'We will be back,' says former chief on day that saw rail blockades, marches, round dances again sweep cross-country

(A Mohawk man from Tyendinaga sits on a train bridge while the sun sets on day of mass action across the country. APTN/Photo)

APTN National News
Three rail blockades launched in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario were expected to end by late evening Wednesday on a day that saw rallies sweep across the country along with altercations between motorists and protesters.

The blockade in Manitoba, which was about 90 km west of Winnipeg, wound down at around 4 p.m. local time, said former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson.

In Ontario, a rail blockade launched between Belleville, Ont., and Kingston, Ont., by about a dozen Mohawks from Tyendinaga also wrapped up by 7 p.m. local time.

VIA rail said the Mohawk blockade stopped 10 trains and impacted 850 travellers.

A rail blockade launched by the Gitwangak people of the Gitxsan Nation near Terrace, B.C., was also expected to end by 6 p.m. local time.

The blockades were part of cross-country, National Day of Action events planned from British Columbia to Nunavut, Alberta to Nova Scotia.

Nelson, who was served with a court injunction, said a group of about 50 people faced temperatures hovering around -35C with the wind chill.

“We sent a strong message to the business community,” said Nelson. “We will be back.”

Nelson said he plans to challenge the injunction in provincial court because the blockade was on unceded Treaty 1 land.

“We are not worried about the injunction or the court or anything like that,” said Nelson.

Fred Johnson, the spokesman for the Gitwangak people of the Gitxsan Nation that launched the rail blockade near Terrace, B.C., said there was a lot of community support for the action.

“It’s unfortunate it has come to this point. If (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) and this government were rational and discussed (Bill C-45) prior to pushing it through Parliament, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “One thing it did do is unite First Nations people.”

CN spokesperson Jim Feeny said injunctions were obtained against all three blockades, but only those involved in the Manitoba action were served. He said he couldn’t comment on whether the two other injunctions would be served.

“I can only comment on what has been done and not what is to be done in the future,” he said.

The day of rallies, protests, blockades and round dances also saw some conflicts between motorists and protesters.

In Fort Frances, Ont., a YouTube video captured a pick-up truck trying to drive through a round dance. The OPP said the force would investigate the incident.

In Edmonton, television cameras also captured a pick-up truck driving through a road blockade.

These types of incidents, however, were few Wednesday.

In Windsor, Ont., about 1,000 people marched to the Ambassador Bridge which links the city to Detroit, Mich., said filmmaker Monica Virtue. The march reached the foot of the bridge, briefly shutting cross-border traffic down, before the rally was moved to a nearby parking lot.

“It did look very cool, everyone had the flags out, they were pumping a Tribe Called Red,” said Virtue.

London District Chiefs Council Chair Greg Peters said earlier in the day that the planned rally at the Ambassador Bridge would be the biggest First Nations event the area has ever seen.

“This will be the biggest First Nation event that Windsor has ever seen,” said Peters, who spoke to APTN while standing in a parking lot packed with 12 buses of supporters. “We want to send a message that depending on the numbers, should we decide to shut down the border at a future date that is possible, that it could be done.

In northern Ontario, near Nipigon, First Nations marchers took to the Trans-Canada Hwy.

In Miramichi, NB, marchers took over the Centennial Bridge and in Fredericton people also crossed the Westmorland Bridge.

In Cayuga, Ont., near Hamilton, about 60 people from Six Nations rallied and round danced at the local court house Wednesday morning. A handful of Six Nations people also briefly blocked Hwy. 6 at the Caledonia, Ont., bypass.

“The idle No More movement is connecting to the everyday injustices faced by Native people when they are dragged through the courts at the hands of the (Ontario Provincial Police) when they are standing up for their rights,” said organizer Laura Lepper.

Lepper said the courthouse rally was partly in support of Theresa Toad Jaimeson who is facing charges from a Feb. 18, 2012, incident after a “anti-Native rights” activist walked into an area of land in Caledonia that Six Nations reclaimed in 2006.

A spokesman for the OPP said earlier in the day that the provincial police force would be focusing on preserving public safety throughout the day.

“I know there are various activities planned for various locations,” said OPP Sgt. Peter Leon. “We are prepared to deal with them as they do present themselves.”

In Barrie, Ont., police warned drivers Wednesday morning to expect delays as a result of rallies.

Members of Alderville First Nation in Ontario are slowing traffic along Hwy. 45 which cuts through their territory. They are handing out pamphlets, coffee and juice.

In British Columbia, the Pat Bay Hwy in Vancouver Island was also blocked temporarily.

A highway blockade was also planned near Cardston, Alta., and in the Lubicon Lake nation in the same province plans traffic slowdowns throughout the oil fields in their territory.

“We’re not out blocking the roads and shutting things down, we’re not at that point.” said Lubicon Coun. Bryan Laboucan, in a statement. “All we’re doing here today is taking a few minutes to talk to people visiting our territory whether for work or just passing through and educate them on our situation.”

In Whitehorse a 24-hour prayer circle was expected to begin at about 6 p.m. local time.

In Toronto, an Idle No More rally unfolded in front of the British consulate.

In Ottawa, a flash mob round dance hit the city’s downtown.

In Iqaluit, a rally was held in the Nunavut capital’s Four Corners.

A small march occurred in Kanesatake that began at the Pines near the cemetery that was once at the centre of the Oka crisis in 1990.

The Algonquins Barriere Lake, Que., also said they planned to slow down traffic on Hwy 117 to draw attention to their opposition of forestry projects on their land.

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