Aboriginal rights demonstrations are more frequently these days and the police is there to make sure things don't get out of hand. The commissioner of the OPP talks about where the line is drawn between peaceful protest and public disruption.
The head of the Ontario Provincial Police says officers will continue with a diplomatic approach to Idle No More protests that disrupt traffic Wednesday. Demonstrations and so-called "teach-ins" are expected in several spots stretching from North Bay to Sault Ste Marie.
OPP commissioner Chris Lewis said the gatherings may be an inconvenience to drivers, but added that ensuring demonstrations stay peaceful is a higher priority.
"We are talking, at times, hundreds of protesters," he said.
"So do we try to talk our way through that and put up with a couple hours of inconvenience or do we [make] mass arrests and have hundreds more people come and block the highway off again, and again, and again?"
Wednesday's demonstrations are a continuation of what has been seen in the north from the Idle No More campaign over the last several weeks. Because that movement is loosely organized, it's difficult to predict exactly when and where all demonstrations will take place.
What was planned for Wednesday includes the following:
- Gatherings are expected along Highway 17 in the Nipissing area, near Espanola, at the Serpent River First Nation and in Sault Ste Marie.
- Serpent River First Nation will also be slowing traffic and encouraging people to pull into their trading post for a hot chocolate and a conversation about Aboriginal issues.
- Traffic slowdowns are expected between North Bay and Sturgeon Falls.
- People are also expected to gather at the Highway 6 turnoff to Espanola.
- Police are also preparing for a gathering in Sault Ste Marie — one that could affect the border crossing.
Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day said drivers should think of any time stuck in traffic as an educational opportunity.
"We'll be working with the traffic going through and seeing if they are interested in coming in to the trading post at Serpent River," he said.
"We have a fairly large parking lot where we are going to be able to do some teach-ins and some discussions about what is really going on."