Idle No More (Plain-Language Summary) | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Idle No More (Plain-Language Summary)

Idle No More is a protest movement that started in November 2012. It started as a protest against Bill C-45. This Bill covered many things. The activists argued that the Bill was bad for Indigenous communities and the environment. The movement quickly gained many supporters.

This article is a plain-language summary of Idle No More. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Idle No More.

Approximately 1000 Idle No More protesters in Windsor Ontario on January 16, 2013.


Four women started the Idle No More movement. They were Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean and Nina Wilson. They were from Saskatchewan. They started a Facebook page called “Idle No More.” The Facebook page, and then the movement, grew quickly. The movement came to represent support for Indigenous rights and a desire to preserve the environment.

The Spread of the Movement

Bill C-45 was the main target of the movement. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government introduced it. It affected over 60 acts. These acts include the Indian Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Activists believed that Bill C-45 helped business and governments carry out projects that could negatively impact the environment and Indigenous communities. Activists also argued that the Bill did not consider Indigenous rights.

The Idle No More movement started small, but it rapidly grew. People held rallies and teach-ins. There were also “flash-mobs” in malls. Activists went to the malls and took part in round dances (see also Powwow Dances). Some of the dances occurred in Edmonton and Regina. One group of people made a 1,600 km trek from James Bay to Ottawa in January 2013 (see The Journey of Nishiyuu). By March, about 400 people accompanied them. In Ottawa, thousands of people came out to meet them. They met at Parliament Hill. In addition to this, some activists organized “days of action.” Some even participated in blockades.

Journey of the Nishiyuu

One person associated with the Idle No More movement who became well-known was Chief Theresa Spence. She is from the Attawapiskat First Nation. She fasted for six weeks between December 2012 and January 2013. She only drank liquids. She did this to protest the government’s actions.

The Impact of the Idle No More Movement

The Idle No More movement became well-known. People in the United States and other countries learned about it. Many of these people supported it too. The movement became so well-known that there was an Idle No More World Day of Action. This occurred on 28 January 2013. Many events took place, including 25 events in Canada. That same day, 20 events occurred in the United States. Rallies were held in Paris, London and even Greenland. All these events helped to make more people aware of the Idle No More movement.

The Idle No More movement continued to gain supporters in the winter and spring of 2013. For instance, a group called Defenders of the Land formed an alliance with Idle No More in March 2013. Together, they called on the government to make big changes to Bill C-45 that would not negatively affect Indigenous peoples and the environment. Since then, the Idle No More movement has remained active. For example, it has called for justice in the cases of Colten Boushie and Jon Styres (see Gerald Stanley Case). Both were killed and their killers did not go to jail. The Idle No More movement has also continued to champion Indigenous rights and the protection of the environment. From the time that the movement started until the present day, the Idle No More movement has done much to ensure that Indigenous issues remain in the public view.