Idle No More protests target bridges, roads across Canada
Some crossings shut down by First Nations demonstrators
CBC News, Jan 5, 2013
The Idle No More protest movement continues to gain steam with more demonstrations Saturday, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he would meet with a delegation of First Nations chiefs, including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is now on day 26 of a hunger strike.
A number of groups have pledged to block bridges, several of which straddle the Canada-U.S. border.
Police in Cornwall, Ont., closed the International Bridge for more than three hours in response to an Idle No More protest that began mid-Saturday morning. About 350 protesters crossed the bridge. The bridge reopened by 2 p.m. local time.
And in Saskatchewan, RCMP say they’ve close off Highway 624 from Highway 1 to Highway 46 for safety precautions due to a protest of about 300 people.
Meanwhile, the Idle No More protest that was blocking commercial trains on Canadian National Rail tracks between Moncton and Miramichi, N.B. on Friday has been shut down. CN Rail filed a temporary court injunction Friday afternoon.
Organizers with Idle No More have organized several other demonstrations on Saturday at sites including:
- The Peace Arch crossing in Surrey, B.C., from 1 to 2 p.m. PT.
- NWT’s Deh Cho Bridge between 2 and 4 p.m. MT.
- The Canadian side of the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ont., for one hour. Sarnia police said the bridge would be closed in both directions from noon until 1 p.m.
- The Peace Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo in the Niagara region, starting at 1 p.m. ET. Organizers say it will be “peaceful,” and they will occupy only one lane of traffic on the international bridge.
- A disruption is also planned at the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge between Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake.
CBC reporter Aarti Pole is at the protest in Fort Erie, where about 75 people have gathered. She says the plan is for Canadian protesters to march across the bridge to meet with their American counterparts in the middle.
Pole said the protesters were “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming meeting between Harper and First Nations leaders and were particularly concerned about the Indian Act, the Navigation Act and the Environmental Assessment Act.
Organizers in NWT in say they chose the Deh Cho Bridge because it’s still on Dene land. They plan to do a round dance and have a feast on the bridge.
Meanwhile, Spence has said she would attend the meeting with Harper on Jan. 11. But when asked whether it would be enough to end her hunger strike, she said she would wait to see the outcome.
First Nations chiefs are concerned the federal government isn’t honouring their treaty rights.
Spence and her supporters want Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty at the meeting as well, and said the hunger strike could continue after Jan. 11.
The Attawapiskat chief has been conducting her hunger strike on Victoria Island, just in sight of the Parliament buildings. She has since been joined on the island by dozens more people. She is not alone on her hunger strike. Cross Lake, Man., elder Raymond Robinson has also gone without food since Dec. 11.
Aboriginal protesters march in protests across Canada for Idle No More cause
Linda Nguyen, Canadian Press, Saturday, January 05, 2013
TORONTO – Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in several cities across Canada on Saturday as momentum continued to build for the Idle No More movement.
The cause, which began last month, is in protest of the federal government’s omnibus Bill C-45, which First Nations groups claim threatens their treaty rights set out in the Constitution.
Waving flags and carrying placards, many of the demonstrators marched along roadways, highways and bridges.
On Saturday, police in Cornwall, Ont., closed the Seaway International Bridge as a public safety precaution.
The usually-busy border crossing, which connects the southeastern Ontario city and Akwesasne, Ont., to Massena, N.Y., was closed for more than three hours as demonstrators marched across the toll bridge.
Cornwall Sgt. Marc Bissonnette says police estimate there were about 150 to 200 protesters participating in the action, which was peaceful. No incidents have been reported.
Meanwhile, the border crossing between Sarnia, Ont., and Port Huron, Mich., and a stretch of Highway 403 in Hamilton, Ont., were also temporarily shut down for Idle No More protests.
Those on Sarnia’s Blue Water Bridge banged drums, chanted and stood in the middle of the roadway to listen to speeches.
One of them included Greg Plain of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, who was one of the organizers of a recent nearly-two week long blockade on a CN Rail line in Sarnia.
“We just want to get the message out,” he said. “It’s not just us who should be out there. There are a lot of other Canadians that are out there supporting the natives and anybody else who want to hear it.”
Similar demonstrations were also held at the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., and others were planned for the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge in Niagara Falls and Peace Arch crossing in Surrey, B.C.
Police in Ontario also issued a general warning Saturday to travellers to plan ahead because some roads and highways in these areas may face longer than usual traffic delays.
The Idle No More actions were also organized to show support for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has been on a liquid diet since Dec. 11.
Spence has vowed that she will not eat until she can get an audience with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Governor General and other First Nations chiefs to discuss more revenue sharing and economic development for reserves.
A spokesman for Stephen Harper says the prime minister agreed Friday to a meeting with a delegation of leaders from the Assembly of First Nations. Spence has said she intends to be at the meeting, which has been set for Jan. 11.