Canada

Manitoba chief calls off blockade plans

Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice says he's heartened by news that a train blockade planned by a Manitoba aboriginal community next week has been called off.

Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said he is "heartened" by news that a train blockade planned by a Manitoba aboriginal community next week has been called off.

Chief Terrance Nelson of the Roseau River First Nationhad threatened to block a CN Rail line running through his community onJune 29, which theAssembly of First Nations saysisits National Day of Action, to draw attention to aboriginal poverty and unresolved land claims.

After announcing plans for the blockade, Nelson added to the controversy by saying, "There are two ways to deal with the white man. You either pick up a gun or you stand between him and his money."

The chief said his community decided Tuesday evening to call off the planned blockade of the rail line as a show of goodwill, specifically because of Prentice's decision to add 30 hectares of newland to the Roseau River band.

Theland being transferredis northwestof Winnipeg, while the reserve itself is south of the city.

"I'm heartened by Chief Nelson's comments," Prentice told CBC Newsworld on Thursday, adding that other aboriginal leaders are discouraging illegal activities to mark the day.

Although Nelson's community has called off plans for a blockade, he said there could beproblems elsewhere in the country.

"The community of Roseau River is showing good faith with the minister of Indian affairs, but we will not blunt the message on June 29 and that is, we will go to the railway line and be on standby in case of violence against any indigenous peoples across the country.

"Very clearly there could be flashpoints across the country," he told CBC Newsworld on Thursday.

Last weekend, Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the National Day of Action is meant to reach out to Canadians, not to cause major disruptions.

Prentice saidheunderstood thatNelsonwas "very frustrated." He said Nelson has met in the past 15 years with virtually every other minister of aboriginal affairs to settle a land dispute but has been "given the runaround."

The ministersaid he's "excited about the future" and government plansto "clear away historical injustices."

Earlier this month, the federal governmentpromised to help clear a backlog of more than 800 land claims by creating a new, more independent tribunal to deal with the disputes.

Prentice said he has been criss-crossing the country, meeting with aboriginal leaders to ensure that June 29 is a peaceful day.

He marked National Aboriginal Day onThursday by attending a sunrise ceremony on the banks of the Ottawa River.

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