Idle No More activists blocked Deh Cho Bridge

Idle No More activists blocked traffic across the N.W.T.'s Deh Cho Bridge Saturday afternoon for about 40 minutes.
Idle No More protesters at the Deh Cho Bridge on the north side of the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence, N.W.T., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

About 150 Idle No More activists blocked traffic across the N.W.T.'s Deh Cho Bridge Saturday afternoon for about 40 minutes.

Event organizers said the Prime Minister’s commitment to meet with First Nation leaders has only fuelled the Idle No More fire.

Organizer Nellie Norwegian said they chose to block the recently opened Deh Cho Bridge to show, even though the federal and territorial governments built the link, it is still on Dene land.

She said they do not expect the upcoming meeting to change any of the government's priorities. They hope to draw attention to the need for environmental protection for land and water in the North.

Organizers had expected a rally and a round dance to block bridge traffic from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by a feast. The actual protest lasted about 40 minutes and did not cause any major traffic disturbances.

Whitehorse activists hand out bannock

Idle No More activists in Whitehorse handed out bannock and information sheets on Main Street Friday.

Many said they were encouraged to hear of the upcoming meeting between the prime minister and First Nation leaders including Theresa Spence, chief of northern Ontario's Attawapiskat First Nation. Spence has been on a hunger strike for more than three weeks, demanding the federal government pay more attention to First Nation issues.

"We want change and so far he's only agreed to meet with her, so she's going to continue her hunger strike until he meets with her and I guess we'll go from there," said Leah McLeod. "It's all speculation right now. Nobody knows what's going to happen."

McLeod said the movement's calls for more dialogue will continue as long as governments try to force unwanted change on First Nation people.

Michael Pealow, who also attended the Whitehorse event, said the scheduled meeting is a positive move, but it might not solve much.

"I think it's going to take more than a one-day meeting," he said.

"It's going to take a lot of understanding from everybody across Canada. The relationship between Canada and the First Nations is broken and has been broken for a long time and it's going to take a lot of concerted effort of all Canadians to make sure it's the healthy one it's supposed to be."

Resolute, Nunavut, family chimes in

The movement is catching on across the country - signs of it can be seen in Resolute, Nunavut - one of the country's most remote communities.

A family there posted a photo on a social media site to show their support. Louisa Gillespie said she understands the concerns being brought up by Spence.

Gillespie said people in Nunavut have similar concerns to those who live in Spence's community, Attawapiskat.

"There are many issues that need to be dealt with that are never dealt with involving our land. Our land is getting polluted, with many chemicals that are almost impossible to be cleaned up, so we wanted to show the rest of Canada that from Inuit people on top of the world we're in support of this cause," she said.

Gillespie said people should show their support for First Nations leaders during this time.