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The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti-pipeline demonstrators


Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia:

 

B.C.'s indigenous relations minister says the events in Wet'suwet'en territory over the last few weeks do not mark the death of reconciliation, despite what some have said.

Scott Fraser says in a statement posted to Facebook that if anything, this moment must serve as a reminder of how important reconciliation is and why the work must continue.

He says it was "heartbreaking" to have talks with the hereditary chiefs fail earlier this month, but he and his federal counterpart Carolyn Bennett have offered again to meet with the chiefs face-to-face.

While there is disagreement within the Wet'suwet'en about the pipeline project, Fraser says questions about governance are a direct result of colonization, including the erasure of traditional Indigenous governance systems.

Fraser says these questions must be answered by the Wet'suwet'en people and the province has been in discussion since last spring on rights, title and self-determination with the office that represents hereditary chiefs.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with premiers in a call with the Council of the Federation to discuss the disruptions to infrastructure caused by the blockades and how they are affecting farmers, businesses, families, and workers.

The Prime Minister's Office said Trudeau highlighted that the government is looking at options to end the blockades as quickly as possible and reaching a peaceful and lasting resolution that builds trust and respect among all parties involved.

It said the federal government is working closely with the B.C. government and will continue working closely with all the premiers.

Trudeau noted the RCMP's offer to withdraw its operations from Wet’suwet’en territory, and the ongoing offer made by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

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Protesters blockading railway tracks in a suburb south of Montreal have been served with an injunction ordering them to leave Canadian National Railway property and stop impeding the operation of its trains.

A bailiff surrounded by Longueuil municipal police delivered the injunction order to protesters Thursday night.

About 20 people remained in the makeshift campsite by CN tracks when the bailiff arrived shortly before 7 p.m.

Some protesters accepted the documents with a polite, "Thank you," while others stood with their arms crossed as the bailiff dropped copies of the injunction by their feet.

There was no immediate sign that they planned to leave the blockade. 

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British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he still hopes to see the successful completion of a natural gas pipeline at the centre of road and rail blockades being held across the country.

Hereditary chiefs with the Wet'suwet'en Fist Nation and their supporters have called for the Coastal GasLink project to be put on hold or cancelled outright, but Horgan says that's not the answer.

He says his government will continue to pursue a resolution by negotiating between hereditary chiefs and Indigenous relations ministers from the federal and provincial governments.

Horgan says the solution will come when the hereditary leaders are in a position to sit down and discuss a peaceful way to address their concerns.

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A hereditary chief with the Wet'suwet'en Nation says his counterparts won't meet with cabinet ministers in Ottawa.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said on Parliament Hill today that they're eager to meet the Wet'suwet'en chiefs.

The ministers said they would be happy to do it while some of the leaders are visiting Mohawk supporters in eastern Ontario on Friday.

But Na'moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, says that won't be possible with three senior chiefs remaining in northern British Columbia, because the group must make decisions as a unit.

While the federal public safety minister says the RCMP has promised to pull out of an area in Wet'suwet'en territory, Na'moks said the chiefs also expect Coastal GasLink to take workers off the territory.

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Canadian National Railway says it has received a court injunction to end a rail blockade in a suburb south of Montreal.

CN spokesman Olivier Quenneville confirms the railway received the court order today.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said earlier that police would dismantle the blockade in St-Lambert as soon as an injunction was granted.

He says that because the blockade is not on First Nations land, it is easier for the government to take action.

He described the blockade, which was set up Wednesday, as on Quebec territory and "not on the territory of a First Nation."   

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A First Nation in British Columbia's southern Interior says some of its members have set up a barricade across Canadian Pacific rail lines east of Kamloops.

Members of the Neskonlith Indian Band say they set up the blockade this morning in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline over traditional territories in northwestern B.C.

RCMP are at the scene and Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson is also there in an effort to mediate.

A spokeswoman for Canadian Pacific says the company is monitoring the situation. (CHNL) 

———

The federal ministers responsible for Indigenous affairs say they're ready to meet with hereditary chiefs from the Wet'suwet'en First Nation while the chiefs are in Ontario and Quebec.

The traditional leaders of the B.C. first nation, who oppose a natural-gas pipeline project in their territory, are expected to visit Mohawks at Tyendinaga in Ontario and Kahanwake in Quebec.

The Mohawks have raised protests in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs, including one that has blocked a key rail line in eastern Ontario.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said on Parliament Hill today that they're eager to meet the Wet'suwet'en chiefs and would be happy to do it while they're close to Ottawa.

Bennett sent a letter yesterday saying she would be in northern B.C. today if they wanted to meet with her there, before it was apparent they wouldn't be present.

The RCMP say they're preparing to remove a temporary outpost on Wet'suwet'en territory, which the hereditary chiefs had set as a precondition for any talks, though they've since added a demand that the pipeline company also leave.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling for stronger federal leadership to resolve protests by anti-pipeline demonstrators opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia.

A statement issued by Ford's office says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must release a detailed plan and timeline for a nationwide solution to blockades that have crippled the movement of Canadian National freight trains and Via Rail passenger trains.

Ford says he is adding his voice to those of other provincial leaders calling for an urgent teleconference with Trudeau to discuss the situation.

The premier also says it's "imperative" that elected officials not direct police operational decisions and adds the government believes the provincial police force is "in the best position to ensure the protest remains peaceful.

