- Reaction score
Tue, March 13, 2007
Natives protest along highway north of GatineauTuesday, 10:30 a.m.
By CP, Sun Media
GRAND-REMOUS, Que. — A highway blocked by a group of armed aboriginals to protest forest management by the province was partially reopened late Monday evening.
Transport Quebec said traffic was making its way in both directions after the site of several protesters carrying guns forced its closure for a time on Monday. The protesters appear to have scaled down their tactics this morning.
"No firearms are visible today," police spokeswoman Melanie Larouche said this morning.
Larcouhe said police have had no significant problems from the protesters and traffic continues to be flowing north and south.
Protesters had originally said that the highway would stay closed until they spoke with an official of the provincial Natural Resources Department. But Public Security Department negotiators said during the evening that wouldn’t happen as long as the road remained closed.
Quebec provincial police said between 25 and 50 people set up the blockade around 5:30 a.m. on Highway 117, north of Maniwaki.
The protesters say the Quebec government reneged on a verbal agreement that ended earlier protests by granting local aboriginals living outside reserves the right to harvest trees.
“The protest is about the government of Quebec, the Liberals, lying to us,” said Guillaume Carle, chief of the recently formed Confederation of Aboriginal People of Canada.
“As soon as we lifted the barricades (last time) they turned on us,” Carle said in an interview.
Two vans, a pair of teepees, heavy equipment, barrels and logs were set up across the highway, the only route between the Laurentian and Abitibi-Temiscamingue regions of Quebec.
Police set up a secure perimeter about 200 metres from the blockade after some protesters were spotted with hunting rifles at the blockade site, located within Verendrye provincial park.
“Some firearms have been seen at the roadblock,” said provincial police spokeswoman Melanie Larouche. “We won’t let anybody pass that line.”
Carle said Quebec has allowed rampant clear-cut logging in the region but left aboriginals out of the planning and the economic benefit from forestry activity.
“We’re being robbed,” he said as he drove to the site of the protest earlier Monday.
Calls to newsprint giant Abitibi-Consolidated (TSX:A) weren’t immediately returned on Monday.
Carle said protesters are also upset about living conditions for aboriginals across Canada who live outside reserves.
“No electricity, no heat, no water,” said Carle, who said his group has about 6,000 members across Canada. “The conditions are unacceptable.”
Last month, the protesters picketed the office of the Quebec minister of natural resources.
Carle said the group wants rights to log in the region as well as a say in overall forestry planning. He said the barrier will remain on the highway until the province sends someone to negotiate a proper agreement.
Lise Guerin, spokeswoman for the Quebec Department of Natural Resources, said the department is following the situation.
“The Surete du Quebec (provincial police) is in place and they’re in contact with the protesters,” she said.
Police said they want to re-establish the flow of traffic as soon as possible but had no immediate plans to dismantle the blockade by force.
“Above all, it has to be determined whether intervention would actually complicate things,” Larouche said.
She said police remained on-site but were not negotiating with the protesters. That is up to the province.
“It’s not our job to do that,” Larouche said. “We’re there to ensure the safety of everyone.”