Hundreds attend Edmonton Idle No More rally

About 500 people rallied in a frigid downtown Edmonton at Churchill Square Friday morning in support of First Nation treaty rights.
About 500 people rallied in support of the Idle No More movement in Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton Friday. (CBC)

About 500 people rallied in a frigid downtown Edmonton at Churchill Square Friday morning in support of First Nation treaty rights as one chief warned that Highway 63 could be shut down if Ottawa doesn't take action.

"I just pray to God we can come to terms in working this out and thinking about what's really at stake here," said Chief Allan Adam from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

"The extraction of the natural resources and the weakening of environment (regulations), that's why people are gathering here today."

The rally was part of a national day of action for the Idle No More movement to support aboriginal leaders in their meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa Friday and Chief Theresa Spence’s continuing hunger strike.

Indigenous groups across the country believe the federal government is failing to live up to treaty responsibilites.The government is passing legislation which affects First Nation treaties without consultation, said organizers.

Adam said that if the federal government doesn't act to address First Nations' concerns about the environment, protests could continue.

"If roadblocks start popping up all over the country — I won't advise it at this point in time — but It's pretty evident that it's going to be a long, hot summer," he said.

Meanwhile about 70 residents at Sturgeon Lake and Horse Lake First Nations blockaded traffic on Highway 43 in northern Alberta near Valleyview for a short time in support of the movement.

RCMP saids traffic was halted in both directions for about one hour, though a few vehicles were permitted to pass halfway through the protest.

In Ottawa hundreds of demonstrators marched on a rainy Parliament Hill, waving flags and briefly blocking the main entrance to the Prime Minister's Office, as members of the government and the First Nations community meet.

Alberta chiefs representing Treaties 6, 7 and 8 have joined their counterparts around the country meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

With files from the Canadian Press