Armed Mohawk protesters barricaded a highway in eastern Ontario Thursday night, vowing to set up even more blockades as a national aboriginal day of action begins at midnight.
About 40 protesters parked a schoolbus on Highway 2, near Deseronto, just before 9 p.m. ET, forcing traffic to stop and turn around at the location, which is about 50 kilometres west of Kingston.
Protest leader Shawn Brant said the blockade is just a "soft target," done in anticipation of major blockades that will be set up somewhere along the high-traffic Highway 401, between Montreal and Toronto.
Protesters also intend to hit the CN Rail line between the two cities, Brant said, not giving exact locations for the blockades, but saying protesters are armed and ready to keep their blockades up until midnight Friday.
"We've made no secret that we have guns within this camp," he told the Canadian Press.
In anticipation of blockades, Via Rail cancelled all Friday train services between Toronto and Montreal and between Toronto and Ottawa.
One day of inconvenienced rail travelers is nothing compared to what our first nations people have suffered for far too long now.
And if all levels of government have any sense at all, they'll let the protesters make their voices heard peacefully while doing everything they can to avoid another Ipperwash style tragedy.
The Assembly of First Nations chief, Phil Fontaine, has also issued a statement on "potential illegal protests" on Friday.
We respectfully urge Canadians not to criminalize First Nations people with respect to the actions they plan to take on June 29th and beyond. Our people do have a right to protest, as do all Canadians. The Assembly of First Nations has never resorted to illegal activities, or anything beyond the rule of law, to advance the causes of FN people.
We understand the frustration that exists among too many of our people. Our objective in organizing the National Day of Action is to provide a positive channel for that energy. We invite all Canadians to stand with us in support of a better life for First Nations and a stronger country for all Canadians.
In recent weeks, the AFN has met with various police forces, as well as CN and CP Rail, because of our mutual interest in ensuring public safety and security during the various events that will make up the National Day of Action.
Visit this AFN page for more information about the protests and the national events schedule.
The treatment of aboriginal people in Canada is our nation's shame. It's a humanitarian disaster. And when the current conservative minority government decided to scrap the Kelowna Accord, it derailed years of work meant to finally begin to address those issues in a substantial way. Piecemeal policies have never been enough and they certainly are not enough now. Our aboriginal people deserve justice and their third-world living conditions must be dealt with immediately. Please support their day of action in any way you can.