Even the cops keep their cool
Indians make their views known (Photo CP)
Indian leaders warned us there would be demonstrations this week.
But there would be no violence, nothing criminal and no public damages. It was a promise. That was precisely what we got across Canada.
In Montreal the First Nations people danced in the street and beat drums. In Toronto they sang and danced. Some demonstrators wore elaborate native costumes and bystanders posed for pictures with them.
At Kanawake the demonstrators passed out pamphlets to motorists. Some said thank you and read them; others were angry and threw them on the roadway.
In New Brunswick, demonstrators went to visit the Lieutenant-Governor. He was kind of busy that day.
In Alberta, where the oil sands are seen as a serious threat to the environment, First Nations people blocked a road to an oil sands plant, but not for long. Just long enough to get their message across.
In Portage la Prairie the protest target was a main CN railway line, but the company got an injunction and the blockade did not last very long. The protesters did not stay around.
The Indians knew exactly what they were doing. There was no intention to demonstrate long enough to hurt the economy, as their detractors had predicted. The goal was to get television coverage, not to discredit their cause.
Demonstrations, protests, dancing, singing, fancy costumes but no confrontation and certainly no violence or criminal behavior.
This wasn't a Vancouver NHL playoff demonstration.
Across Canada the police showed great patience. They worked with the First Nations people, not against them.
It was as if someone had told the cops in advance "No truncheons you guys, no beating up the Indians, no injuries, no arrests." Hats off to the cops. It was not another G-20 Toronto police attack on protesters. It did not end up making for ugly newscasts around the world.
Harper and the First Nations leaders could not have asked for better. It made their big meeting of the previous week look all that much better.
The Assembly of First Nations leader, Shawn Atleo found an excuse not to be obliged to take part in demonstrations.
Wisely, Atleo decided that his health did not allow him to participate in the demonstrations, or to comment on the protests.
We wish him a long recovery.
Harper, for his part, avoided all provocations. So did his ministers. It showed even his cabinet can keep their mouths shut when needed. Atleo and Canadian government leaders demonstrated considerable wisdom and intelligence.
It's what is called leadership.
It remains to be seen if the goodwill that exists right now can be converted into positive changes for Aboriginal people.