Cakewalk Chronicles – Idle No More casts light on broken system

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly observations and opinions of living in a small Interior town.

Idle No More

I normally like to write about local issues, the human interest side of life in our community. The small happenings. The events that a great deal of work and thought is given to, like the play, Midsummer Nights Mid Term which performed on an ambitiously put together stage in Ashcroft last November.

But something of national and perhaps even of international consequence is happening in Canada. And it effect us all. It is the Idle No More movement, and I’m sure we have all been made aware of it every time we turn on the TV. The Journal has received letters about Idle No More. One reflects the political aspects. The other the broader, social consequences and conditions.

We are a civilized country. A civilized people. We have an economy that other countries envy. And some of our policies are influencing countries with much longer histories than ours. Our banking and investment regulations for one thing. Our gun laws for another. But we have one serious failing.  It is more than a residual element of colonialism that has become a festering discontentment among our native Indian communities. The Dinosaur governance and regulations of DIA, is the sorest point. Let’s face it. The whole system needs to be overhauled.

I have worked on our municipal councils and I have been employed by two native Indian bands over the years. I was made aware of the issues and problems, and the structure of their administrations.  Around Ashcroft and Cache Creek, Lytton and down through the Fraser Canyon, there are numerous native Indian communities. They have their elected councils and they have an elected chief. They have their administrations and their economic plans. Budgets and various areas of the “pie, “ with their designated areas of funding. Much like our municipal governments. And, like many municipalities across Canada whose income depends on provincial and in some cases, federal government funding, there is never enough.

In the case of our municipal governments in B.C., the Ministry in Victoria sets the regulations and the guidelines. They must be strictly adhered to. Accountability is a strong factor.

Whether drumming, singing, marching, native communities across the country are trying to get a message across. And this movement began two months prior to Ms. Theresa Spence’s sojourn on an island in Ottawa.

And, as everyone who reads a newspaper and listens for the news on TV, we have all been made aware that Ms. Spence’s community administration has not been fiscally responsible.

One hundred and ten million dollars have been funnelled into the community over the past six years.  Unfortunately this revenue has not benefited the families. Extreme poverty, unfinished new dwellings that sit empty, and social conditions that can only be described as deplorable are now in the public eye.

The question is, who is responsible? Who is responsible for the lack of accountability. The jurisdiction, the enforcement of regulations? The answer is undoubtedly, our federal government.

The time has come to stop seeing the total community we live in with a “Them and Us” attitude. Our native communities are just as valuable and just as viable as any other.

Culturally and historically, they had filled the pages of our history books. The Museum of Civilization  in Ottawa, indeed, in most museums across Canada, the native identity and role is celebrated in one way or the other.

But the old system must go.  And it is my personal feeling that the Idle No More is just about that.  When it all boils down.

On a Brighter Note

Plein Air rises again!  In the dead of winter with snow and ice and fog on Cornwall Mountain, the chill air is warmed by the planning of the Second Annual Plein Air session to be held in Ashcroft and surroundings on May 22 and 23.

I received an email with the gorgeous painting of Ashcroft’s dramatic hills by prize winner last year, Desiree Bond of Victoria. A beautiful poster that, and it brightened my day. I forwarded the e mail and poster to my old friend Diane Roberts in Victoria, and she will be coming.

Wonders why the event is being held mid-week though, instead of the weekend. I guess there is a good reason for this. I’d like to know what it is too.

A sunset to behold

On the evening of Jan. 14 the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen in the past 40 odd years reddened the skies over Ashcroft. People commented on it on the street that day. Sunsets can often look like fried eggs with catsup. But not this one! It was a setting that spread across an area of several miles and it laid a carpet of light against our mesas and mountains. But paint it? No. Not even a Claude Monet could get what we saw that evening.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

A friend recommended that I get this DVD from the library and I finally did. What a delightful, amusing and inspiring movie it is. Much of it filmed in New Delhi. Maggie Smith was her usual caustic and majestic self. My! She’s getting lots of work these days. The 70ish star has starred in Downton Abbey, and Quartet. The latter, directed by Dustin Hoffman looks like a prize winner. Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey is in its second go-around.

I’m an addict. I know the series has quite a few fans here too. But I am beginning to realize that Coronation Street is getting so formula bound and its people so hostile and unappetizing, or so merely pathetic, that I can miss it these days without a regret. Who needs them? Why can’t the writers create some characters that you can actually feel some pity or compassion for?

The Canucks are back

As a Hockey Widow, I felt the first pang of dismay when the NHL finally got around to adjusting their millions and billions and the first of a new series began. Sherman’s passion, unfortunately, is not mine.

I plead to my Maker for tolerance, patience and understanding. And then I cry out, “Will you please turn that thing down!” He does. And I find him madly scribbling scores on foolscap, and I know how I must help to keep my dear, gentle guy happy. So bear with it, gal! You see, he writes with his left hand, and he’s right handed. The stroke has paralyzed the right hand. So he’s had to learn to write with his left. But he’s amazing! He’s a Canuck fan through and through. And it doesn’t matter how disappointing they can be. He’s with them till the end.


It’s a word you’ve probably never heard. Not a word in the lexicon of most of us. But it means, improvisation. Making it up as you go along, in other words. And as a group activity it can be not only a lot of fun, it’s a learning experience. You never know what you’ve got in you until you get on the stage with some people watching. I watched an Improv at Shelly’s recently and got a good laugh. Yes, it is kind of insane. But if it breaks down some inhibitions and makes people laugh… what the heck. You only live once.

Barbara Roden did a very funny routine.  As a stand-up comedian, as well as a heck of a funny Bottom in the play mentioned above… I wonder if our author/journalist is adding yet another skill to her roster?

Well, that’s all for this month. Are some of you thinking about gardening already? Perusing seed catalogues? Thinking about what you are going to put in this spring? I am.

Esther Darlington MacDonald