Idle ‘Day of Action’ draws little interest in Vancouver 0
First Nations protest across Canada in a national “Day of Action” blocking roads and rail lines back East, in addition to rallying outside the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
As aboriginal protesters blocked road-and-rail lines in a “Day of Action” across Canada Wednesday, two dozen First Nations people held a decidedly meeker rally in front of the Sheraton Wall Centre in downtown Vancouver, where the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel is holding hearings this week.
Aboriginals across the nation erected blockades intended to disrupt the Canadian economy and raise awareness of native issues. In Metro Vancouver, however, their presence barely registered with locals — drawing more attention from media than the public.
The protesters sang, beat drums and spoke out against Enbridge’s plan to build a pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to the west coast and against the ruling Conservative’s support for pipelines. They were joined by about 50 other social and environmental activists.
“The people are exercising discipline in trying to move forward in a peaceful way,” said Frank Brown, a Heiltsuk First Nation member on B.C.’s central coast and director of marine and land stewardship for the Coastal First Nations. “It (illegal actions) depends, I think, on how the government of Canada responds to our plea for justice.
“We’re not looking for handouts,” he said. “The natural resources have sustained us, and we need intact ecosystems to continue to sustain us. We’re afraid if a catastrophic (oil tanker) accident occurs it will destroy everything.”
At a conference in Ottawa Wednesday on policing costs, B.C. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond said the province’s strategy is to treat the rallies “as peaceful appropriate expressions of peoples’ opinions.”
“We’re working very closely with the police to ensure there is a respectful approach to this,” she said.
Most rallies remained peaceful, but in eastern Ontario, Tyendinaga Mohawks blockaded the main VIA rail corridor between Montreal and Toronto. Other native protestors in Ontario and Manitoba blocked trains and held up traffic.