Aboriginal groups stage protests across Canada

AP News
Posted: Jan 16, 2013 6:28 PM

WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) — Aboriginals slowed highway traffic, snarled a rail line and protested at the busiest Canada-US crossing point on Wednesday as part of a "day of action" in their ongoing dispute with the Canadian government over treaty rights.

Hundreds of supporters of the "Idle No More" movement gathered at one entrance of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. Another entrance to the border crossing remained open, and organizers said the protest will not be a blockade. At one point, trucks were lined up for about almost a mile (2 kilometers).

The protests erupted almost two months ago against a budget bill that affects Canada's Indian Act and amends environmental laws. Protesters say the bill undermines century-old treaties by altering the approval process for leasing Aboriginal lands to outsiders and changing environmental oversight in favor of natural resource extraction.

In northern Ontario, a group of people set up a blockade on a rail line Wednesday. Via Rail said the blockade halted the movement of trains between Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa.

Protesters also slowed traffic on a highway in Quebec and stopped a train on a rail line outside of Winnipeg. Marchers also temporarily diverted traffic from a bridge in New Brunswick.

About 200 First Nations protesters also took part in a 45-minute highway blockade north of Victoria. Protesters were also blocking the Canadian National rail line through Kitwanga, in northwest British Columbia.

The "Idle No More" movement, which has shown unusual staying power and garnered a worldwide following through social media, has reopened constitutional issues involving the relationship between the federal government and the million-plus strong Aboriginal community.

One aboriginal chief remains on a month-old fast that has galvanized the cross-country grassroots protest movement.