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A spokeswoman for a Wet'suwet'in clan says the office that issues environmental certificates for the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern British Columbia reports the company has failed to meet the conditions of its permit.

The Dark House Unist'ot'en clan says the Environment Assessment Office has given Coastal GasLink, a wholly owned subsidiary of TC Energy, 30 days to provide more information.

A summary provided by a Kate Gunn, a lawyer representing the clan, says the Environment Assessment Office considered the clan's concerns and rejected the company's report outlining the impacts of the natural gas pipeline in an area that includes the Unist'ot'en Healing Centre.

The centre provides land-based healing practices to individuals experiencing the effects of intergenerational trauma and colonization.

Dark House says the Environmental Assessment Office issued its decision on Feb. 19, rejecting the Coastal GasLink report and ordering the company to provide more detail.

The decision came two weeks after enforcement of the injunction had been carried out and hereditary chiefs and their supporters had been removed from an exclusion zone around the pipeline southwest of Houston.

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The Mohawk Nation has announced it will be meeting with Wet'suwet'in hereditary chiefs in a "people's council" on Friday.

The nation says in a statement the gathering is being held to welcome the chiefs who have travelled from British Columbia and to discuss related political issues.

It says the meeting begins with a tobacco burning at daybreak and all Mohawks are invited to attend, while media and police are not welcome.

The statement says Mohawk respectfully ask that people leave their personal baggage and personal conflicts at the door in a gathering to celebrate friendship, healing, peace and optimism.

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The federal agriculture minister is indicating that help could soon be on the way for farmers impacted by barricades that have virtually shut down Canada’s rail network.

Marie-Claude Bibeau says 2019 and the beginning of this year have been difficult for Canada's agriculture sector.

She told reporters in Ottawa today that she is looking for "practical ways" to support farmers who have been unable to get their products to market as a result of the barricades, but could not elaborate, saying she needs to speak with her cabinet colleagues first.

Rail and road barricades have been erected in several locations across the country over the last two weeks in solidarity with the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose a pipeline project on their territory in northwestern B.C.

———

The RCMP confirms the commander of the Mountie's British Columbia division has sent a letter to Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, agreeing to discuss the future of a small contingent of officers stationed on traditional First Nation territory near the site of a disputed pipeline.

The letter from Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan says she is willing to meet with the chiefs to discuss what she calls the Community Industry Safety Office, located southwest of Houston along a road leading to the area where the Coastal GasLink pipeline is under construction.

Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says the letter states that if there is continued commitment to keep the road open, the need for the police presence is "diminished or decreased."

Shoihet says the letter was sent Wednesday. 

She says Strachan also sent an internal memo to all RCMP employees in B.C., offering her appreciation for their "professionalism" during recent enforcement of a court injunction ordering demonstrators away from the pipeline site.

The memo tells members that management is aware the presence of the RCMP contingent on the road is considered by hereditary chiefs as a barrier to further dialogue, and RCMP management supports efforts now underway to find a long-term solution to the issue.

———

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says police will dismantle a rail blockade in St-Lambert, south of Montreal, if a court grants an injunction.

He says the blockade that went up Wednesday is not on First Nations land, making it easier to take action.

The blockade in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia was erected on CN tracks, and has disrupted rail service for suburban commuters and travellers between Montreal and Quebec City.

A few dozen protesters, well stocked with supplies, tents, camping gear and firewood, are at the site today and say they plan to stay as long as RCMP remain on Wet'suwet'en lands.

Snow has been piled onto tracks, with signs strung across a cord hung between rail signals.

Protesters, who declined to give their names to reporters, describe themselves as supporters of the Wet'suwet'en and say they will take their direction from the B.C. First Nation's hereditary chiefs, who are contesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

——— 

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O'Toole says he would criminalize blockades of railways, air and seaports, major roads, businesses and households if he were prime minister.

The Ontario MP and former cabinet minister says police should clear blockades as soon as possible without having to wait for court injunctions.

Blockades set up in support of Indigenous protests of a natural-gas pipeline in British Columbia have halted rail traffic in Central Canada and temporarily blocked roads and bridges in spots across the country.

O'Toole also says he would take charitable status away from any group that accepts foreign contributions and encourages blockades.

To improve relations with Indigenous Peoples, O'Toole says he would fund an Aboriginal liaison officers in the RCMP.

———

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP have offered to move officers away from the area where traditional leaders of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation have been opposing a pipeline on their territory.

Blair says that meets the conditions set by the chiefs, who have demanded that Mounties leave their traditional lands southwest of Houston, B.C.

But yesterday Chief Na'moks, one of five hereditary clan chiefs who lead the First Nation under its traditional form of governance, said pipeline builder Coastal GasLink must also pull out of the traditional territory before any meeting with provincial and federal politicians can proceed.

Canada's minister in charge of Indigenous relations, Carolyn Bennett, and her B.C. counterpart Scott Fraser are in northern B.C. to meet with any of the hereditary chiefs who might be willing to talk.  

Na'moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he is attending a funeral and is unavailable to meet today, while the other four hereditary chiefs are expected in Mohawk territory to thank members of that Ontario First Nation for their solidarity.

Nationwide protests and blockades followed a move by RCMP to enforce a court injunction earlier this month against the hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been obstructing an access road to the company's work site.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press



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