A protester stands between Mohawk Warrior Society flags at a rail blockade on the tenth day of demonstration in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in talks over the weekend with federal cabinet ministers as protesters opposed to a pipeline project in British Columbia continued to halt train service across parts of the country.

Trudeau’s spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said Sunday the prime minister had already spoken to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Gagnon said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also briefed Trudeau about his hours-long meeting Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk First Nation near Belleville, Ont., where a rail blockade has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada.

Gagnon did not reveal what Miller told the prime minister, and said the government would provide updates as they become available.

Miller said during an appearance on CTV’s “Question Period” political show on Sunday that he believes a peaceful resolution could be reached as he pointed to the Oka and Ipperwash crises as reasons why dialogue is preferable over police intervention.

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades, which have been erected to protest the Coastal GasLink project in northern B.C., which is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.

Tyendinaga Chief Donald Maracle said he was not involved in Saturday’s talks and declined comment. Members of the First Nation at the blockade declined comment.

A spokesman for Miller said he was not available for an interview on Sunday.

After meeting with members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk First Nation on Saturday, Miller said “modest progress” was made, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

“We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There’s a lot more work to be done,” he said.

Miller said the focus of the discussions was on the natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia and is opposed by their hereditary chiefs. But he said other issues arose as well, without going into detail on what else was raised.

“The underlying issues did not arrive yesterday, they’ve been present in this community for hundreds of years.”

Members of the Gitxsan First Nation temporarily took down a rail blockade near Hazelton, B.C., Thursday pending a proposed meeting with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, provincial and federal governments.

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would be available as soon as arrangements for the meeting are made. B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said he will represent the provincial government.

But while the talks have been represented as a joint meeting with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en chiefs to engage in dialogue on how the impasse over the pipeline development arose, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chief says leaders of his First Nation will only participate as witnesses.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting was proposed by the neighbouring Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en chiefs planned to honour the invitation.

“We have a willingness to move forward positively, we still have that in our hearts,” he said Sunday, while adding the Wet’suwet’en chiefs won’t budge on the pipeline.

“Our answer isn’t going to change. The pipeline won’t happen on our territory.”

Blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, including GO Transit services between Toronto and Barrie being affected on Saturday.

CN obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration near Belleville on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

The company obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.

An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline. More than two dozen protesters were arrested for refusing to obey it.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

— With files from Salmaan Farooqui in Tyendinaga, Ont., and Amy Smart in Vancouver.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City councillors decide not to waive business license fines in Rossland for 2020

Instead, the city will try to issue business license refunds for business struggling financially due to COVID-19

Castlegar wedding shows love conquers all

Brandon Melanson and Kimberly Patricia Melanson were married at Millennium Park last week.

Selkirk College starts COVID-19 emergency fund for students

The college has set aside up to $30,000 in matching funds for donations

New multi-use trail network coming to Red Mountain in Rossland

Kootenay Columbia Trails Society will help to build 5.8 kilometres worth of trails this summer

FortisBC offers 90-day bill deferrals to customers impacted by COVID-19

Customers can apply for the relief program through the utility’s website

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Most Read