Idle No More set for ramped up cross-country protests

First Nations protestors from the "Idle No More" movement demonstrate at the border crossing between Canada and the United States in Sarnia, Ontario, January, 5, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS


OTTAWA - On the eve of today's national day of action, aboriginal leaders and grassroots First Nations remained divided on the use of civil disobedience and economic blockades to bring attention to plights of their people.

Some chiefs, who openly oppose Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, have been leading the charge to roll out blockades Wednesday in provinces including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.

These leaders, including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, wanted Atleo and other aboriginal leaders to boycott a Friday meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper because Gov. Gen. David Johnston was absent.

Spence has vowed to continue a liquid diet in Ottawa until joint talks take place. She began her efforts on Dec. 11.
But some grassroots First Nations have suggested the momentum generated by the Idle No More movement, which has led to weeks of peaceful protests, may have been taken up by chiefs who have their own agendas.

"I think most of the wise ones would want to push for a peaceful demonstration," said one Attawapiskat First Nation band member, suggesting some chiefs are "opportunists."

In an interview with CTV's Question Period on Sunday, an Idle No More co-founder also suggested she wasn't on board with blockades at this time.

"Right now, the vision of Idle No More is that we're peaceful and we're working within the means of the legal boundaries," said co-founder Sylvia McAdams.

Atleo and other chiefs, including former Assembly of First Nations national chief Matthew Coon Come, decided to meet with Harper on Friday behind closed doors despite opposition demonstrated outside.

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