It was a movement like no other.
Tens of thousands of Indigenous people rallied, round-danced and rose up across every province and territory in Canada in the winter of 2012 and into 2013.
Idle No More (INM), it would be called, was a leaderless groundswell of opposition that some say had been simmering for a while when it finally came to a boil.
In a sweeping, two-part documentary, producers, directors Tim Fontaine and Rick Harp look back on the movement; what triggered it, how it grew through social media, how it galvanized unrest, what effect it had on non-Indigenous onlookers and mainstream media, and what its legacy will be.
Fontaine and Harp joined InFocus guest host Bruce Spence to talk about their documentary The Power Was with Us: Idle No More which airs on APTN’s new on-demand service Lumi Friday Jan. 24.
Through expert interviews with journalists and activists on the ground, dramatic archival footage and firsthand accounts, Harp and Fontaine weave a narrative that both explores and explains the enduring impact of Idle No More.
“It couldn’t have happened like it did without social media,” said Fontaine. “I think that it allowed people to organize and get the word out, unfiltered in ways that hadn’t been there before. It was absolutely a huge part of that, and you will see in the documentary how that played out, what a valuable tool it was to organizers within Idle No More.”
Part One of the documentary begins with the Conservative omnibus bill that some say sparked the movement – Bill C-45 that was introduced in October 2012 by prime minister Stephen Harper.
To critics, it represented everything that was wrong with the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada. What ensued was a heady three-month period of cross-country rallies, round dances and blockades in urban and rural locations alike.
Despite the many different groups and interests at play, they all seemed to share one over-arching goal—the advancement of Indigenous rights and self-determination.
“I think what everyone took from Idle No More, a sense of visibility and a sense of voice, frankly,” said Harp. “And I think that can never be taken away. Everything else I think is more interpretive and subjective frankly, and I just think Canada will never be the same because of it.”
APTN Investigates this Friday also features a sit down with the directors about how they tackled the documentary, and their perspective as one-the-ground journalists at the time, covering the movement.