By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA — A First Nations rights group is still planning blockades around Toronto on June 24 despite warnings from Canada’s spy agency and the increased security around the gathering of world leaders the same week.
A spokesman for Red Power United said Wednesday morning that blockades were planned for either Hwy 400 or Hwy 403 next Thursday to tell the world ” that everything is not okay in Canada for Native people.” A blockade is also planned on the Trans-Canada Highway the same day near Thunder Bay, Ont.
Hwy 403 runs from Woodstock, Ont., to Mississauga, Ont., and Hwy 400 runs north between Toronto and Barrie, Ont.
Harrison Friesen said plans have been in the works for the actions since April and warnings from the Canada Security Intelligence Service to avoid blockades around Toronto have only increased their support.
“(Warnings from CSIS) have not had a negative affect on us,” said Friesen. “After the CSIS issue more support was shown for us.”
World leaders are gathering in Toronto on June 26-27 for the G20 summit, which will be preceded by a G8 summit in Muskoka, Ontario’s cottage country, from June 25-26.
Friesen said plans are to hold the”non-violent” blockades for as long as it takes to have their message heard.
“We want the Stephen Harper government to realize that we will not back down,” said Friesen. “We will only resist if (police) threaten violence against us. WE want these to be peaceful blockade demonstrations and nothing more than that. I will not allow any of our people to be harmed on that day.”
Friesen said he expects between 20 to 30 men and women to participate in the Toronto-area blockades.
Michael Boucher, from Fort William First Nation, Ont., said he expects about 200 people to turn out for a planned five hour blockade on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Terry Fox monument. He is meeting with the Ontario Provincial Police Wednesday to inform them of their plans.
“I have two children and I was thinking that by the time my kids are older, with they way things are going, their rights are going to be diminished,” he said. “I am fighting for my children’s rights and my family and friends.”
In an exchange captured on video by APTN National News, a CSIS agent by the name of “Victoria” warned Friesen his group could face a reaction from foreign security agencies if they blocked Hwy 400 north of Toronto.
“I will tell you that straight up because there’s going to be people travelling there from all over the world and different countries do not have the same perspective on activists as our county does,” the woman says. “There’s other forces that are from other countries that will not put up with a blockade in front of their president.”
Ontario was facing major economic disruptions this month over the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax on July 1 which threatened to end the existing point-of-sale provincial tax exemption for off-reserve purchases for status card holding First Nations. An 11th hour deal, however, appears to be in the works with an announcement expected by Friday at the latest.
First Nations communities had vowed to set up rail and highway blockades along with toll booths across Ontario if Queens Park and Ottawa failed to find way to preserve the provincial tax exemption.