Idle No More protesters block QEII Highway

After two hours of slowing traffic and blocking traffic on northbound lanes of the QEII Highway south of Edmonton, Idle No More protesters have now left the highway.

Members of the Papaschase First Nation set up their blockade near Gateway Park at 1 p.m. MT. for a protest that lasted two hours.

Papaschase Chief Calvin Bruneau said the tactics like the blockade are needed to get the attention of the federal government.

"They've been avoiding our issues for a long time not consulting with first nations leaders and brushing aside and stalling," he said.

Edmonton police, RCMP and Alberta sheriffs were at the scene handling traffic.

They diverted northbound traffic at the Niksu exit a couple of kilometres away, allowing motorists to travel through Beaumont or Devon.

Early in the blockade, a woman was briefly stopped by protesters who threw themselves on the hood of her truck as she tried to drive through.

Some of the drivers diverted at Nisku didn't know what was going on.

"This is baloney," one man shouted.

Josh Neary, who stopped at the police checkpoint south of the protest, says he thinks the blockade will hurt public opinon of the movement.

“Pretty frustrating. I don’t think it should be legal. They are kind of forcibly taking over a highway, I didn’t see how that is legal at all,” he said.

“I really don’t see the point to it. I think there are other things they can do to get people on their side a lot more.”

Enoch Cree Chief Ron Morin says he doesn't support the use of "illegal blockades," but says he can see understand the frustration of First Nations groups that feel they have been ignored by the government and the public.

“I absolutely understand how some of the First Nations are starting to resort to some of the tactics that they are," he said.

Morin said he strongly supports the Idle movement, and that First Nations people are "disgusted" by changes made by the federal government, saying aboriginal people have not been consulted and have had natural resources "stolen" from them.

He also called for an end to Indian Act, which he called "racist and paternalistic," saying the government and First Nations leaders must work together on a new agreement.

Morin fears that if the relationship between the two is not repaired, the situation will become much worse.

“If this keeps going the way it is going, if things go sideways, one day you may see bloodshed - because of the absolute passion that people have in Canada, both First Nations and mainstream, over these issues.”

Morin said he and other chiefs are planning to file a complaint with the United Nations and are seeking international sanctions against Canada for its treatment of First Nations people.

The protest was just one of many across the province, and the country, as part of Idle No More's "Day of Action."

A smudging ceremony is planned for St. Albert Trail and Sturgeon Road at 4 p.m., right at the beginning of rush hour. RCMP are advising that drivers avoid the are if possible.

"The Cold Lake First Nation plan to demonstrate peacefully on Highway 55 at the traffic centre north of Ardmore from 8 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Demonstrators plan to stop motorists so they can give them brochures with information about Idle No More and First Nations' concerns about Bill C-45.

On Tuesday, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief said they had no plans to block Highway 63 on Thursday.

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