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Mohawk march today to close Massena bridge to Canada

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MASSENA — The Massena-Cornwall International Bridge will be closed to traffic at midday today as a group of St. Regis Mohawks marches across to protest amendments to Canadian land and environmental laws.

Protesters plan to gather at 10 a.m. near the former General Motors Powertrain site for the march. On the Canadian side, they will perform a dance at the Brookdale Avenue traffic circle in Cornwall and then will march back, according to Officer Pierre Pilon, public information officer for the Cornwall Police Department. For the safety of the demonstrators, the bridge and the traffic circle will be closed during the march to all except emergency vehicles, Mr. Pilon said.

About 100 demonstrators are expected to take part, according to Charles “Chaz” Kader, clerk of the men’s council of the People of the Way of the Longhouse. The march will last a few hours, he said.

Mr. Pilon suggested demonstrators bring identification to clear U.S. and Canadian customs.

The march is part of the Idle No More movement, which has quickly spread across Indian communities via social media in recent months. The movement has spawned rail blockades and flash mobs with dancing and drumming across the United States and Canada.

The movement speaks out against a bill by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, known as omnibus C-45. The bill would alter regulations on the environment and waterways, and on companies seeking to buy reservation land.

“C-45 is one of several bills that have to do with ownership of the land, and the ability of the Mohawk government to voice its opinion of opposition to oil pipelines” on native lands,” Mr. Kader said. “I think C-45 is an attempt to say big government knows more than the residents of the land.”

Mr. Kader said there is a disproportionately high number of oil pipelines on Native American land in Canada, and he believes the Canadian government has sought to marginalize the St. Regis tribal government. “These are efforts of removing the voice of the people on that land,” Mr. Kader said.

Mr. Kader called the march a “grass-roots effort,” and said the tribal government did not organize it.

The demonstration is scheduled to occur at the same time as an unrelated demonstration at the Peace Bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ontario.

“The groups are not synchronized,” Mr. Kader said. “There are different issues at play.”

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