Pulse of Canada: Do you agree with blocking highways as a form of protest?

Thomas Bink
Pulse of Canada
Pulse of Canada: Do you agree with blocking highways as an effective form of protest?

Each Friday, Yahoo! Canada News asks Canadians where they stand on the important issues of the day, and our panel of experts tackles the same question.

First Nations leaders have vowed to block major highways for weeks or months if Parliament doesn’t make changes to the Indian Act. Do you agree with this form of protest?

Here's what you said:

Thomas Bink: You know what? I don’t agree with shutting down highways as a form of protest. Look, I totally sympathize with First Nations’ problems with Bill C-45 and how it affects the Indian Act and weakens environmental laws. And I’m totally in favour of individuals or groups raising a stink when they’re not happy. But I do have a problem with these protests affecting innocent people or people who have no input into the process. Storm the Parliament building, picket your MPs ... that’s fine with me. But blocking roads or railways? That just pisses people off and turns public sentiment against your cause. Protest … but protest smart. Don’t prevent the average Joe from getting to work.

Andy Radia: I think we all would agree that the right to protest is sacred and they certainly have the right to protest in that manner if they so choose. But I'm going to have to agree with Tom – I think it's a poor strategy. I wrote about the latest Ipsos poll earlier this week that said Canadians aren't on side with the Idle No More movement. If First Nations want real and lasting change they are going to need public support; blocking roads and railways isn't going to get them that support. Instead, like Tom says, 'storm' Parliament or your MPs offices. Or, go on a hunger strike.

Jordan Chittley: Oh boo hoo, it takes a bit longer for some people to get to work. Canadians, yes all of us, have and continue to profit from the resources taken from Native lands while many of the First Nations people have been forced to accept the deal. I think it’s great that many of them are taking to the streets and making Canadians aware of the issues. However, the problem with (as Tom puts it) preventing average people from getting to work, is it mostly just makes average Canadians mad at the protesters. And if a goal of the protest is to sway public opinion, blocking railways and roadways will likely not accomplish that.

[ Last weeks' POC: Is Canada safe from terrorism? ]

Bink: Like I said – protest on Parliament, or even at shopping malls or arenas. That will get the message out in a way average Canadians can sympathize without being negatively impacted. Look, I’m old enough to remember the Oka Crisis, and there’s no reason Idle No More needs to turn into another Oka with confrontations between Native people and commuters or cops. There is a way to actively get the message out without plugging up cities letting things escalate. I hope First Nations leaders do the right thing here.

Radia: At some point, even the Parliament or mall protests will lose their effect if they continue for weeks or months. Both the media and the public will just get annoyed and tire of them just like they did with the Occupy protests. If First Nations really want to make us 'aware' of their struggles, they need to get more creative. Lobby for more First Nations history in our school curriculums, fundraise for television and radio ads about their history or produce some hard-hitting documentaries. You get public support through things like that – not by disruptive protests.

Chittley: These are some good points and I think Andy is right about the protests losing relevancy over time, but being able to protest when we don't like a situation is one of the best parts of living in Canada. I can't begin to understand the struggles of First Nations people, but I want to live in a Canada where everyone can contribute their thoughts and ideas to making the country better. This is easier for some groups than others and often a protest comes after lobbying, ads and documentaries. If you feel disenfranchised you should have every right to peacefully protest in any way you see fit. Former Governor General Michaelle Jean has compared First Nations' living conditions to Haiti and that's not right. Not for a country like Canada. I hope these protests lead to change.

Bink: I think we all agree with the right to protest, but First Nations leaders need to go about it in a way that positively gets the general public on their side. Blocking highways and railways probably isn't the best tact for that.

What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments area below.

Pulse of Canada appears each Wednesday and Friday
on Yahoo! Canada News.