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Wet’suwet’en protests: Here’s what’s happening across Canada

Railway blockade remains after protesters meet with Indigenous Services Minister
WATCH: Railway blockade remains after protesters meet with Indigenous Services Minister

Tensions remain high across Canada as railway blockades and protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs enter a third week.

While the dispute over the 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline goes back years, nationwide demonstrations started earlier this month after the RCMP began enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that would clear the way for construction.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block CN rail lines in East Vancouver, Amtrak affected

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route but the $6.6-billion liquefied natural gas pipeline is opposed by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who claim rights over the unceded land the pipeline will pass through.

Face-to-face meetings begin as nation-wide protests grind rail traffic to a halt
Face-to-face meetings begin as nation-wide protests grind rail traffic to a halt

The chiefs and their supporters are calling on the B.C. government to withdraw permissions for the project to proceed.

Across the country, groups have rallied in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation, blocking rails, streets, bridges and ports. Via Rail has cancelled most of its service across Canada, and CN has shut down its rail network in Eastern Canada, halting freight traffic.

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READ MORE: Coastal GasLink says alternate pipeline route proposed by Wet’suwet’en chiefs not ‘feasible’

Industry groups have warned that the protests could cause layoffs and shortages of goods.

Here’s a quick look at what happened across the country over the weekend — and what we can expect this week.

British Columbia

Demonstrators opposed to Coastal GasLink pipeline project target Vancouver rail lines
Demonstrators opposed to Coastal GasLink pipeline project target Vancouver rail lines

Dozens of protesters who support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs blocked CN Rail lines in East Vancouver on Saturday. There was also a small demonstration at a Kelowna highway overpass.

One participant, Jewel Gillies, told Global News that the Kelowna rally was “another solidarity action that’s happening all across the nation to continue to raise awareness around what’s happening with the Wet’suwet’en people and their lands.”

READ MORE: Coastal GasLink opponents return to northern B.C. camps, but say workers still allowed in

Meanwhile, supporters of the hereditary chiefs said they had returned to camps along a road leading to a Coastal GasLink worksite near Houston, B.C., where 28 people were arrested when the RCMP enforced the injunction earlier this month.

Members of the First Nation have also said they are maintaining the eviction order served to Coastal GasLink to leave their traditional territories.

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Over the weekend, a social media account of the Gidimt’en clan — one of five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation — posted a video showing an RCMP officer pointing a firearm at a protester earlier in February.

Prairies

After occupying a room in the office of Winnipeg MP Dan Vandal for 11 days, a group of youth protesters decided to go home on Saturday.

One of the protesters, Carter Graveline, said the group did everything they could.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters leave Winnipeg MP’s office after 11 days

“We really do feel that Dan Vandal has failed us, either by taking way too long with commitments or just not really giving commitments at all,” Graveline said.

The group had called on Vandal, the northern affairs minister, to condemn the actions of the RCMP in B.C.

Regina rallies in solidarity while Saskatchewan stakeholders worry about blockade
Regina rallies in solidarity while Saskatchewan stakeholders worry about blockade

On Sunday in Regina, supporters blocked off the Albert Memorial Bridge for a second week in a row.

“We’re hoping to send a clear message to the Regina public that we are not in agreement with what’s happening there,” said co-organizer Wendy Lynn Lerat.

“There’s growing support and we’re doing our part.”

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Ontario and Quebec

The rail blockade at Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., entered its twelfth day Monday.

Indigenous Services minister says solving rail blockades must be done ‘the right way’
Indigenous Services minister says solving rail blockades must be done ‘the right way’

On Saturday, federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller visited the blockade and had a meeting with community members that lasted at least eight hours.

While Miller refrained from disclosing much of what was said, he said he would relay messages to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet in order to move forward “in respect and peace.”

Trudeau met with the “Incident Response Group” — a selection of cabinet ministers — on Monday to discuss the situation. They were tight-lipped about what was decided.

Mere hours after the meeting wrapped up, protesters set up a new blockade in Ontario, this time at the Thousand Islands Bridge to the United States.

The bridge is located in Gananoque, just east of Kingston.

Thousand Islands Bridge Authority told Global News that the demonstration is affecting both directions on the bridge — entry to Canada from the U.S. and entry to the U.S. from Canada.

Railway blockade remains after protesters meet with Indigenous Services Minister
Railway blockade remains after protesters meet with Indigenous Services Minister

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block rail lines in Vaughan

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Demonstrations also took place for several hours at a rail yard north of Toronto, on Saturday. CN said the protesters were trespassing on active tracks.

The company said it had obtained court orders to end that blockade, as well as the one in Vancouver.

Pipeline protest disrupts train service on Exo’s Candiac line
Pipeline protest disrupts train service on Exo’s Candiac line

A railway blockade is also taking place in Kahnawake, Que., near Montreal. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office Sunday said Miller had been engaging with the protesters there as well.

As of Sunday evening, train service on Exo’s Candiac line remained suspended, according to the transit operator’s website, though shuttle buses are running.

READ MORE: Tyendinaga Mohawk chief agrees to meet Indigenous services minister to discuss Ontario blockade

Maritimes

Wet’suwet’en Nation supporters gather at Confederation Bridge
Wet’suwet’en Nation supporters gather at Confederation Bridge

On Sunday, demonstrators gathered on the P.E.I. side of the Confederation Bridge in support of the hereditary chiefs.

The protesters, who waved flags and signs in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation, did not block traffic on the bridge, the only road link between P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

What’s to come

Late Sunday, as protests continued, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office announced he would not be taking a scheduled visit to Barbados to meet with Caribbean leaders.

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On Monday, Trudeau has scheduled a meeting of the incident response group — a working group of cabinet ministers who respond to crises — to discuss “steps forward,” his office said Sunday.

Trudeau cancels Barbados trip amid rail blockades
Trudeau cancels Barbados trip amid rail blockades

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser are looking to meet with the hereditary chiefs this week.

“We are open and available at the soonest opportunity,” she said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Via Rail said that almost all of its train service remains cancelled until further notice. As of Monday afternoon, 470 trains had been cancelled and more than 94,000 passengers affected due to the blockades, according to a statement.

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Because CN shut down its rail network in Eastern Canada on Feb. 13, all Via routes with the exception of the Sudbury-White River and Churchill-The Pas are not operating.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en Nation supporters gather at Confederation Bridge

Via Rail says it’s not accepting any bookings for travel before Feb. 21.

–With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton, Hannah Lepine, Kamil Karamali, Maryam Shah, Joe Scarpelli, Alexander Quon, Mickey Djuric  and The Canadian Press