Kahnawake demonstrators remove rail blockade but solidarity action continues

The Kanien’kéha (Mohawks) of Kahnawake have dismantled their Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstration that was blocking CP Rail tracks just south of Montreal.

Dozens of cars were part of the convoy as people left the site and began blocking traffic beneath the Mercier Bridge instead. Youth and women waved flags and carried banners. Trucks moved lumber and supplies. The tractor leading the convoy held an oil drum containing the still-burning sacred fire. Another tractor towed a shed that was installed by the fireside at the first blockade.

“The relocation is a gesture of good faith as the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are now taking time to deliberate on the proposed agreement that recognizes their legal title and authority over their ancestral lands,” said a Longhouse press release.

Hundreds of cars were jammed on the highway leading up onto the bridge for about an hour as the land defenders held a press conference.

“We have been working hard to ensure that outside governments, policing agencies and other entities do not interfere in the efforts taking place here,” Joseph Norton, grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, said in a press release.

An injunction was obtained to remove the blockade but the Peacekeepers, Kahnawake’s local police force, did not enforce it.

“Despite certain politicians losing their composure and certain media commentators fanning the flames of hatred, the Land Protectors never wavered in their message of support for their Wet’suwet’en brethren,” Norton added.

(Demonstrators speak to reporters after relocating their blockade. Photo: Lindsay Richardson/APTN).

Premier of Quebec Francois Legault previously claimed the demonstrators possessed AK-47 assault rifles. The comments were met with criticism and no evidence of weapons has emerged.

The blockade went up almost a month ago after the RCMP raided camps and checkpoints along the Morice West Forest Service Road on Wet’suwet’en territory, not far from Houston, B.C.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters were restricting access to that road as part of their opposition to the proposed Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project.

Twenty-eight people were arrested as the RCMP enforced an injunction on those disputed lands. Images of paramilitary police arresting people spawned solidarity actions that disrupted infrastructure across Canada.

People erected a camp close to CN Rail tracks that are just off Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. OPP arrested ten when they enforced an injunction against the camp on Feb. 24.

Five people were arrested on Wednesday evening at the B.C. legislature building at another solidarity action.

Demonstrators have said that actions would continue until the RCMP were off Wet’suwet’en territory and Coastal GasLink ceased work on its pipeline project.

The 670-kilometre pipe would carry natural gas from a hydraulic fracturing facility in Dawson Creek to Kitimat where it would be liquified and shipped to Asian markets.

The hereditary chiefs met with federal Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart Scott Fraser beginning on Feb. 27.

Those talks resulted in a draft arrangement on rights and title but no progress on the issues of RCMP patrols or pipeline construction.

The hereditary chiefs now have to bring that draft back to their nation for ratification. There’s no timeline on how long that may take.

This story will be updated as details emerge.

-With files from Lindsay Richardson