Native protesters blockade main rail lines in 'Day of Action'

Protestors are seen gathering near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, ON.



Native protesters blocked rail lines and marched on border crossings and legislatures from coast to coast as part of a day of action to bring attention to aboriginal issues by tying up traffic and trade.

In the same area where police were chastised for not following up on an injunction to break up a similar blockade earlier this month, a small group of Tyendinaga Mohawks forced Via to once again close the main rail corridor that runs between Montreal and Toronto.

Reporters at the blockade, just east of Belleville, Ont., were kept at a distance, and a protester threw a rock at one who ventured too close.

CN police also threatened reporters with fines for trespassing, and at least one was handed a $65 ticket.

Near Portage la Prairie, Man., about 115 km southwest of Winnipeg, protesters blockaded a main rail line on the Long Plains First Nation.

CN obtained a court injunction, but former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson told reporters the blockade is indefinite and dared RCMP to make them move, saying more will take their place if they were arrested.

Mounties will respond appropriately if police presence is required, Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said.

"It's a balancing act of their rights and freedom and of public safety," Karpish said, prior to the blockade's start.

CN also reportedly got an injunction against a group blocking the tracks near Terrace, B.C.

A planned protest at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont. - the busiest border crossing in North America - was less disruptive, as peaceful demonstrators held up traffic at the main truck artery over lunch hour. As promised, organizers did not block traffic at the bridge itself.

"This is about protecting sovereignty and rights for individual people, whether you are indigenous or Canadian," Canadian Auto Workers chapter 444 president Dino Chiodo said.

From a march alongside the St. John River in New Brunswick to a prayer circle in Whitehorse, the events were intended to raise awareness of Native issues.

Most rallies remained peaceful, like in Toronto, where several hundred First Nation's protesters brought their message to the British Consulate.

Those protesters chanted, drummed and demanded the federal government act to address their concerns, many of which they say have been ignored for more than a century.

While response from the public was mostly measured, a few vented their frustrations at protesters. Police are investigating after a truck reportedly tried to drive through a round dance in Fort Frances, Ont. In Edmonton, protesters jumped on the hood of a pickup truck that sped through their highway blockade.

- with files from Jennifer O'Brien, W. Brice McVicar, Shawn Jeffords and Dave Lazzarino


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