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Ont. First Nation blockade on railway line taken down after nearly 2 weeks


First Nations protesters march down the railway tracks after abandoning their blockade of the CN tracks in Sarnia Ontario, Wednesday, January 2, 2013 after a court injunction ordered them to move. The protest, part of the Idle No More movement, has blocked the tracks for 13 days.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

SARNIA, Ont. - A nearly two-week long First Nation blockade of a railway line in Sarnia, Ont., was being dismantled Wednesday night just hours after an Ontario judge ruled that it must come down.

Lawyers for CN Rail launched court action against Ron Plain, a member of the Aamjiwnaang (AWN'-ja-nong) First Nation, alleging that he was in contempt of an injunction to disband the protests on the railway tracks.

The court injunctions were issued on Dec. 21 and 27 and granted police the power to end the blockade to their discretion.

CN also filed a motion for Sarnia Police Chief Phil Nelson to appear Wednesday before a judge to explain what the force was doing about the protest.

Protesters with the Aamjiwnaang First Nation set up the blockade last month to denounce the federal government's omnibus Bill C-45, which they claim eliminates treaty and aboriginal rights set out in the Constitution.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said Wednesday night that the blockade was being removed and once that was complete, railway crews would go in to inspect the track and signals.

Following his court appearance, Plain had said that there were no plans to disband the blockade, but Wednesday night he said the group was leaving after holding a ceremony.

The group alleges the railway tracks were not laid down legitimately.

The Sarnia blockade is one of several actions being taken across the country as part of an aboriginal movement known as Idle No More.

The blockade was in support of Attiwapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has been on a hunger strike in Ottawa since Dec. 11 demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Spence hopes that her strike will bring attention to aboriginal issues and secure her a meeting with Harper and the Governor General.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley had said he was concerned that there might not be a peaceful resolution to the blockade, admitting he was worried patience for the blockade was running out.

"As every day goes by, concern about tensions is rising because there is an economic impact. It's having a negative impact here on industry," said Bradley.

The Sarnia police had said its officers would not disband the blockade unless it posed a safety risk.

— By Linda Nguyen in Toronto


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