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Native protest blocks Lions Gate Bridge

Protesters warn of country-wide action if Ontario natives are hurt in dispute there

Jonathan Fowlie
Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Vancouver - Aboriginal protesters blocked traffic leading from Vancouver onto the Lions Gate Bridge Tuesday afternoon in what organizers said was a show of support for natives who have been occupying a disputed tract of land in southwestern Ontario.

"We wanted to impress upon the [Ontario Provincial Police] and the federal government that if they make another raid on the protesters out there, this type of action will be [carried out] across the country," said David Dennis, vice-president of the United Native Nations, which organized the Vancouver rally.

Dennis said his group will be closely watching what is happening in Ontario, and warned there is a potential for more action in Vancouver if the situation doesn't improve.

"If things ratchet up, if people get hurt out east, the possibility of us shutting down the Lions Gate Bridge completely would be an option," he said.

"Our position is the move is in the hands of the government right now and should they react in a heavy-handed way, all of the people that participated today will become organizers," he added. He estimated it would be possible to quickly mobilize at least 1,000 people if necessary.

On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said negotiations will resume with protesting aboriginals in Caledonia, Ont. in hopes of ending the blockade and a lengthy land claims dispute.

McGuinty told the legislature that Six Nations officials asked for a break in the talks so they could consider what was discussed during negotiations on the weekend. He said frustrations evident on both sides in the land claims dispute should not spill over into confrontation, and he appealed to residents to remain calm and patient.

About 500 non-aboriginal local people stormed a police line in Caledonia Monday night, demanding the native blockades be removed and the road reopened.

Aboriginal protesters have been occupying a half-finished housing development since Feb. 28, arguing that the land belongs to them.

McGuinty said he doesn't think the locals, who were yelling at police and screaming racial taunts at the protesters, are representative of the people of Caledonia. He said the land claims dispute will take time to resolve, and warned it won't be settled "in the immediate future."

Dennis said Tuesday the Ontario blockade has grabbed the attention of aboriginals across the country since its inception, and he thinks it's time the federal government got involved.

He said his group, a provincial organization that represents aboriginals not living on reserves, organized the Vancouver protest in hopes of raising awareness.

Dennis said protesters initially gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery early Tuesday afternoon and then slowly walked along Robson and Denman Streets.

The group then gathered on the overpass leading into Stanley Park, blocking northbound traffic over the Lions Gate Bridge between about 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. and causing congestion throughout downtown.

"It was pretty much gridlock until the protesters broke down," said Vancouver police spokesman Const. Howard Chow.

Chow described protest organizers as "cooperative" and estimated there were about 200 people blocking the overpass.

He said no arrests were made and that police did not try to break up the protest.

"We allow democratic peaceful protests to take place in this city," said Chow.

With files from Canadian Press

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