Thousands of aboriginal people and their supporters gathered across the country Wednesday, marching and setting up blockades to continue peaceful demonstrations as part of Idle No More.
The protests began as a way to speak out against Bill C-45, which makes changes to the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. The protests have since morphed into a larger discussion about aboriginal rights.
One of the more disruptive protests Wednesday was in Windsor, Ont., where several hundred people gathered and blocked traffic on Highway 401. Protesters there also blocked traffic to roads serving the Ambassador Bridge, greatly slowing down anyone trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border.
In Niagara Falls, Ont. about 60 people had gathered in a vacant parking lot by 3 p.m. to begin their protest, which was organized by Graham Paradis, 23, and Jamie McGean, 21.
“We’re here today in support of the whole Idle No More movement,” said McGean. “We’ve chosen Niagara because part of the movement is about protecting our lands and our waters and what better place for that than here?”
McGean said he is excited about the national movement’s progress and hoped protests Wednesday would help bring more attention to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has not eaten solid food for more than a month. “She’s willing to die for this and we’re behind her 100 per cent,” he said.
Paradis said Wednesday’s actions might help Spence end her strike.
“She was fierce enough to stand up and get everything going,” Paradis said. “She is willing to sacrifice for her people and she’s suffering for that. We’re hoping her suffering can end soon.”
Some local environmentalists also joined the march. “We’re fighting for the same thing,” said Bill Muileboom. “It’s an environmental problem. We’re going backwards on pollution–it’s become harder to get things clean. I believe the natives are our stewards and the movement for our environment has to start somewhere.”
In Toronto, about 100 peaceful protesters gathered outside the British Consulate and about 50 more marched up Bay Street, slowing traffic in Canada’s financial centre before meeting up with the crowd assembled outside the consulate.
Rebeka Tabobondung, the publisher of Muskrat magazine and one of the protest organizers, said the rally in front of the British Consulate was meant to remind the government to honour the treaties signed between the Crown and Canada’s Indian nations.
In Manitoba, a group of protesters targeted railway lines, with photos showing a blockade of the CN Rail line, near Portage la Prairie. CBC reported that rail traffic was halted along the critical rail line and CN had asked for a court injunction to remove the blockade.
With files from Ryan Mallough in Niagara Falls and Mika Rekai in Toronto