Judge rules against Idle No More barricade in Ontario
Published Wednesday, January 2, 2013 11:53AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 2, 2013 11:16PM EST
An Ontario judge has ruled that a nearly two-week long First Nations blockade in Ontario must come down, as protesters launch other Idle No More demonstrations across the country and organizers hope to spread word of their cause in the United States.
The judge ruled that the railway blockade in Sarnia, Ont., could be dismantled by police Wednesday at their discretion.
Hours after the ruling, the barricade -- which had been mounted by protesters from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in December – was being removed.
CN spokesperson Jim Feeny said Wednesday night that once it was dismantled, crews would inspect the track and signals to make sure they were functioning.
The protesters claimed the rail tracks were not laid down legitimately. They said the protest was part of the growing Idle No More First Nations protest movement.
Protester Rob Plain said Wednesday night that the group would leave the tracks after holding a ceremony to commemorate their protest efforts.
Attention to the growing movement was sparked in part by Chief Theresa Spence, who launched a hunger strike last month in a bid to secure a face-to-face meeting with Stephen Harper. Spence has taken up residence on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River, wanting to discuss issues at Attawapiskat, her First Nations community located on James Bay.
Spence is also calling for a new relationship between the federal government and First Nations peoples.
Her hunger strike stretched into Day 23 on Wednesday, with Spence vowing to survive on nothing more than fish broth and herbal tea until a meeting is set.
The broader Idle No More movement urges the federal government to honour historic treaty agreements, and organizers are concerned that Bill C-45 -- the omnibus federal budget bill which they say erodes aboriginal rights -- was drafted with no input from aboriginal leaders.
Idle No More has sparked events across the country in recent weeks, including demonstrations, flash mobs, round dances in public places and even road and rail blockades.
In Winnipeg Wednesday, Idle No More protesters planned to block traffic at the city's busy Portage Avenue and St. Charles Street intersection. And in Quebec's Gaspe region, First Nations protesters blocked a rail line, vowing to maintain the blockade as long as necessary.
The movement also appears to be gaining support in the U.S.
According to an Idle No More Facebook page, the movement has spilled over the border to the U.S., with events held in Tempe, Ariz., Denver, Colo., Washington, D.C., Boston, Mass., El Paso, Texas and in Augusta, Maine.
On Wednesday, a leader of the movement, Pamela Palmeter, travelled to Washington, D.C. to do interviews with the U.S. press about Idle No More, in order to raise international awareness about the campaign.
"The idea is to put pressure on the Canadian government to pay attention and come to the table," Palmater told The Canadian Press. "I was invited to come down and do some media about Idle No More, basically to answer questions about why it's spreading into the United States."
Online petitions and a growing social media campaign also added to the momentum, with local activists launching petitions and calling on their MPs to pressure Harper to meet with Spence.
“We want our leadership in Canada to be on the right side of history. We want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with the elected leader Chief Theresa Spence from Attawapiskat. What has happened at Attawapiskat must not continue and needs the federal government and every Canadian's time and attention,” stated an online petition, which called on Northumberland-Quinte West MP Rick Norlock to urge Harper to meet with Spence.
Harper has so far remained silent on Spence's plight, though Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has offered to meet with her several times -- offers which have all been declined.
With files from The Canadian Press
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