Idle No More: Highway 63 Blockade Expected Along Route To Alberta Oilsands (UPDATE)

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IDLE NO MORE OTTAWA
Idle No More demonstrators plan to blockade Highway 63, the main traffic artery to the Alberta oilsands. | Aloys Neil Mark Fleischmann

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. - Chief Allan Adam say no plans have been made to organize or facilitate a blockade on Highway 63, even as several rail and road blockades are expected on Wednesday, Fort McMurray Today reports. However, a blockade is still possible in the future. "The blockade of Highway 63 is something that has always been a possibility even before Idle No More," Adam said in a press release. "The people are upset with the current state of affairs in this country and things are escalating towards more direct action."

Plans by Idle No More protesters to blockade Highway 63, the highway to the oilsands, are picking up momentum and RCMP have no plans to take down the barricades when or if they go up.

Local organizers say future blockades on Hwy.63 and Hwy. 881 are to be expected, Fort McMurray Today reported.

RCMP do not plan to stop protests as long as they are peaceful, Const. Jesse Jones of the Wood Buffalo RCMP told Fort McMurray Today.

"The RCMP respect their right to a peaceful demonstration," he added.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER GALLERY..

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Hwy. 63, often known as the Highway of Death due to the high number of traffic fatalities each year along the strip of asphalt between Edmonton and Fort McMurray, is arguably one of the most economically critical routes in the country.

The highway is the link between the industrial behemoth of the oilsands and the administrative, logistical and financial centres in central and southern Alberta.

“If it’s a full closure, it has a dramatic impact, not just on the oilsands but the entire community,” said Ken Chapman, executive director of the Oil Sands Developers Group, to the Edmonton Journal.

Demonstrators involved in an Idle No More protest in Edmonton promised late last week to shut down Alberta's highway to the oilsands if things didn't change for the better.

Chief Allan Adam, head of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said he couldn't talk about plans being made but guaranteed they were in the works, the Edmonton Sun reported.

“I can promise you, Highway 63 to the oilsands plants will be shut down if things don’t change for the better,” he said to the Edmonton Sun.

Highway 63 is a prominent route to the oilsands and an extended blockade could affect businesses and commuters, some of whom drive in to work from other cities on a weekly basis.

There have been other blockades on Alberta highways as part of the Idle No More movement recently, affecting Highway 43, Highway 2 and Highway 63.

A blockade was previously held on Highway 63 in December which Adam also attended. He said Ottawa's omnibus budget legislation weakens environmental protection in Canada.

Oilsands projects have already sullied rivers and lakes in the area, he said, and the budget bill "gives the green light to destroy the rest," he said.

With files from CP

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