Police intervention in Kahnawake would be act of provocation, Mohawk community says

“Ultimately, coercive state-sponsored force is the wrong way to make peace.”

Protesters reinforced a rail blockade on Kahnawake Mohawk territory south of Montreal on Wednesday as the community warned that any police efforts to forcibly remove the site would be seen as an act of aggression and provocation.

The secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Kenneth Deer, said in a statement that any move to enforce an injunction granted to Canadian Pacific Railway would “exacerbate an already volatile situation.”

The rail company obtained an injunction on Tuesday to end the blockade that began Feb. 8, one of several such protests in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline cutting across their traditional territory.

But Deer said protesters have no intention of leaving and need to be prepared for a possible intervention by outside police.

“Ultimately, coercive state-sponsored force is the wrong way to make peace,” Deer said.

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Meanwhile, rail disruptions resumed in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., not far from the scene of a major Ontario Provincial Police operation earlier in the week that dismantled a blockade that had thwarted all train traffic in the area for more than two weeks.

OPP spokesman Bill Dickson said a handful of protesters lit fires near and on railway tracks at a secondary camp that remained in place after Monday’s raid.

He said Canadian National Railway began inspecting the tracks after police and firefighters extinguished the blaze. Freight train service appeared to resume shortly afterwards.

Further west, the agency responsible for a major commuter rail service covering much of southern Ontario said it was not anticipating any of the delays and cancellations that brought trains to a standstill during the Tuesday rush hour.

(Mohawk flag flies over rail tracks. APTN file)

Metrolinx, operator of the GO Transit network, suspended service on multiple routes as a series of protests sprang up in and around Toronto.

City police said they arrested three people at the demonstrations. They said in a tweet Wednesday morning that officers provided protesters with an injunction and began moving them from rail tracks.

The blockade had threatened to delay morning commutes west of the city, but police said the rail line has been cleared and most commuter rail lines were running on time or with minor delays.

Demonstrators also set up new sites in Ontario and Quebec this week, though some dispersed or were dismantled in less than a day.

A protest at a Hamilton GO station caused numerous cancellations and delays starting Monday evening, but local police said protesters left the blockade site in the city peacefully at around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

READ MORE: ‘Historic’ meeting between Mohawk and Wet’suwet’en Nations occurs in Kahnawake

Other new disruptions that surfaced Tuesday included a blockade along a highway near the site of an ongoing land dispute in Caledonia, Ont., and one along a stretch of rail in Sherbrooke, Que., about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

Police moved in to end the Sherbrooke blockade on Tuesday afternoon, arresting protesters who had blocked a rail line in the city’s Lennoxville district. The protest along Highway 6 in Ontario remains active.

Several high-profile blockades were also dismantled by police in B.C. and Ontario earlier this week.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, whose opposition to the Coastal GasLink project has spurred the widespread protests and disruptions, were meeting in British Columbia on Wednesday. Federal officials said they were waiting to hear whether the hereditary chiefs would invite them and their provincial counterparts to discuss the issue.

One of the hereditary chiefs, Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, suggested progress was being made in reaching the conditions they have set for such a meeting to take place.