Advertisement

Wet’suwet’en protests: New blockades spring up in Canada after Tyendinaga arrests

Click to play video 'Bill Blair reiterates rail blockades are ‘unacceptable’, says legal recourse may be necessary' Bill Blair reiterates rail blockades are ‘unacceptable’, says legal recourse may be necessary
WATCH: Bill Blair reiterates rail blockades are 'unacceptable', says legal recourse may be necessary – Feb 25, 2020

Support for anti-pipeline protests in British Columbia show no signs of slowing as protesters rallying for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set up new blockades across the country Tuesday.

The swell in demonstrations came one day after Ontario Provincial Police dismantled a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., resulting in the arrest of 10 people.

The blockade had been up for nearly three weeks, snarling rail traffic across a significant swath of Ontario and Quebec and bringing CN Rail and Via Rail service to a standstill. The first CN train travelled through the area before sunrise on Tuesday.

The use of force by police in Tyendinaga angered Indigenous leaders, community members and advocacy groups who had hoped for a peaceful resolution.

It wasn’t long before several new blockades were set up across the country.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Timeline of Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests and the dispute that sparked them

On Monday, just mere hours after the Tyendinaga blockade was torn down, protesters established a new blockade on rail tracks in Hamilton. It forced provincial Crown agency GO Transit to suspend service between Niagara, Hamilton and St. Catharines.

The group was served an injunction from CN to leave the area shortly after they arrived, according to the Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity Facebook page, which has claimed responsibility for the blockade. The protesters responded by burning the injunction and posting a photograph of the fire.

“We’re not leaving as long as it’s possible for us to be here,” the post reads. However, police said protesters left the site peacefully at around 5 p.m. Tuesday after being issued additional injunction notices.

Later Tuesday, two popular train routes on the west and east end of Toronto were briefly suspended Tuesday by new rail blockades, tangling train traffic in the area. The protesters were cleared from the site at around 3 a.m. Wednesday. A number of people were arrested, though there was no word on possible charges.

A similar show of support emerged in Caledonia, Ont. that night, closing a highway near the Six Nations reserve.

Click to play video 'A new wave of blockades spring up in B.C.' A new wave of blockades spring up in B.C.
A new wave of blockades spring up in B.C – Feb 25, 2020

In British Columbia, protesters quickly occupied rail lines near New Hazelton and Maple Ridge, resulting in numerous arrests. Both blockades were cleared by police before the end of the day.

Story continues below advertisement

At the Port of Vancouver — a hotspot for demonstrations since the dispute ballooned this year — dozens of protesters defied an ongoing injunction for the area and blocked a key intersection. Around the same time, more protesters flocked to the B.C. legislature.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en protests have become ‘intertwined’ with other issues, Bennett says

In Quebec, protesters obstructed roads and railways in the Kanesatake and Kahnawake communities, the latter being where a key blockade has been in place for weeks.

Protests in Winnipeg and Halifax also emerged.

While the police action in Tyendinaga has cleared the way for some train service to resume, the blockades in other parts of the country are further complicating an already complex situation.

Click to play video 'Police dismantle Ontario rail blockade, arrest protesters' Police dismantle Ontario rail blockade, arrest protesters
Police dismantle Ontario rail blockade, arrest protesters – Feb 24, 2020

While CN said Monday it was pleased the “illegal blockade” in Ontario had come to an end, the company offered no indication on when service would resume through the area.

Story continues below advertisement

The railway said it was “aware of the situation” in Hamilton and “monitoring it closely,” but could not say whether it would hinder operations.

Via Rail, meanwhile, said it would resume service between Montreal and Halifax beginning Friday.

As CN scrambles to get trains back on track, Canada’s supply chain is already at a “tipping point” because of the cancellations, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) said Tuesday.

Click to play video 'Farmers ‘severely, harshly’ impacted by rail blockades: Canadian Federation of Agriculture president' Farmers ‘severely, harshly’ impacted by rail blockades: Canadian Federation of Agriculture president
Farmers ‘severely, harshly’ impacted by rail blockades: Canadian Federation of Agriculture president – Feb 25, 2020

Much of the concern rests on a looming propane shortage caused by delayed shipments. The product is relied upon heavily throughout branches of Canada’s agriculture sector, including to dry grain and heat barns. It is also vital for some retirement homes and health centres, which use it for drying clothes.

In Quebec alone, more than 80 per cent of all propane is delivered by rail. The lingering dispute on Canada’s railway has forced many industries to ration supplies — which won’t last forever.

Story continues below advertisement

Under current rationing, the shipments should be enough to last seven to 10 days at the most.

“The kind of stress this puts on farmers and their communities is difficult to convey,” said CFA President Mary Robinson.

READ MORE: Confusion sparks between Indigenous affairs ministers and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Protesters across the country have rallied for weeks in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who oppose the development of a natural gas pipeline project that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern B.C.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the pipeline cannot proceed without their consent, despite the fact Coastal GasLink has received support from a number of elected band councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route.

Click to play video 'Miller says government ‘remains open to dialogue’ following OPP dismantling of Tyendinaga Mohawk rail blockade' Miller says government ‘remains open to dialogue’ following OPP dismantling of Tyendinaga Mohawk rail blockade
Miller says government ‘remains open to dialogue’ following OPP dismantling of Tyendinaga Mohawk rail blockade – Feb 24, 2020

The move to tear down the Ontario blockade followed growing political pressure directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On Friday, Trudeau demanded that the injunctions be enforced, saying “every attempt at dialogue” had been made but that discussions “had not been productive.”

Story continues below advertisement

“The injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld,” he said at the time.

The hereditary chiefs met in northern B.C. on Monday to plan their next steps.

READ MORE: Coastal Gaslink says Wet’suwet’en alternative route not ‘feasible’ — here’s why

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the chiefs discussed a “step plan for de-escalation” with B.C. RCMP, however, he provided no other details about the meeting.

He said the lines of communication remain open between the government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, despite what happened Monday in Tyendinaga.

He said he remains confident that the dispute will be resolved peacefully and respectfully.

“A lot of this has to do with back and forth… discussions and negotiations in some cases that have or haven’t occurred, that’s been frustrating,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “But at the same time, based on the optimism from my call on Friday with the chiefs, there is some path to resolve this in a peaceful way.”

— with files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ David Lao and Nick Westoll