POLITICS

First Nations groups stage Idle No More protests in New Brunswick

01/04/2013 10:23 EST | Updated 03/06/2013 05:12 EST
FREDERICTON - Members of the Kingsclear First Nation in New Brunswick staged an Idle No More protest Friday along a busy highway near Fredericton, vowing to stay until Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

About three dozen people stood along Highway 102 at Kingsclear holding signs in opposition to the federal government's recently passed omnibus budget legislation, which they say eliminates treaty and aboriginal rights set out in the Constitution.

Kingsclear Chief Gabriel Atwin said it's important that Harper respects treaty rights and meets with Spence immediately to end her 25-day hunger strike in Ottawa.

"Her health is deteriorating, so we're hoping the prime minister gets the message that he needs to meet with her sooner rather than later," Atwin said.

Harper and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan will meet a delegation of First Nations leaders next Friday to discuss treaty relationships, native rights and economic development.

First Nations leaders had initially proposed a Jan. 24 meeting with Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnson, but Spence says her failing health means she can't wait that long for assurances that her concerns about treaty rights will be addressed.

Atwin said it's important for all Canadians to support the Idle No More movement because the omnibus budget legislation affects everyone.

"They too are affected by this bill ... not just First Nations people," he said. "We need to revisit this bill. We cannot go forward with this."

Atwin said the protest would remain peaceful.

The protest came the same day that the Sikniktuk Mi'kmaq Rights Coalition said they planned to block Canadian National Railway trains from transporting goods along the Highway 126 Railway in Adamsville until Monday.

In a statement, the coalition said they were taking the action because of what they say is the federal government's assault on their treaty rights.

They say the location, about 30 kilometres northwest of Moncton, is a historical trading post for Mi'kmaq people.