Some motorists upset with long traffic backups in both lanes on Highway 102
MILLBROOK - Mission accomplished.
That was the position of Millbrook First Nation Chief Robert Gloade following an information protest Friday on Highway 102 through Millbrook that had traffic in both directions reduced to one lane near Exit 13 A for most of the day.
"Today was very well done," Gloade said, near the end of the almost six-hour protest of the federal government's contentious Bill C-45.
"Very good support from people all across the province. We maintained our focus and upheld our honour of our friendship treaty and we've all stood together," Gloade said. "Everything went very well. People co-operated. There's been a lot of positive feedback from the motoring traffic."
Not everyone agreed with the protest, however, that at times saw northbound traffic backed up halfway between Brookfield and Stewiacke and southbound traffic backed up beyond the Onslow exit.
"Some people were upset but that is to be expected," Gloade said, of those who expressed their displeasure with profanities or refused to accept the information pamphlets being offered to motorists.
"Yes, we were expecting that. And it's only a matter of a few hours in a day," Gloade said.
"The majority of the people got the message."
Information supplied by the protesters, who numbered at least 200, suggested the government's omnibus bill (which contains about 90 pieces of legislation) will weaken Canada's environmental laws, remove "critical safeguards and reduce opportunities for the public to have their say about major industrial projects that could threaten the air, water, soil and natural ecosystems on which all Canadians depend on.
"The long-term health and safety of all Canadians is in jeopardy," the pamphlet reads. "If these major changes are not stopped now, the effects will ripple across communities everywhere - putting our water, air, food and quality of life at risk."
The leaflet also suggested citizens write letters or phone their elected officials to voice their concerns about the bill.
Despite the negative response from some motorists (some of whom expressed their feelings in Internet comments), Gloade said he was happy that no actual incidents occurred during the protest, which was organized as a peaceful event in what was billed as a day of national protest. Other similar activities were also held across the country.
"Things went very well today. It was very well organized and it was a peaceful demonstration," he said.
"Throughout the day when we understood when the traffic was starting to get backed up, we started to let the traffic flow through without any interruptions, periodically," he said.
Efforts were also made in advance to ensure that any emergency vehicles that had to pass through the area could do so efficiently and safely, he said. And when one ambulance did have to make its way through the protest, it was able to do so rather quickly.
For the most part, it appeared that drivers seemed to take the protest in stride, honking their horns or waving in support and readily rolling down their windows to accept the proffered leaflets.
"At the end of the day, this is a win, win situation. No matter what happens I want you all to be very respectful," Millbrook band member and protest organizer Michael Stephens, told the crowd at the beginning of the rally in what he described as a fight for "justice."
"People will be upset, it will be a long day," he said. "They're going to come up here. They might throw your paper back in your faces. Don't let that get you worked up. Stay cool, very respectful ... be cool out there. No need of coming out with a warrior attitude or acting hard or anything like that."
WHAT THEY SAID
Following are some reader comments from trurodaily.com:
Really people ... It could have been both lanes on both sides, but no, it was ONE lane. This protest has been on the news and well advertised for at least the last week! So to all the ones complaining, you could have taken the old highway so as to avoid it. For the period of time that I was there, I heard nothing but horns blowing constantly in support of the protest. I'm talking 18 wheelers who would lose the most by being slowed down. Do you even know what the protest was about?
We all have our own problems, but does delaying hundreds upon hundreds of people do anything? No. Nothing. This protest, like most, will do nothing. The issue is between the government and the First Nations leaders to work out. All this did was annoy and anger people who had places to go, at the busiest and most frustrating time of year.
An inconvenience to you? Wow, I am shocked at today's society. This is clearly a huge deal to every Aboriginal, the very least you could do is accept a pamphlet. Those people have Christmas in a few days too, and they were probably out there a lot longer than you were driving. Take a few minutes out of your day to stop thinking about yourself and take interest in your fellow community members.
Why create awareness by screwing people over on Christmas? We can't help you. Try directing your protests, not to your neighbours, but to your actual oppressors. We have the same ones you know ... why attack friends? I love government dissent, but you have no right to block a taxpayer-funded highway ... all you are doing is ticking people off, not to mention a major safety issue. For people that already agree with you. And at the end of it, not one of us has the ability to affect bill C-45. Actually, no one is talking about C-45, all they are talking about is a certain someone standing out in the middle of the highway when they have stuff to do four days before Christmas!
Can you imagine if all special interest groups were to hold information protests in this fashion at the expense of the general public? I also question how other groups would be treated if they sought to hold this type of "information protest." The costs to idling vehicles, missed appointments, products not arriving on time, RCMP wages, etc. is a big one that the general public should not be burdened with.
I think the community of Millbrook did a great job of getting their message across and getting people talking about this bill! Its just too bad that all some people want to do is complain instead of talking about the issues!