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‘Mark my words’: FN Chief on plans to shut down Hwy. 63 in protest
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Friday, January 11, 2013 11:07AM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 11, 2013 7:36PM MST
As events unfolded in Ottawa, over a meeting between the prime minister and aboriginal leaders – protests sprang up throughout the country, and demonstrators said they will escalate if things don’t change.
It appears the cold weather may have kept some home, but a few hundred protestors flocked to Churchill Square Friday, before marching to Canada Place.
The Edmonton protest joined with a number of other demonstrations held across the country, in solidarity with the Idle No More movement against Bill C-45, a federal omnibus budget bill.
The bill changes resource policies and land use, and First Nations members said it also weakens constitutional treaties.
"I'm very concerned, and have been working with my colleagues in the cabinet of Alberta, to ensure that we work very closely with First Nations to address the concerns they have," Energy Minister Ken Hughes said.
“I truly believe we’re at a critical point in history right now,” Chief Allan Adam with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said at the protest in Edmonton.
He claimed the proposed legislation would allow industry to get what they want – and extract natural resources without public input and consultation with First Nations.
“We know for a fact that industry was the one that lobbied government to make this regulatory reform,” Chief Adam said, going on to say industry should cater to people’s needs.
Protests have been escalating across the country in recent weeks against the bill, and Adam said they’re showing no signs of stopping if the federal government doesn’t take steps to change the bill.
“The way I look at it, the First Nations people are going to cripple this country if things don’t turn out,” Adam said. “Industry is going to be the target.
“If things don’t turn out for the good,” Adam continued. “It’s going to be a long, hot summer.”
Adam said Highway 63; the major highway that connects Edmonton and Fort McMurray would become a major target.
“Mark my words, Highway 63 will be shut down,” Adam said.
In recent weeks, demonstrations and marches nation-wide have continued to escalate into highway and rail blockades.
On Friday, at the same time the meeting in Ottawa was set to begin, Sturgeon Lake First Nation members blocked Highway 43 near the Band Hall Western Cree First Nations offices.
The actions have been taken under the Idle No More flag – and one of the most high-profile people connected to the movement, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.
Since Dec. 11, Spence has been on liquids-only diet of fish broth and medicinal tea, and living on Victoria Island, near Parliament in Ottawa.
At the centre of her fast is a demand to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston along with other aboriginal leaders.
In recent days, the Prime Minister had agreed to meet with leaders; however the Governor General at first did not – as such, even though many aboriginal leaders sat down with the prime minister Friday afternoon, Spence refused to attend and continued her hunger strike.
A number of other chiefs from Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories stood with Spence in boycotting the meeting.
Thousands of protestors demonstrated outside the Langevin Block building in Ottawa where the meeting was held Friday.
However, it was announced later Friday that Spence had decided to attend a scheduled ceremonial meeting with the vice-regal at Rideau Hall later that day.
With files from Susan Amerongen and CTV News.ca Staff
Dozens of Idle No More protestors gather outside of Canada Place in downtown Edmonton on Friday, January 11.
Hundreds of 'Idle No More' protestors gather at Churchill Square in Edmonton on Friday, January 11.