Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is ruling out military intervention when it comes to dismantling rail blockades as the union president for Quebec provincial police asks for assistance.
“Our focus is very much on resolving this peacefully for the long term,” Trudeau told reporters in Saint-Jérôme, Que., on Wednesday. “But, as I’ve said many times, I do not think it is ever appropriate to send in the military against Canadian citizens.”
His remarks come on the heels of a letter from Pierre Veilleux, the president of the union representing 5,400 Sûreté du Québec police officers, to Quebec Premier François Legault.
Veilleux has requested the assistance of the Canadian Forces if police are sent to take down the longstanding barricade in Kahnawake, a Mohawk community located south of Montreal.
The union head made the demand after Legault claimed last week that there were powerful and dangerous firearms in the area, including AK-47s. Veilleux asked for army assistance if police are sent to intervene where guns are allegedly located.
Legault’s comments have sparked widespread criticism from residents in the community and other parts of Quebec, who demanded the premier apologize. Legault, for his part, has stood firm on his claims.
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Trudeau said on Wednesday that he has full confidence in the provinces and their police forces to intervene in ongoing blockades if necessary.
“As people know, it’s really important that we settle this issue with blockades in a peaceful manner in a way that will be lasting,” he said.
In Kahnawake, the rail blockade has been up since Feb. 10 in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia who oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory.
While a draft agreement was struck on land rights last week, members of the Mohawk community say they are waiting to see if the Wet’suwet’en approve the deal before dismantling the barricade.
— With files from the Canadian Press