Idle No More Unmasked Part I: What Didn’t The Suzuki Foundation Disclose In Their Letter To Stephen Harper?

Idle No More's four founders

Idle No More’s four founders


Idle No More, so the legend tells us, is a grassroots movement started by four indigenous women from Saskatchewan who were unhappy with parts of the federal government budget bill C-45. The movement’s message inspired protests across the country- most were peaceful, but there were incidents where militants took advantage leading blockades, and tampering with train tracks.

INM’s official narrative is very similar to Occupy’ with one major exception- Occupy openly admitted their movement was inspired by a foundation funded NGO (Adbusters) and funded by militant unions. INM claims to be grassroots- but is this entirely true? Many observers are skeptical, pointing out that INM is led and promoted by many of the same people who acted as leaders at Occupy.

Like Occupy, many of the people who’ve attended INM events are genuinely grassroots- regular everyday folk who look forward to creating a better world. This series of articles is not intended to discredit INM’s grassroots, but to help them better understand the NGO’s, unions and professional activists who are using the movement as an opportunity to appropriate the voices of indigenous communities across the country.

This series will attempt to answer the following questions:

– Was Idle No More truly grassroots?

– Who’s the white guy in Atlanta who runs the website? (And what’s his hourly rate?)

– Who are the professional campaign managers leading the fundraising?

– Why is the money being sent to a man in Toronto? (And not the women in Saskatoon)

– What’s INM’s connection to a South American petrostate?

– What motivates the unions, politicians and NGO’s to appropriate indigenous voices like this?

While answering these questions, this series will expose Occupy, the Quebec student strikes and Idle No More’s undisclosed connections to a larger global movement. There’s a new Great Game at play, and Canada is ground zero- Your Humble Narrator intends to bring some more transparency to it.

Part I: Idle No More And The David Suzuki Foundation

David Suzuki speaking at Occupy Vancouver in 2011

David Suzuki speaking at Occupy Vancouver in 2011

On November 21, 2012 the David Suzuki Foundation published a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticising federal budget bill C-45. The letter was co-signed by many prominent NGO’s including Greenpeace, Pembina, Environmental Defence and the Sierra Club. But there was one name on the list that most readers would never have heard of back then:

“Idle No More (Saskatchewan Grassroots Advocacy Group)”

Three weeks later, on December 12th, Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson and Director General Dr. Faisal Moola wrote another letter to the Prime Minister. The document began by urging the government to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, using Idle No More’s rising popularity as leverage. (Idle No More’s website inaccurately attributes this letter to Suzuki.)

The foundation’s description echoed INM’s official narrative:

“The growing Idle No More movement was sparked by concern over the weakening of environmental laws and undermining of Aboriginal governance with Bill C-45. Along with the ongoing hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence”

By now, most people have realized that Spences’ hunger strike wasn’t all it was said to be- she admitted eating soup and other nutrients. Making things worse, Spence hypocritically claimed her vigil was for the environment at the very same time she was investing Attawapiskat’s money in companies like Enbridge. In January, when she began looking like an embarrassment, INM’s founders distanced themselves from Spence and other chiefs.

But there’s something both the founders and the Suzuki Foundation weren’t disclosing.

“David Suzuki Foundation was called…then the storm rolled in”:

Facebook posting by INM co-founder Nina Wilson

Facebook posting by INM co-founder Nina Wilson

Nina Wilson was one of the four co-founders of INM, and is based in Saskatoon- she and the other co-founders were recently honoured as being Foreign Policy Magazine’s Top Global Thinkers of 2013. The above screenshot comes from a posting she made on her Facebook page on November 11, 2013. It makes for some interesting reading.

The first part of her posting confirms INM’s story that the founders began together as a grassroots organization; explaining how they held “kitchen table meetings”. The name they used at that time was “This Good Earth”, not INM. There’s no mention of Bill C-45, rather, Wilson makes it appear that they were focussing on oil pipelines:

“The plan was to place Sundown cabins across the paths of pipelines to stop them or to stall them long enough to educate ourselves and others how devastating exploitation is to the environment and to the ppl and animals…”

 Next, Wilson spills the beans on the Suzuki Foundation’s involvement writing:

“David Suzuki Foundation was called in and after speaking with Panos Grame[s], he said it would be probably interesting to know more…he thought a working relationship might be a good fit….then the storm rolled in…”

Panos Grames is a long-term employee of the Suzuki foundation. Over the years he’s been involved in issues including salmon farming, the infamous spotted owl, promoting increased housing density, making the Suzuki song list (he’s a musician), and currently appears to be focussing his skills on outreach projects. When the foundation bought advertisements announcing Suzuki’s cross-country tour visiting indigenous communities in 2012, Grames was listed as the contact.

If Wilson is telling the truth, then it calls to question the legitimacy of INM’s claim to be a grassroots movement. The Suzuki foundation is a multi-million dollar NGO that’s funded by billion dollar foundations- this is the very opposite of grassroots. How much influence did Suzuki have getting INM to focus on Bill C-45?

More importantly, neither of the Suzuki Foundation’s letters to Stephen Harper disclosed that they had a stake in INM. The honourable thing to do would have been to mention this important fact, but it appears that the foundation chose not to.

What else aren’t they telling us?

Flashbacks Of The Occupy Movement:

On October 12, 2011, three days before the launch of the Canadian Occupy Movement, David Suzuki published a letter promoting Occupy Wall Street. So, when Occupy took off here, it was no surprise to see him speaking at Occupy Vancouver & Occupy Montreal.

A little known fact about Occupy Vancouver is that the Suzuki foundation provided similar assistance that INM would be receiving through Panos Grames. In this case they paid for two professional media consultants to come spend the day with occupiers and teach them how to be more media savvy. Your Humble Narrator attended the course, it was quality advice from professional image makers- valuable stuff.

Occupiers had a mixed reaction to Suzuki’s participation. It was good how he could bring people and resources to the camp, but many understood how a large NGO like Suzuki’s could easily overrun the grassroots. Eventually, when it was discovered that Occupy Vancouver was being controlled by a small group of NGO and union affiliates, most of them were the same people pushing Suzuki’s participation.

 Stay Tuned For Part II:

In part two of this series we’ll investigate who the white guy is who run’s INM’s website from Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a fascinating story that introduces many of the ‘usual suspects’ covered on this website, and how they connect to part of a larger global movement that’s working to exert influence on Canadian policy. We’ll also explore some of the foreign governments, NGO’s and foundations hiding behind the curtains- and their connection to the Quebec student strikes.

Click here for Part II

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