Manitoba chief prepared to press rail blockade
Published: May 15, 2007
Source: News Staff

CTV News: Robert Fife on the sabotage video  1:49
A Manitoba chief isn't backing down from tough talk about blocking rail lines next month to protest slow progress on land claims.

"... There are only two ways of dealing with the white man. One, either you pick up a gun, or you stand between the white man and his money," Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation told CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live on Tuesday.

"I prefer to stand between the white man and his money. And I think it's pretty darned clear that if I were speaking about the poverty of the First Nations, nobody would even care."

The statement came as a video on YouTube offered tips on disrupting railway traffic and the country's top native leader pleaded for action on land claims and crippling poverty.

Entitled "When Justice Fails, Stop the Rails," the video by a group calling itself the Railway Ties Collective notes there are more than 800 outstanding land claims in Canada. "The time it will take to resolve these things is expected to be more than 200 years."

YouTube had been asked to remove the video, but it was still up early Tuesday evening.

In Ottawa, Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told the Canadian Club, "Many people ask why our people are so angry. At this point you must realize we have a right to be frustrated, concerned, angry -- anger that's building and building."

His organization is organizing a national day of action for June 29 to promote a fair share of natural resources and power for First Nations.

However, he said he can't stop chiefs who want to launch blockades.

Nelson said he'll follow through on rail blockades, which would start at 4 p.m. on June 29 and go for 24 hours.

"Roseau River has had the longest land claim in Indian Claims Commission history. We're still waiting 135 years since the time we signed the treaty for the quantum of land that we were promised," he said.

Land claims are administered by the Indian Claims Commission, a federal agency.

"Your attitude is we're living off your good graces. This is our land, this is our property and that's the way we look at it," he said.

Indian people are starting to say, "'Look, we are not going to settle land claims by sitting in front of a panel of immigrants to our land and they decide whether our land rights are proper or not'," Nelson said.

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice has cautioned that rail line blockaders could face criminal charges and civil court action.

Nelson has said that such action could backfire.

In Ontario, Chief Angus Toulouse said it's possible natives could blockade the 401 highway, one of Canada's busiest, on the eve of the Canada Day long weekend.

"Sometimes blockades, sometimes this kind of action, is what draws the attention of governments, and it's sad to have to go there. It really is, he said.

With a report from CTV's Robert Fife and files from The Canadian Press