Idle No More protests go on after PM meets AFN leaders

A day after First Nations chiefs held what was described as a "working meeting" with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa, Idle No More protests were held in communities across Canada.

Rallies persist after Harper holds meeting with some AFN chiefs

Earl Sunshine of Grand Prairie takes part in an Idle No More protest outside Vancouver City Hall in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A day after First Nations chiefs held what was described as a working meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa, Idle No More protesters were held Saturday in communities across the country.

The movement, which began in November and quickly spread, is largely a protest against Bill C-45, the federal government's omnibus bill that proposes changes to the Navigable Protection Act as well as the Indian Act, raising fears it will breach aboriginal treaty rights.

Saturday's protests included:

  • St. John's - Activists were ejected from the Avalon Mall shortly after their protest began around 12:30 ET.
  • Guelph, Ont. - Rally on Carden Street, 2:30 p.m. ET.
  • Trois-Rivières, Que. - Small demonstration, 1 p.m. ET.
  • Edmonton - Latino-Canadians in support of Idle No More outside the West Edmonton Mall, 4 p.m. ET
  • Banff, Alta. - Flash mob round dance in support of the movement at the Banff Cascade Mall, 3 p.m. ET.
  • Winnipeg - Protest planned outside the offices of the Winnipeg Sun to encourage respect in online media, 2 p.m. ET.
  • Hay River, N.W.T. - Rally on Highway 1 at the N.W.T./ Alberta border, noon to 2 p.m. ET.

Organizers with the grassroots movement are calling for an Idle No More World Day of Action on Jan. 28, when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons.

Also showing solidarity are some prominent Canadians who say they are rejecting their Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals and giving them back to Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

Writer and activist Naomi Klein, singer Sarah Slean and Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, said on Friday they would be returning their awards.

Some 60,000 Canadians were singled out in 2012 for the special honour which marks 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession to the Throne. Honourees were chosen for their contributions to their community or for "an achievement abroad that brings credit to Canada."

About 20 people from the Millbrook First Nation blocked the CN Rail line between Halifax and Truro, N.S., for about nine hours on Friday. They left the site at around 10:30 p.m. AT, but not before passengers on at least one train from Halifax had to be bused to their destination.

Next Wednesday, some chiefs and activists are promising a ramped-up day of protest, with blockades of rail lines and border crossings.

The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, said Friday's meeting with the prime minister had achieved "some movement" and that Harper, "for the first time, provided a clear mandate for high-level talks on treaty implementation."

However, other chiefs said they should have been attending a joint meeting with both Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston. 

Meanwhile, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has vowed to continue her liquid-only diet until she gets a joint meeting with Harper and the Governor General.

"We are deeply disappointed that my efforts to bring both the Governor General and prime minister of Canada with our First Nations leaders has been compromised with my life, along with Raymond Robinson and Jean Sock lives hang in the balance," said Spence in a news release Saturday.

Spence, who hasn't eaten solid food since Dec. 11, boycotted Friday's meeting, which involved 21 First Nations chiefs. But she later attended a ceremonial meeting with the Governor General at Rideau Hall. 

Some chiefs are pressing Spence to end her hunger strike, saying she has made her point and there's no sense in jeopardizing her health.