Posted on January 10, 2013by 

The Idle No More protesters block the International Bridge on the Canada-US border near Cornwall, Ontario, in support of the First Nations in Canada, January 5, 2013.The Idle No More protesters block the International Bridge on the Canada-US border near Cornwall, Ontario, in support of the First Nations in Canada, January 5, 2013.

Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:59PM GMT

An influential aboriginal leader in Canada has warned the Ottawa government that natives could bring the economy to its knees if their demands are not met.

On Thursday, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, from the province of Manitoba, called on the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately address the social and economic grievances facing many of Canada’s 1.2 million aborigines, Reuters reported.

“We have had enough. Our young people have had enough. Our women have had enough…We have nothing left to lose,” Nepinak said.

Canada’s prime minister is due to hold talks on Friday with native leaders who say want more federal money, a greater say over what happens to resources on their land, and more respect from the federal Conservative government.

“These are demands, not requests,” said Nepinak, adding, “The Idle No More movement has the people – it has the people and the numbers – that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees…”

“We have the warriors that are standing up now, that are willing to go that far. So we’re not here to make requests, we’re here to demand attention,” he said.

The Idle No More, a protest movement of Canada’s native First Nations, has been locking up the country with protests and blockades along the US-Canadian border since November 2012.

On January 3, the Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Shawn Atleo also called on Harper to meet with the community’s leaders over their concerns, saying that the natives across the country have been voicing “concern and frustration with a broken system that does not address long-standing disparities between First Nations and the rest of Canada, and address priorities in ways that will provide for long-term solutions and sustainability.”

Canadian aboriginals have also held demonstrations since the government approved Bill C-45, which seeks to change the rules about aboriginal land. The protests intensified after the Chief of Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario, Theresa Spence went on a hunger strike on December 11, 2012, demanding a meeting with Harper.

She, however, issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that she would not attend the meeting with Harper, scheduled for Friday, because Governor General David Johnston, who is a representative of Queen Elizabeth II, will not be taking part in it.

In a report, released on December 19, 2012, Amnesty International called on Canada to address human rights abuses in the country, particularly with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples.