Hundreds of residents of Saanich Peninsula First Nations communities joined the Idle No More movement and blocked traffic on the Pat Bay Highway at Mount Newton X Road today (Wed., Jan. 16), protesting the federal government’s omnibus budget bill and demanding more say in local, provincial and national decision-making.
Organizer Eric Pelkey, an elder with the Tsawout First Nation in Central Saanich, addressed the crowd, stating the federal government’s recent budget legislation infringed on indigenous land and resource rights as outlined in treaties across the country.
“Today, we are hoping that people recognize that we are still here,” Pelkey said, “and we’re still angry and we want to be able to go to the table and negotiate with (various levels of government).”
The event and Idle No More movement in general, is an awareness campaign about the conditions on First Nations reserves and the impact decisions being made at various levels of government are having on their communities.
While most the the traffic at the highway’s intersection with Mount Newton X Road was let through, some was not as the protesters arrived and set up signs and chairs at around 11 a.m. Police and traffic services crews re-routed drivers onto West Saanich Road and other alternate routes, leaving few vehicles actually getting near the site of the event.
It is expected that traffic won’t be running again on that section of Pat Bay Highway until the early afternoon.