Protests Draw Nationwide Attention to Aboriginal Rights

They marched across bridges, they walked through downtowns, they gave out pamphlets.

But, unlike the situation elsewhere in the province, aboriginals and their supporters in Northwestern Ontario didn't block highways or rail lines Friday during their part in a nationwide demonstration about native rights.
"I thought it went really well," said Thunder Bay-based Matawa First Nations Chief Executive David Paul Achneepineskum. "There was good representation, especially from non-native people." Police said demonstrations in Thunder Bay, Kenora, Fort Frances, Pickle Lake and Nipigon were all peacefull, with no incidents of violence.
In some areas, roads were down to one lane but traffic was allowed to go through, said OPP regional spokeswoman Sgt. Deb Tully. Trans-Canada traffic on Highway 11-17 just east of Nipigon was delayed for about half an hour as about 175 demonstrators crossed the Nipigon River bridge without incident, added Tully.
In Thunder Bay, about 300 native and non-aboriginal residents walked from the Lakehead Labour Centre to Marina Park under sunny skies. Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, who took part in the walk, said he was pleased to hear motorists who watched the event blowing their horns in apparent support. Beardy said the peaceful-protest route was the way to go, "because we are not out to stop people from making a living."
Asked what message NAN wanted to send through the demonstration, Beardy added: "When we signed a treaty 100 years ago, we agreed to share the land and use it for wealth creation, to have a share in the jobs. But that is not happening." Beardy noted about half of the 300 people who live at his home reserve at Muskrat Dam are unemployed. Achneepieskum said unemployment at remote reserves could be reduced if more native people were hired for jobs that are clearly unique to the North - such as forestry and fire-fighting positions.
A Webequie First Nation news release issued the day before Friday's deomonstration said the tiny remote community about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay has dealt with seven suicides and "an alarming numnber of suicide attempts" over the last five years.
"The youth in our community have to face epidemic child poverty growing up and little prospects for employment and quality of life as adults," Webequie Chief Scott Jacob said in the release.

See article at The Chronicle-Journal
By The Chronicle-Journal
Friday, June 29, 2007

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