First Nations eye Vancouver protest of Olympics

Ottawa, Ontario (AP) 4-08

Canada’s top native chief called the 2010 Vancouver Olympics a potential target for First Nations protests, saying native leaders will use whatever opportunities they have to focus governments on aboriginal poverty.

Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that thousands of Canadians who’ve marched in support of a free Tibet should be “outraged” by abysmal native conditions in their own country.

“We’ll take whatever opportunity is presented to us to state our case, to set the record straight, to tell Canadians the true story about our situation. They have to stand up and demand immediate action on the part of their government to fix this.

“We find the Tibetan situation compelling,” he said when asked if the 2010 Olympics could be disrupted by the sort of protest that has dogged Chinese planners.

Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said he found such talk “a little odd.”

“For the first time ever, indigenous people have a say in how the ceremonies are going to be conducted and how the benefits will be distributed,” Strahl said.

“It’s going to be an exciting Olympics for First Nations – not just from the area but from across Canada. My hope is that they’ll be respectful of that.”