First Nations protest on Trans-Canada forces RCMP to detour traffic for hours
RCMP officers had to reroute traffic on the Trans-Canada highway Saturday afternoon after protesters took to the road.
Officers rerouted traffic around a peaceful protest at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 16 from about noon until 5 p.m.
Though RCMP called the protest peaceful, protestors clashed with officers. A dispute broke out Saturday morning, with protestors moving beyond pre-determined boundaries.
“Our first concern is the safety of the protesters and as you can see there’s a lot of traffic coming through here,” said RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert.
First Nations protesters gathered in support of the Idle No More campaign, which protests federal legislation that interferes with aboriginal rights. Dozens of protesters used vehicles to block the highway and held brightly coloured signs.
“This is actually been building up for years and it’s taken on a bigger meaning since Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been elected,” said protestor Dennis Meeches of Long Plain First Nation.
The campaign opposes federal bill C-45, which protestors say endangers aboriginal land, water and natural resource rights in favour of economic gain.
Meeches said many young people have been attracted to the Idle No More campaign because of increasing encroachments on aboriginal rights, and he felt it was important to support them.
“There’s really no action plan to address the future of our people and that concerns me as a father and a grandfather in my community,” said Meeches.
Hiebert said it was necessary to reroute traffic for the safety of protestors and motorists. “The RCMP respects the right of all Canadians to hold peaceful protests,” Hiebert said. He added, “People need an opportunity to say what they want to say.”