RCMP agrees to leave Wet’suwet’en territory, feds call for ‘urgent’ talks

Click to play video: 'RCMP officers responsible for maintaining peace: Blair'
RCMP officers responsible for maintaining peace: Blair
WATCH: Bill Blair says RCMP officers are responsible for maintaining peace – Feb 20, 2020

RCMP in British Columbia have offered to move away from a barricaded area and withdraw from Wet’suwet’en territory, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Blair described the move as a sound decision. He said RCMP would remain in the nearby town of Houston.

While the RCMP has made the offer to the hereditary chiefs in a letter, it’s unclear what the exact next steps will be amid the ongoing blockades.

Blair said he believes barricades set up in solidarity with the Indigenous leaders should now come down.

“I’m very proud of the work that was done by the leadership of the RCMP. Their commitment to peaceful resolution of these complex issues is, I think, quite commendable and Canadians should be very proud of the work that they do,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'Trudeau government remains uncertain on resolution to blockades'
Trudeau government remains uncertain on resolution to blockades

“It’s moving towards a less confrontational and a more peaceable arrangement entirely appropriate to the circumstances, and I’m very hopeful that will satisfy the concerns that were raised.”

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Protests and blockades over the construction of a Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory have persisted for a second week, causing disruptions of railway services.

The demonstrations started when the RCMP began enforcing a court-ordered injunction in Wet’suwet’en territory, meant to clear the way for construction of the pipeline project, which does not have the support of all the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure to end the blockades, with Conservatives calling for the government to use force, while the Liberal government insists negotiations are the only way to a lasting solution.

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Trudeau is expected to hold a telephone meeting with premiers across the country Thursday afternoon, in order to update them on the situation.

Click to play video: 'RCMP offer to withdraw from the Wet’suwet’en territory'
RCMP offer to withdraw from the Wet’suwet’en territory

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller spoke to reporters hours after Blair’s announcement, saying the federal government is now hoping to enter dialogue “on an urgent basis.”

“This is an opportunity to get everyone around the table, which is precisely what everyone asked for,” he said.

“Everyone wants to take the air out of this balloon in the most controlled way, the problem most people are coming to us with a pin, and that’s not the right solution.”

Click to play video: '‘We need to continue to push this dialogue further’: Lametti on Canada’s railway blockades'
‘We need to continue to push this dialogue further’: Lametti on Canada’s railway blockades

Justice Minister David Lametti also spoke about the ongoing situation Thursday, stressing the importance of making progress in resolving disagreements with dialogue.

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“We’re prioritizing dialogue. We know that people are hurting because of this, we also know that First Nations have been hurting for a long time in Canada, economically and otherwise,” he said.

Lametti said he is hoping for a peaceful resolution that “builds for the future.”

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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