The blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day. (The Canadian Press)

Federal Indigenous services minister meets First Nation at rail blockade

Blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day

The federal Indigenous services minister began meetings Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk Nation to discuss a rail blockade that has shut down rail services across Eastern Canada.

Marc Miller said he didn’t want to predict the outcome of his meetings, adding that talk between the two sides is needed as members of the Mohawk Nation block the line in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en in their opposition to a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territory in northern B.C.

“This is a situation that is very tense, very volatile, there are some people that have been standing out there for days, so today is a chance to talk and have a real discussion,” he said.

“We’re a nation of people who have stopped talking to each other. We tweet, we make statements on Facebook, we go around asking, condemning, but we’re not talking.”

He met with protesters at the blockade before travelling further into the First Nation for a private meeting.

The blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day.

READ MORE: CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

Miller requested the meeting to “polish the silver covenant chain,” which the Mohawks say refers to one of the original agreements between the First Nation and the Crown.

Similar blockades across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, with pressure mounting on the federal government to end them.

As he arrived in Tyendinaga, Miller said the blockades have been divisive.

“All of Canada is hurting,” he added. “The economy is slowing down. Everyone knows the reports about supply shortages, but we can’t move forward without dialogue.”

He also acknowledged that First Nations have felt alienated in Canada.

“I can’t guarantee what the outcome will be. It isn’t mine to judge,” the minister said. “And so I’m here to discuss in peace and friendship with a bunch of people that haven’t felt part of this country.”

Canadian National Railway obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

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, which is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.

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.

A growing number of business leaders and industry groups called for government or police intervention in the shutdowns, and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took up the cry on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the disruptions must be resolved through dialogue, not by ordering in the police. He acknowledged the difficulties the blockades have caused for travellers and businesses, but he said the federal government has no plans to make the RCMP dismantle them.

“We are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters,” Trudeau said in Munich, Germany, where he was attending a global security conference.

“We are a country that recognizes the right to protest, but we are a country of the rule of law. And we will ensure that everything is done to resolve this through dialogue and constructive outcomes.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkPipeline

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

Just Posted

Deadline passes for ‘unattractive’ Port Alberni building

Squash and Billiards Club on Third Avenue has been under construction for several years

Teachers in Port Alberni show the love for their students

Virtual message meant to give families hope in uncertain times

Port Alberni’s Judy Plater works magic with a chainsaw

Bald eagle carving unveiled at Alberni Valley Golf Club

EDITORIAL: Port Alberni’s loud thanks well deserved

Stay at home, stay the course so we can beat coronavirus

ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre looking for artists to exhibit in 2021

Gallery is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Most Read