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Idle No More: Aboriginal protesters march across Canada

Idle No More

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS First Nations Idle No More protestors march and block the International Bridge between the Canada and U.S. border near Cornwall Ontario.

SARNIATraffic on the Blue Water Bridge to Michigan stopped completely for just over an hour Sat. afternoon as about 250 protestors, including many from the local aboriginal community, marched onto Highway 402 and blocked the road in support of hunger strikes by chiefs and elders across Canada.

The protestors, carrying signs protesting Conservative environmental policies and supporting the Idle No More movement, walked peacefully on to the highway from an entrance in the nearby village of Point Edward, following a convoy of cars and a truck carrying native drummers and singers.

Under the watchful eye of numerous Ontario Provincial Police officers, the blockaders began their march from a snowy and wind-swept location by St. Clair River directly under the bridge this morning. Organizers first held an aboriginal water ceremony by a monument dedicated to the memory of native ancestors, and then drove and marched to the bridge entrance.

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O.P.P. officers warned the organizers that their actions were illegal, but the officers offered their protection to the protestors if they followed an agreed-to route.

The marchers stopped at the bridge entrance for about 10 minutes while the OPP closed the highway. A police vehicle that had been parked across the entrance was pulled back by officers, clearing the way for the march to proceed.

Police in Cornwall, Ont., closed the Seaway International Bridge early Saturday as a public safety precaution.

It’s unclear when the usually-busy toll bridge, which connects the southeastern Ontario city and Akwesasne, Ont., to Massena, N.Y., will be re-opened.

Cornwall Sgt. Marc Bissonnette says there are about 100 to 150 demonstrators marching on the bridge.

Police are continuing to monitor the protest, which has been peaceful. No incidents have been reported.

Similar demonstrations have been planned at several other locations, including the Peace Arch crossing in Surrey, B.C., the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., and the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge in Niagara Falls.

Police in Ontario also warn travellers to plan ahead because some roads and highways in these areas may face longer than usual traffic delays due to the demonstrations.

The Idle No More actions are also to show support for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has been on a liquid diet since Dec. 11.

Spence has vowed that she will not eat until she can get an audience with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Governor General and other First Nations chiefs.

On Friday, Harper agreed to a meeting with Spence, which has been set for Jan. 11.

With files from The Canadian Press – News