stake here, what we all stand to lose should Harper and his oil and gas industry overlords have their way, will focus on the inconveniences of protest. If they were conscientious, they might stop, think, wow, a lot of people are upset, maybe I need to look into this. Well, that’s my hope anyway. The threat to bring this country “to it’s knees” is real. These challenges will take place on the ground as well as in the courtroom. If the Canadian government does not reverse it’s agenda of assimilation and theft, this will be one long drawn out battle which will have a negative effect on this resource dependent economy. I don’t think anyone in Canada, Indigenous or non, wants to see this country sold out to foreign multinationals or China for that matter, which is exactly what Harper’s wheeling and dealing and omnibus legislation is setting us up for. Idle No More is about environmental and social justice. The two go hand in hand.

    2. Care about this land..what about the environment..2 different things. I have driven through a few reserves in my time. From coast to coast. Some are an appalling mess. Garbage in the yards, broken down things.(And thats in non-aboriginal communities too).Then in between the rundown properties you get one or two neat as a button. Now to the remote places. How is the recicling handled there..Not sure. Sorry, but a lot of your pristine lands are not so pristine. And what about fishing with nets,sometimes during spawn. I bet the native ancestors would roll in their graves if they saw that. If the FN peoples really would take advantage of the things the earth has to offer and respect it s cycle, in my opinion, it would go a long way to shame non-FN for how they operate.But an example of good stewardship needs to be shown. Saw a clip from the osoyoos band and chief louis. That was an example.

    3. Statistically speaking Harper is spot on regarding the publics knowledge of, and support for idlenomore. Look at the polls.
      Secondly “The First Nations are the ONLY people in Canada who care about this land… and most of us know it!?
      I’ve been to over 50 reserves and it’s usually the same thing. Get off airplane, wade ankle deep through cigerette buts just to have a bunch of thug posers sneer at you once inside the terminal. Hop onto a delapitated Ford truck to drive to a town that resembles a garbage dump littered with broken down quads and skidoos, kids running across the road and stray dogs everywhere. Oh yeah, they LOVE the land!

      1. why dont you stay off here bringing your discrimination views here. yes reserves are run down and have garbage but lets talk about that garbage laying on the ground as apposed to truely wrecking the earth your tar sands your clear cutting of trees your chemicals that seep into the earth. you dont see it as land its all about resources and what you can get out of mother earth instead of coexisting with mother earth. And your the righteous one to talk about love how can mother earth like harper or corporations every time you settlers touch her shes sore.

  7. “Harper also discussed Idle No More, according to the notes, and said the general Canadian public was not supporting it.” … He has NO IDEA how much th Canadian Public is supporting Idle No More… The hazards of believing everything you read in an IsposReid poll via the Sun Media… Heavily into DENIAL these days… Time to get yur head out of the Tar Sands
    Stevie… You have NO CLUE about the Canadian Public.

  8. Looks like damage control for attendees and AFN. Score 2 mentions each for IdleNoMore and Chief Spence (Chief Spence mentioned twice by same person as well as INM once). Yet wasn’t it the Grass roots pressure and Chief Spence’s action that really achieved this meeting? I don’t want to further oppress the oppressed but most of these attendees may as well have shot the finger to everyone else not in the room through the window.

  9. ohhhh…. whats the saying that bad publicity is good publicity because it better then no publicity….. where they really like the relations to be back in the closet… pervert and control to own…

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