Where did Chief Spence and Idle No More get off track? How did a movement that showed such promise lose so much momentum? Three reasons.
One, if you have a compelling message — and Idle No More inarguably did — stick to it. Have one “ask,” not 100. Idle No More lost the public because, after a while, no one could figure what it was about anymore.
Two, have a single spokesman saying one thing — not a disputatious chorus, all clamouring for time before the TV cameras and thereby creating communications chaos. At the start, Chief Spence was the face of the movement. Eventually, every other First Nations leader seemed to be trying to get in on the action, creating confusion about who led Idle No More, and what it hoped to achieve.
Thirdly and finally, don’t alienate the folks holding the microphones and notepads. The moment Chief Spence and her allies started to physically bar — or eject — reporters asking unwelcome questions, they were doomed. At the start, their main allies were the media. When Chief Spence lost them, she lost the larger war. Idle No More could have secured positive change — and may still. A few short weeks after it began, however, it has been hurt by too many messages, too many spokesmen and a grave miscalculation about the media.
For First Nations willing to pay heed, Idle No More offers lessons about how to do things. And how not to do them, too.