Credits: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency
Idle No More protesters who rallied in Edmonton Friday are vowing to shut down Alberta’s only highway to its lucrative oilsands projects if they don’t get the outcome they want from talks in Ottawa.
“I can promise you, Highway 63 to the oilsands plants will be shut down if things don’t change for the better,” said Chief Allan Adam, head of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
“I can’t speak about plans being made, but I guarantee you talks are being had behind closed doors.”
Members of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation have blockaded Highway 43 between Grande Prairie and Valleyview several times over the past two weeks.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with aboriginal leaders in Ottawa Friday, roughly 400 people marched through downtown Edmonton Friday in support of the First Nation treaty rights movement Idle No More.
The rally — which began at Churchill Square and finished up in front of Canada Place — was part of the national day of action for the movement.
Protest organizers say the government will push through legislation which alter First Nation treaties without their consultation and they won’t allow it.
“What’s happening is we are being affected heavily by these decisions,” said Adam.
“We will continue to fight for our people until we believe our rights are being considered.”
In frigid temperatures, protesters chanted, sang, and danced in support of Chief Theresa Spence — who is currently on a one month liquid diet in protest of Bill C-45 — the Conservative government’s controversial budget bill.
Protestors say the bill encroaches on First Nation treaty rights and jeopardizes the environment.
And Adam says if the government continues to back the aboriginal community into a corner, they’re going to “come back harder.”
He warned officials if Friday’s outcome was less than ideal, they’d be seeing the consequences.
He says several grassroots organizations in Alberta have been weighing in on these blockade plans.
“It’s not just First Nations — it’s people who are concerned with what is happening in this country,” he said.
“Concerned with protecting our freedom, our land and our environment.”
Jerry Goodswimmer, who came to Edmonton for the event, was emotional as the huge crowd surged towards Canada Place.
He says watching supporters come together in peaceful protest is the best way to get your voice heard.
“It’s a collective action — it’s incredible to see the unified support,” he said.
The protest had city cops urging motorists to avoid the downtown core until the rally ended around 1 p.m.