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

Port Alberni’s Lauren Spencer-Smith advances to American Idol top 20

Teen performs Respect at outdoor concert in Hawaii

Former Alberni Valley Bulldog Eric Margo shows heart on and off ice

Queen’s University Gaels forward blends hockey with humanitarianism

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

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

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

Woman arrested in Nanaimo after attempted RV break-in with owner inside

Incident happened April 1 in the 700 block of Drake Street

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

Most Read