Several of Canada’s key transport corridors, including bridges to the US and the rail line linking Toronto and Montreal, were blocked at the weekend – occasionally for hours at a time – by indigenous people protesting against conditions on Indian reservations.
The First Nations’ “Idle No More” campaign was conceived in October by four Saskatchewan women angered by perceived threats to indigenous people’s rights from new legislation. It has quickly gathered steam, seizing the national spotlight and drawing attention to broader questions about Canada’s often struggling aboriginal population.
The sleepy political rhythms of Ottawa have also been disrupted by the contribution to the movement of Theresa Spence, the leader of the Attawapiskat, a small native band from northern Ontario. For nearly four weeks she has been on a hunger strike inside a traditional teepee on a small island within sight of the national parliament building. Three other chiefs have joined Ms Spence, 49, in her protest against a budget bill that critics say weakens native land rights and environmental safeguards.
The combined impact of the daily demonstrations and Ms Spence’s fast (though she does allow herself sustaining helpings of moose and fish broth) has driven the Conservative Prime Minster Stephen Harper to agree to meet a delegation of First Nations chiefs this Friday to discuss their concerns, notably about an omnibus law known as the Jobs and Growth Act, passed last year.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment