* Natives also block rail line in Manitoba
* Finance Minister Flaherty concerned about damage to
* Canadian aboriginals want to shed light on living
By Russ Blinch
TORONTO, Jan 15 Canadian natives slowed traffic
on a bridge crucial to U.S.-Canadian trade on Wednesday as
aboriginals across the country staged a "National Day of Action"
to protest their living conditions.
Hundreds of natives, some wearing colorful dress and banging
drums, blocked an access road leading to the Ambassador Bridge,
according to the Globe and Mail, slowing traffic on a major
trade artery that connects Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit,
Thousands of commercial trucks cross the bridge daily,
carrying approximately 25 percent of the goods traded between
the two countries, which form the world's largest trading
Under the banner of "Idle No More," native groups promised
to hold a series of protests to draw Ottawa's attention to poor
living conditions and high jobless rates facing many of Canada's
1.2 million natives.
A native protest shut down a rail line that carries
passenger and freight traffic west of Winnipeg in the western
province of Manitoba, according to a spokesman for Canadian
National Railway Co.
Native groups complain that Canada has ignored treaties
signed with British settlers and explorers that they say granted
native peoples significant rights over their territory.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to pay more
attention to the demands of First Nations groups in a meeting
last week with aboriginal groups.
Ottawa spends about C$11 billion ($11.1 billion) a year on
its aboriginal population, but living conditions for many are
poor and some reserves have high rates of poverty, addiction,
joblessness and suicide.
Native leaders also want Ottawa to rescind parts of recent
budget legislation that they say reduces environmental
protection for lakes and rivers.
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday it
would not be "desirable" if the protest damaged the economy.
"This is not a time to have even more challenges to the
Canadian economy," he told reporters on Wednesday.