Native Canadians could block development, chief warns

Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:39pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Native Canadians are so angry that they could resort to blocking resource development and bring the economy "to its knees" unless the Conservative government addresses their grievances, an influential chief said on Thursday.

Native Canadian chiefs are due to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday to discuss the poor living conditions facing many of Canada's 1.2 million aboriginals.

"We have had enough. Our young people have had enough. Our women have had enough ... . We have nothing left to lose," said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak from the province of Manitoba.

Activists have already blockaded some rail lines and threatened to close Canada's borders with the United States in a campaign they call "Idle No More."

Canada has 633 separate native "bands," each of which have their own communities and lands, and not all share the same opinions. The chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the aboriginal umbrella group, said his members had come to a tipping point, but he made no mention of damaging the economy.

"You cannot ignore what is happening with Idle No More... We will drive the final stake in the heart of colonialism and it will happen in this generation," Shawn Atleo told a separate news conference.

"First Nations are not opposed to resource development, they are just not supportive of development at any cost," he said.

Native Canadian leaders say they want more federal money, a greater say over what happens to resources on their land and more respect from the federal Conservative government.   Continued...

 
Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo speaks during a news conference in Ottawa January 10, 2013. Native Canadian chiefs are due to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday to discuss the poor living conditions facing many of Canada's 1.2 million aboriginals. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)