Environmentalists block highway near Kenora to protest logging
About 80 protesters, upset about loggingin the boreal forest near Grassy Narrows, blocked a stretch ofthe Trans-Canada Highwaynear Kenora, Ont., on Thursday.
Ontario Provincial Police are at the blockade, butare not commenting on the situation. Drivers trying to cross from Manitoba to Ontario are being rerouted by police through the city.
Shelagh Pizey-Allen, a Winnipeg resident participating in the blockade, said the road is impassable because protesters have set up a formation called a "tripod."
"So what it looks like is three poles that meet at the top, kind of like a camera tripod, and an environmental activist is hanging from the middle.And she's got a banner underneath her that says: 'Save Grassy Narrows boreal forest.' "
The protest was jointly mounted by aboriginals from Grassy Narrows First Nation and an internationalgroup called the Rainforest Action Network that has their support. They're upset aboutlogging on the First Nations land and maintain the area is protected by a treaty.
"They've filed every kind of legal proceeding and every kind of official complaint possible, and there's been absolutely no response from the (Ontario Premier Dalton) McGuinty government or from Weyerhaeuser or Abitibi," protester David Sone said from the blockade.
Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi Consolidation are the twomain companies with provincial licences tolog in Grassy Narrows.
'Negotiation is the way to do that'
David Ramsay, Ontario's aboriginal affairs minister, tolda reporter thatthe province hasbeen in talks with the First Nation band since 2004.
"Unfortunately our talks have not progressed the way we would hope but we're certainly committed to deal with the issues that Grassy Narrows is bringing up," Ramsay said.
"We want to work these (issues) out and we think through negotiation is the way to do that."
One protester said the blockade will stay up until dusk.
The protest comes during a week-long gathering of activistsfrom Canada and the U.S. who are concerned about indigenous rights and the protection of the boreal forest.
For almost four years, Grassy Narrows First Nations have had a blockadenear Slant Lake, Ont.,in an attempt to protect their land from loggingby Abitibiand Weyhaeuser. Protesters say logging has persisted through alternate access points.
Susanne McCrea, communications director for the Winnipeg-based Boreal Forest Network, said protesters are upset there has been little government intervention to settle Grassy's territorial dispute.
With files from the Canadian Press