Idle No More spreads beyond Canadian border
People from Aamjiwnaang First Nation and supporters gather for a meeting with officials as their blockade of the CN St. Clair spur line that began Friday, continues in Sarnia, Ont., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. (Dave Chidley / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, January 1, 2013 3:09PM PST
MONTREAL -- The aboriginal movement known as Idle No More appears to be gaining strength beyond Canada's borders.
Rallies have already been staged as far off as Texas, Hawaii and New Zealand and there are plans for more in the coming week.
First Nations activists are also in Washington, D.C. today to give media interviews to American press.
Pamela Palmater, one of the leaders of the movement, says the goal of the media blitz is to raise awareness and put pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act.
Palmater says Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike, now in its third week, is part of a much larger grassroots movement.
She says the spark was the federal government's omnibus budget legislation but it has now become about bigger issues like inequality and treaty rights.
"This is going to continue," she said in an interview. "We're in this for the long haul."
Palmater noted an evolution in the form protests have taken over the past few weeks, toward increased civil disobedience.
"We did letter writing and phone calls and trying to talk to MPs and you know, we took that route and it didn't work," she said.
"Then we had to move up to peaceful marches and rallies, and that didn't work. So now we're doing all these flash mob round dances, which are more about working hand in hand with Canadians and also keeping the focus on the media. But now you see blockades."
There have been several disruptions at rail lines over the past week, including one on the main line between Montreal and Toronto on Sunday evening which delayed Via Rail passengers.
Protesters have also blocked a CN line in Sarnia, Ont.
Meanwhile, Spence's hunger strike continues to gain support from across the country.
A group of activists travelled from the Maritimes to bring supplies to her protest site, located on an island in the Ottawa River across from Parliament Hill.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has offered to meet with her, but Spence has turned that proposal down.
The federal government says it has made an effort to consult with aboriginal leaders and work on pressing issues on reserves like education, clean drinking water and housing.