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Inuit opt out of aboriginal day of action

Dene hold rally in Yellowknife; some Yukon First Nations having peaceful events

Last Updated: Friday, June 29, 2007 | 5:55 PM CT

The organization that represents Canadian Inuit says it will not take part in Friday's nationwide aboriginal day of action, opting instead to go through the political process to voice its views.

The day of protest, which aims to raise awareness of issues affecting First Nations and the need for more government action, is geared more toward First Nations than Inuit, said Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

Simon told CBC News that while her organization agrees with the need for more government attention to issues affecting Inuit and First Nations, it prefers to use the political process rather than take to the streets.

"We try to be very proactive in terms of trying to get our agenda moving forward, and we can understand the frustration amongst First Nations that have led up to the day of protest," Simon said Thursday.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has already contacted organizers with the day of action to inform them of their position, she said, adding that individual Inuit may participate on their own.

The Nunavut government and Nunavut Tunngavik, the organization responsible for upholding the Nunavut land claim, are also not planning any special activities Friday.

Yukon event to be kept peaceful

First Nations leaders in many provinces are holding peaceful demonstrations Friday, in the hopes of educating Canadians about the living conditions and economic realities facing aboriginal people.

But despite the peaceful intent of the day, much attention has been drawn to action in Ontario, where police shut down a section of the busy Highway 401 east of Toronto for several hours. Via and CN cancelled train service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in anticipation of blockades.

In Yellowknife, about 70 people marched through the city's downtown in a rally organized by the territory's Dene Nation to raise awareness of massive cuts to social programs.

"I think a lot of it has to do with working together, education, making us part of our people," said Maria Imelda-King, one of three drummers who led the march down Franklin Avenue. "We seem to be homeless in our own homeland."

In the Yukon, about 75 people, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, marched through Carcross and rallied in front of the local train station.

Before the event, organizer Marilyn Jensen of the Carcross Tagish First Nation said while the Carcross protest will be peaceful, she understands why some First Nations communities feel the need to make their events confrontational.

"I wouldn't really say direct action is always an ugly thing. Sometimes it needs to happen so people will hear, so people will notice," Jensen said Thursday.

"All I know is that myself and the group that I am working with, we've planned a peaceful protest. We know that we live here with other people and we respect that. We respect the goings-on in our community and we respect other people, so we're keeping our demonstration, our protest peaceful."

In Teslin, Yukon, a death in the community delayed the Teslin Tlinget Council's plans for a public information campaign on the Alaska Highway. That event has been postponed until next week.

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