The blockade near Belleville, Ont. has been in place for nearly three weeks as a show of support for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who oppose the construction of a massive natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.
Protesters were given until just before midnight ET to leave the tracks. The blockade, which has choked railway traffic across a significant swath of Ontario and Quebec, was still in place in the early hours of Monday morning.
Sources in the Mohawk community told Global News protesters had no intention of leaving, and that they were prepared for police arrival.
A Global News reporter at the scene overnight reported seeing a single OPP cruiser near the site, but no other police presence.
Officers ultimately descended on the site at around 8 a.m. Monday.
The move to dismantle the Ontario blockade comes days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded injunctions be enforced.
“Every attempt at dialogue has been made but discussions have not been productive. We cannot have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table,” he said during a press conference Friday.
“The fact remains: the barricades must now come down. The injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld.”
The blockade has forced sporadic suspensions and cancellations in service by both Via Rail and CN Rail. Many routes remain halted, but some have resumed.
Sources within the Mohawk territory told Global News that there have been discussions within the community about whether to take down the barricades to avoid charges. The same source acknowledged that some people are weary after weeks of protesting.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the pipeline cannot proceed without their consent, despite the fact Coastal GasLink has received support from a number of other elected band councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline.
The dispute has sparked solidary protests across the country in recent weeks, including in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and several locations in B.C.
In a statement early Monday morning, the Mohawk community in Tyendinaga said they have no intention of leaving until three “pending issues” are seen to:
- the RCMP leaves the Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C.
- a follow-up meeting is had with Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller
- a concern for the safety of families “if any use of force” by police were to occur
“There has always and continues to be, a willingness from the Tyendinaga Mohawks to discuss an exit strategy of the CN Rail Main Line,” the statement reads.
“We are currently waiting on confirmation from the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs that the RCMP have left Wet’suwet’en territory, as they have just arrived home from visiting our lands.”
The chiefs visited supporters this week in Tyendinaga and Kahnawake, just south of Montreal, where they told crowds that their conditions for talks to resume had not been met.
According to RCMP, a mobile unit on the Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C. has been temporarily closed. The spokesperson told The Canadian Press that discussions were underway with the RCMP deputy commissioner about its future in the area.