Quebec’s premier is calling on Ottawa to set a firm deadline to deal with ongoing blockades disrupting train service on railways across the country.
François Legault adopted a harsher tone at the province’s legislature on Wednesday morning, saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to “show leadership” in the coming days.
“We have to respect Indigenous Peoples and listen to them but we also need to listen to Canadians, to Quebecers,” he said.
If the deadline isn’t met, Legault said police could be called in to put an end to the rail stoppages.
“What I say is we cannot exclude to use police but it has to be done in co-ordination with every province at the same time,” he said.
Legault went on to describe the nationwide protests as an illegal action that is threatening people’s livelihood. He has also claimed that the province is on the verge of facing a shortage of goods, including propane.
“This blockade, which is illegal, really must be ended,” he said.
Federal ministers responded to Legault’s demand for a deadline on Wednesday, saying it wasn’t the right decision.
“Imposing deadlines is not an effective way to negotiate,” said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault echoed those statements, saying “ultimatums are not the way to get things done.”
The blockades in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs in British Columbia who oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through unceded territory began two weeks ago.
Demonstrations spilled out across Canada after the RCMP arrested demonstrators following a B.C. Supreme Court injunction in December that required workers be given unobstructed access to the worksite.
The House of Commons held an emergency debate over the rail blockades on Tuesday night, with members criticizing Trudeau during the debate and calling for action.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau said it was “past time” for a resolution but offered no clear answers on what action the government would be willing to take.
In Montreal, the blockade on tracks in Kahnawake on the city’s south shore has lasted nearly two weeks. The protest has forced the cancellation of a commuter rail line with no end in sight.
Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton told Global News on Wednesday that he has been working “day and night” to come up with a solution in a bid to resolve the blockade. However, he said Indigenous people need to be taken seriously as owners of their traditional lands.
“Once the situation is over, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of it,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Jean-Vincent Verville, Benson Cook, Emerald Bensadoun and the Canadian Press