By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
The office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan is calling the on-going blockade of a CN rail line in Sarnia a “legal matter” that needs to be dealt with by the community while the mayor says it’s very much a federal government problem that needs to be addressed by Ottawa.
The comment was made Friday afternoon during a meeting between a CN official, Sarnia police, Mayor Mike Bradley, Conservative MP Pat Davidson for Sarnia and members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation band council. A staff member of Duncan’s office called in to the meeting.
Bradley said the “legal” comment immediately triggered memories of Ipperwash where a stand-off of a provincial park in 1995 resulted in the death of protestor Dudley George. The Stoney Point First Nation occupied the park to take claim of the Ipperwash park that had been expropriated by the military during the Second World War. Ipperwash is less than 60 km from downtown Sarnia.
“That brought a strong response from the band council members saying that’s the same thing we heard in Ontario during Ipperwash. I don’t think it particularly impressed the band members,” said Bradley in an interview late Friday with APTN National News.
By calling it a legal matter Bradley believes the feds are “washing their hands” of something they need to resolve.
The blockade entered its ninth day Saturday, a day after CN Rail received an indefinite court injunction to have the protestors removed from the spur line that serves various factories, including those that provide propane across Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.
The protestors say they won’t budge until there is a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Governor General and First Nations leaders to discuss what they say is the erosion of treaty rights. It’s the same demand made by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11. She’s vowing to not eat until the meeting happens. She never insisted on a face-to-face with Harper despite media stories suggesting otherwise.
The court injunction calls for Sarnia police to end the blockade immediately but they have said they won’t move in on the demonstration and prefer to negotiate a peaceful end to it.
CN has called the blockade illegal and is pressuring the Sarnia police and Bradley to put a stop to it. Bradley said discussions between him and a senior CN official have been heated.
Bradley said he believes CN has the power to arrest the blockade protestors but doesn’t want to get its “hands dirty.”
At the meeting CN said they would write a letter to Harper urging him to help resolve the issues. Conservative MP Davidson said she would also write a letter, said Bradley. Davidson didn’t respond to an email request.
Another meeting took place Saturday where the band council said they would engage the protesters within the next day. It was not immediately clear what that means, but up until this point the council hasn’t said what side they are on. Letters by CN and Davidson were written and given to the band council, Bradley confirmed. The letters say the blockade iscausing distress in the community and a solution would be for Duncan to meet with Spence and go to her. Spence has turned down meetings with Duncan.
Chief Christopher Plain didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.
Ron Plain, spokesman of the blockade, said CN has also issued papers to sue the protesters for lost revenue. APTN reported that on Christmas Eve.
Plain has said he doesn’t believe the council backs the blockade.