Idle No More plans New Year's Eve protest in downtown Winnipeg

First Nations residents, take part in an Idle No More demonstration on Dec. 29, 2012 in Hobbema, AB, a town just south of Edmonton.



WINNIPEG -- After taking their movement to the Manitoba legislature and other prominent public spaces in the past few weeks, supporters of the First Nations Idle No More are poised to step up their activism with a possible traffic blockade at the city's major intersection on New Year's Eve.

The timing of the event at Portage and Main appeared uncertain on Saturday as word of possible 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. starts spread through Facebook and Twitter. At least one online notice said participants will gather at all four corners of Portage Avenue and Main Street before leaders "direct the people to the centre" of the intersection to "form a circle" around musicians.

"If you're going to have a movement, go big or go home," said Shelley Cook, founder of the Missing and Murdered Women of Manitoba website.

The Idle No More protestors are opposed to Bill C-45, which they say denies their treaty rights and sovereignty while threatening the environment.

At issue is the removal of environmental protections for thousands of waterways in Canada, many of which cross through or are on First Nations land.

The bill also allows for reserve lands to be sold to private corporations.
So far, protests and flash mobs have occurred in public places like shopping malls, and there have been blockades of roads and rail lines in northern Alberta and southwestern Ontario.

Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11.

"How else are you going to actually raise awareness? In a corner somewhere?" Cook said. "If you're going to do it, you may as well do it big. It might make some people angry."

Michael Champagne, local spokesman for the movement, wasn't yet certain whether the downtown round dance would be held in the afternoon or at night.

"I believe we were working co-operatively with Winnipeg police on permits," Champagne said, adding he finds it "encouraging to see young people getting involved in politics in such large numbers" at the cross-Canada, aboriginal-organized protests.

City police did not return a call for comment on any plans they have for handling traffic during the rally at Portage and Main.

Another Facebook notice said that in addition to the round dance on the street, a "feast" and other events will be held the same evening at Thunderbird House on Main Street.

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