First Nation blockade of CN track in Sarnia, Ont., appears peaceful
Mayor says he won't shut down blockade as long as no one gets hurt
There seems to be no end in sight to the CN Rail blockade in Sarnia, Ont., by First Nations activists.
Protesters began a march at 11:30 a.m. ET on Monday, the fourth day of the blockade, from Sarnia's city hall to Highway 402 as part of the national Idle No More protests.
"It will be a short march. We're not sure how many protesters to expect," said Sarnia police Const. Heather Emmons.
Dozens of Aamjiwnaang First Nation members set up camp on and around the railroad track Friday.
"It’s very peaceful and there have been no problems. They were there all weekend," said Emmons. "Our primary concern, of course, is the safety of the protesters and safety of the public."
Sarnia police are monitoring the blockade from a distance, relying on CN for information.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said police do not plan to shut down the blockade as long as no one gets hurt.
CN obtained a court injunction that leaves it to police to decide whether to end the blockade, Bradley said.
Ready to die
A Manitoba man who has been on a hunger strike for two weeks says he's willing to die for his cause.
Raymond Robinson, 51, from Cross Lake First Nation, wants to discuss the federal government's Bill 45, which makes changes to aboriginal land management, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"My only concern is to preserve and protect and defend the other thousands and thousands," Robinson said Monday. "If I must go … just to make a stand and get something moving from Harper, then so be it. If it takes my life, then so be it."
Robinson said he has heard from Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson, who said they're meeting to discuss ways to help him.
However, Robinson added, the hunger strike is beginning to take a toll: "I was kind of nauseous and felt chest pains and coldness and numbness and tingly sensations. I had a hard time breathing."
Blockade spokesman Ron Plain says the protests are led by young Aamjiwnaang First Nation members, who met Sunday with representatives from CN, as well as Bradley and Sarnia's police chief.
Dozens of demonstrators set up tables, tents and vehicles on and around the track Friday.
Idle No More protests are largely against the omnibus budget Bill C-45 that eliminates federally protected waterways and facilitates the sale of reserve lands without consultation.
Protesters say the blockade of the commercial-rail corridor will continue until Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is on a hunger strike to bring attention to aboriginal issues.
Bradley says the city doesn't support the blockade, but backs the call by local protesters to speak with Sarnia Conservative MP Patricia Davidson, who did not attend Sunday's meeting.
Railway stoppage affecting customers
CN Rail spokesman Jim Feeny said the company is urging governments and police to step up negotiations to find a peaceful settlement, as the stoppage is beginning to affect CN customers.
Feeny said some plants that rely on CN's service are facing shutdowns.
"If we are not able to move loaded rail cars out and replace them with empty rail cars to be loaded by the customers, they’re not going to be able to maintain their operations," said Feeny.
Propane shipments are being prevented from reaching Canadian consumers, he added.
CN is in discussions with the First Nations, Sarnia's mayor, police and government officials to hopefully "resolve this ongoing illegal action."
An end to the dispute is "impossible to predict at this point."
"CN can’t support illegal actions such as this blockade, but we do support First Nations’ requests that the government of Canada meet with First Nations’ leaders to discuss their concerns," said Feeny.