Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are set to land in Ontario to speak with protesters at a rail blockade that has stopped traffic in Ontario for the last 15 days, and most of Canada for over a week.
On Thursday, Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair announced that RCMP will be offering to leave unceded lands in northern British Columbia, trying to meet the conditions of those holding rail protests that have appeared across the country for two weeks.
It was RCMP’s initial occupation of Wet’suwet’en land — following an injunction granted by the B.C. Supreme Court allowing them to move onto the property to make way for the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction — that launched the series of protest blockades.
The demonstration in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., started on Feb. 6, just hours after RCMP entered Wet’suwet’en land. Although other blockades have popped up around the country, the one in Tyendinaga has been unflappable, and is the longest-running solidarity protest action.
So now that the original demand for RCMP to leave is being met, what does that mean for the blockade in Tyendinaga?
Although protesters originally set up at the rail crossing at Wyman Road in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en, the Tyendinaga protest, just metres away from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, seems to have grown in scope.
Protesters have not granted Global News interviews since last week, but before the blockade was shut down to media, one protester passionately spoke to the media, saying the protest was an action against the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada as a whole.
“My loved ones are living in conditions of a third world country. My people are homeless on their own land,” Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, an activist from Attawapiskat First Nation said. “No longer will we be subjugated, no longer will be we dehumanized, no longer will you terrorize us for free. That’s not happening anymore, because guess it’s our children that we’re burying, it’s my child that I’m burying.”
Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller met with protesters Saturday in a meeting near the blockade, followed by a private meeting, where Miller said discussions about Indigenous treatment led to some “modest progress.” Nevertheless, there were reports of meeting-goers “storming out” of the private gathering, seeming unsatisfied.
Signs originally set up Feb. 7, when the blockade in Tyendinaga appeared in full force, have messages that say “#RCMP get out.” Otherwise, the group gathered at Tyendinaga has not made any public demands.
Tuesday, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a press conference in Ottawa that he believed if RCMP left Wet’suwet’en land, the blockades would be lifted.
According to Tyendinaga Mohawk Chief Donald Maracle, the group in charge of the blockade has not been taking direction from the Mohawk band council.
But it’s unclear what will bring the Tyendinaga blockade and, as a result, the halted rail traffic to an end.
Although cancellations were sporadic at first, depending on where the blockades were, on Feb. 13, both CN and Via Rail announced they would be suspending rail travel across the country, save two Via Rail routes.
On Wednesday, Via got the go-ahead from CN to start using certain eastern Ontario lines for passenger travel.
As of Thursday, Via’s website said it is offering full service in southern Ontario, partial service between Montreal and Ottawa during the week and full service between Montreal and Ottawa on weekends. Trips between Montreal and Quebec City are cancelled due to another blockade.
CN will be continuing the shutdown of its rail system in Eastern Canada, saying it would be too risky to run trains on lines that might see blockades appear suddenly.