This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Idle No More co-founder distances movement from planned blockades, hunger-striking Chief Spence

Kathryn Blaze Carlson | Jan 15, 2013 3:28 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 15, 2013 8:23 PM ET
More from Kathryn Blaze Carlson | @KBlazeCarlson
Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press First Nations Idle No More protestors march and block the International Bridge between the Canada and U.S. border near Cornwall Ontario, Saturday January 5 2013.
Idle No More’s co-founder is distancing the movement from Wednesday’s planned First Nations blockades and from Chief Theresa Spence, saying the grassroots movement is so far hosting only “peaceful” education events and has no leader.

National Post Q&A with the OPP’s Chris Lewis
Q: Given the recent court decisions, the application of the law seems kind of murky when it comes to First Nations protests. Police are left to decide whether to intervene, so at what point does an officer say, ‘OK, we have to jump in now’?
A: If it’s not peaceful. If there are threats of violence or violence occurs, we have a duty to respond. But just like if the teachers block a road tomorrow as part of the strike, we’re not going to march in and start arresting all the teachers. We’re going to try to talk through a de-escalation of any tension and come up with some parameters. We keep getting accused by people saying, ‘That’s just the approach you take with First Nations people.’ But that’s just not true. It’s the way you deal with strikes. There may be a time when enough is enough and we have to take action, whether that’s through a court injunction or not.
For example, when it came to the rail line outside Tyendinaga a couple weeks ago, we got [the injunction] from the sherriff at 10:30 at night. By midnight, that rail line was open. If we were to march in there and injure people — or God forbid, worse, like we saw in Ipperwash — it would be for what? It’s going to open in an hour-and-a-half anyway. We didn’t go into Ipperwash guns a-blazing, but guns were a-blazing before it was over. We just don’t want to be in that position if we can avoid it, but if can’t, we can’t. We’ll deal with it because that’s our job. But our job is not to just march in willy-nilly and start arresting everybody the moment a road is blocked.
Read more…
Sylvia McAdam, one of the movement’s four originators, stressed in an interview with the National Post that chiefs — not Idle No More co-founders — are behind Wednesday’s planned blockades along a key southern Ontario highway and a busy bridge to Michigan.

Those kinds of highly disruptive protests, Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis warned in a YouTube video released Tuesday, highlight the reality that First Nations demonstrators “have the ability to paralyze” this country by shutting down travel and trade routes — an approach Ms. McAdam said she does not endorse, at least not now.

“A lot of our children and elders are involved in the [Idle No More] activities, so their safety is our priority,” she said. “If you have an impromptu blockade that doesn’t follow the legal permits, then you’re irritating the public and that’s not the purpose behind Idle No More.”

The purpose, she said, is to educate Canadians about indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights, although she acknowledged that the movement has already spiraled to include so many other causes that it risks diluting its core message.

“When you begin to go into that realm of Idle No More is ‘save the gophers,’ then you’re losing the vision,” she said.

Ms. McAdam, a consultant who lives on Saskatchewan’s Whitefish Lake reserve, also made the distinction between the movement and Attawapiskat Chief Spence, who started a liquid diet around the time Idle No More ramped up late last year and has since been married to movement in the eyes of many Canadians.

“We’re both headed in the same direction, but the grassroots movement of Idle No More is the face of all grassroots people,” Ms. McAdam said. “Idle No More has no leader. The founders might be considered guides or maintaining the vision, but Idle No More has no leader or official spokesperson.”
Ms. McAdam said the co-founders have no planned Idle No More events for Wednesday, a national day of action declared by chiefs unsatisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s response to their demands so far. Aside from rallies and round-dances at various locations across the country, chiefs in Ontario say they are planning to slow traffic on Hwy. 401 and along the Ambassador Bridge.

The Windsor Police Service, which is responsible for policing the bridge, said in a news release that officers have been in touch with the protest organizers. Contrary to Ms. McAdam’s characterization of the event, though, the statement refers to the demonstration as an “idle no more protest” — demonstrating, perhaps, the degree to which people associate First Nations action with Idle No More.

Windsor police said a “peaceful walk” is planned to begin at 11 a.m. along Hwy. 401 toward the bridge, and while the release says protesters will “assemble at the foot of the bridge” before walking back to the road, there has been some indication the protest will move onto Ambassador Bridge. In an interview Monday, Oneida Chief Joel Abram said protesters plan to rally in one of the lanes and block traffic, but later amended that to say the group will stay off the bridge.

Kris Grogan, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman responsible for the state of Michigan, said Wednesday will be “business as usual” for the American patrol because the planned activity appears slated for the Canadian side of the bridge.

Dave Chidley / The Canadian Press   People from Aamjiwnaang First Nation continue their blockade of the CN St. Clair Spur line in Sarnia.
All the while, Ms. McAdam said she and the other co-founders are focusing on Jan. 28, an Idle No More international call to action whose main event is a Parliament Hill protest as MPs return to the legislature after their winter break.

Earlier this week, two First Nations leaders warned that once the snow melts and warmer weather sets in, key highways — including the main road to Alberta’s Fort McMurray, a major oil production hub — could be blocked for days, weeks or even months, prompting what one chief called “chaos.”

Although Ms. McAdam dismissed blockades as an effective form of protest generally, she said Idle No More co-founders and elders are specifically considering a future blockade along the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in B.C. and Alberta.

National Post
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