Idle No More draws hundreds to Ambassador Bridge
Demonstrators rallied at North America's busiest border, slowing traffic and trade
Several hundred demonstrators rallied near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday to show support for Canada's First Nations.
People participating in the Idle No More movement targeted the Ambassador Bridge. The event was part of Canada-wide protests as part of the Idle No More Day of Action.
Members of the movement staged what they called "an economic slowdown." Organizers insisted it was "not a blockade."
Traffic did completely stop on northbound Huron Church Road. Traffic was backed up for kilometres. Some drivers simply got out of their cars and walked around during the demonstration.
Demonstrators did enter bridge property, normally off limits to pedestrians. Traffic was never stopped from entering the international crossing.
"We don’t want to inconvenience people too much. But we want to be in places that are going to get us noticed and allow us to get our information out," said organizer Lorena Garvey-Shepley.
She then quoted a sign she once saw at another Idle No More demonstration.
"Sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re trying to change the world," Garvey-Shepley said.
Speeches and drumming happened near the bridge. The crowd began to disperse at approximately 2 p.m.
"Our events have been peaceful and mostly informative," Garvey-Shepley said. "Idle No More believes in building allies."
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Robert Crawford is a fourth-year student at the University of Windsor and president of the People’s Alliance student group there.
On Jan. 11, he helped organized an Idle No More drum circle and dance on campus.
"We feel like this is an issue students need to learn about. Students really have no idea what Idle No More is about," Crawford said.
According to her Twitter account, World Champion and Olympic boxer Mary Spencer, who is from Windsor, will join the march.
"Lost my wallet so now I can't buy bristol [sic] board to make a SIGN for this afternoon!!!!! If u see a girl with a cereal box sign its me," she tweeted Wednesday morning with the Idle No More hash tag.
Protest targets federal government
The Idle No More movement says it wants to "stop the Harper government from passing more laws and legislation that will further erode treaty and indigenous rights and the rights of all Canadians."
The mission statement reads, "Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfils Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water."
The movement is protesting Bill C-45, better known as the Conservatives' second omnibus budget bill. It changes the legislation contained in 64 acts or regulation, the Indian Act, Navigation Protection Act (former Navigable Waters Protection Act) and Environmental Assessment Act.
Changes to all three concern Canada's First Nations.
Pam Palmater of Idle No More said Canada's governor general remove Prime Minister Stephen Harper if he doesn't respect treaty rights.
Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse said he supports the Idle No More movement and that Bill C-45 was passed with "little debate" in the House of Commons.
"We’d like to see improvements and respect on both sides and see advancements made," Masse said. "We have to see changes to Bill C-45."
Masse said he supports the demonstration at the Ambassador Bridge as long as it's done in a "safe co-ordinated way."
North America's busiest border
The Ambassador Bridge is North America’s busiest border and a commercial lifeline for many manufacturers in southwestern Ontario and the U.S. Midwest.
In 2010, a reported 28,814 trucks crossed the privately owned Ambassador Bridge on a daily basis, with a trade value of almost $500 million U.S.
The OPP is anticipating that a demonstration at the Windsor border may interrupt the normal flow of traffic on Highway 401, one of the most critical trade routes in Ontario.
The OPP said it is working with the Windsor Police Service and those involved "to minimize the impact on the traveling public and to ensure order and public safety."
Police advise the public to check ahead for road advisory information and to monitor local media for the latest updates and alternate routes.
Windsor Police have been in direct communication and are working with organizers of the idle no more protest.
Earlier this week, the OPP's top cop took to YouTube to defend the provincial police's handling of Idle No More demonstrations and blockades, saying it fits into an overall strategy that's difficult to explain to the public.