Rail blockade by Tyendinaga Mohawk remains after police deadline passes
Trudeau informed premiers of measures being taken to ensure critical needs are addressed as blockade impacts economy.
TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY, Ont. — Ontario Provincial Police and CN Rail reportedly gave protesters until midnight Feb. 23 to clear a rail blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, or face an investigation and possible criminal charges.
But the deadline came and went, and the blockade near Belleville, Ont., that has crippled both freight and passenger rail traffic in most of eastern Canada for nearly three weeks remained in place Monday morning.
The barricades are a response to a move by the RCMP to clear protesters who had been blocking access to a Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline worksite on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern BC.
Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation oppose the work on their traditional territory, despite support from elected band councils along the pipeline route.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by phone with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Quebec Premier Francois Legault, and BC’s John Horgan “to discuss the railway blockades and the impacts they are having across the country on Canadians and the economy.”
According to a statement from the PMO, Trudeau informed the premiers of measures being taken to ensure that critical needs are addressed, including propane, chemicals to treat drinking water, and essential agricultural products.
“We will remain in close contact with all provinces to address urgent needs as required, and we will continue to support co-ordinated efforts to find a resolution,” the statement said.
Trudeau and the premiers also reiterated their commitment to resolving the situation peacefully.
On Aug. 21, the prime minister said the barricades had to come down and injunctions ordering the tracks cleared needed to be enforced.
However, Wet’suwet’en Heredity Chief Na’moks, also known as John Ridsdale, said Trudeau’s “antagonistic” speech had just the opposite effect.
“If the prime minister had not made that speech the Mohawks would have taken down everything,” he said. “They were ready. We were on the phone.”
Na’moks said all five hereditary chiefs were expected to meet in northern BC Feb. 24 to plan their next steps and talks with the RCMP could resume on Feb. 27 at the earliest.
He said the chiefs will not budge from their demands for the Mounties to remove every component of a mobile unit from their territory before meeting with them.
Dawn Roberts, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, said the mobile unit had been temporarily closed and discussions were underway with the deputy commissioner about its future.
The chiefs visited supporters this week in Tyendinaga and Kahnawake south of Montreal, and repeated that their conditions for talks to begin had not been met.