It goes almost without saying that the country's rail companies will not observe the Assembly of First Nations' "national day of action" on June 29, by voluntarily submitting to a "request" from AFN chiefs to close crucial national transportation corridors for 24 hours. As a spokesman for Canadian National Railway has said, shutting down rail service would be irresponsible both to CN's customers and to the Canadian economy. It will be business as usual for railways on that Friday, and any attempt to make it otherwise demands a firm response from authorities.
While insisting that the AFN chiefs are not calling for a blockade per se, Grand Chief Phil Fontaine at the same time has refused to say what native bands will do if the railways decline their invitation to participate in a mass economic disruption. Mr. Fontaine either is being disingenuous or is willfully naive. By endorsing the day of action, his mainstream organization has signed on to the militant agenda of Chief Terrance Nelson of Manitoba's Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation. Last week, Mr. Nelson told The Globe and Mail's Joe Friesen, "There's only one way to deal with
a white man. You either pick up a gun or you stand between him and his money." It was Mr. Nelson's
resolution "acknowledging" the planned blockade and mandating
the AFN's national executive to seek the railways' voluntary compliance that was adopted by the AFN. On June 29, then, the AFN hopes to stand between the white man and his money.
The AFN is playing an irresponsible game. A widely respected national organization, it has in effect chosen to fly the warriors' flag by legitimizing what in all likelihood will end in illegal acts as native hotheads don military apparel and roll the old school buses onto the tracks. The radicalism is oddly timed. The AFN resolution was adopted at a special conference a couple days after Mr. Fontaine welcomed a federal government plan to reform the Indian Claims Commission by allowing it the power to make independent rulings regarding treaty violations. In other words, the chiefs have rewarded a positive initiative from Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice with the threat of lawlessness.
The AFN has called on all Canadians to "stand together" with aboriginals on June 29 in response to the crisis in first nations communities. Many Canadians do "stand together" with first nations in their long campaign for justice. But the surest way to erode that support is with acts of aboriginal hooliganism.
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