Rail demonstrators in Quebec are holding strong despite ‘mixed feelings’ over proposed Wet’suwet’en agreement

Mohawk demonstrators gathered at a makeshift encampment at Adirondack Junction in Kahnawake, just south of Montreal, say their barricade will not come down until they receive “clarification” on the proposed agreement between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, province of B.C. and the federal government.

After news of the proposed agreement broke Sunday evening, Kenneth Deer, secretary for the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake, told reporters “more discussions need to be had.”

A closed-door community meeting planned for Monday night is expected to draw hundreds. Until then, no decisions about the blockade will be made, he said.

“The people at the fire on the hill say they want to sit down and really go over what was announced [Sunday], and get a little bit more information before they make a decision on what to do,” Deer told reporters.

According to Deer, some hereditary chiefs expressed ambivalence about the agreement in a phone conversation Sunday, after the series of trilateral meetings took place.

Those gathered at the freight rail blockade in Kahnawake are expressing similar mixed feelings, he added.

“The recognition of the hereditary chiefs by the federal government, I think, is significant,” he said. “However, the issue of the pipeline is still not resolved. And that’s a very big issue.

“Not only for the Wet’suwet’en Chiefs, but for everybody.”

One concern, Deer explained, is the draft agreement addressing concerns about custodianship of Wet’suwet’en territory.

The lack of direct action on the pipeline issue is another.

CGL announced over the weekend that they’d be resuming works in the Morris Lake region as of Monday – a source of great disappointment and “mixed feelings” among the demonstrators in Kahnawake.

“We were hoping they would really consider the re-routing of it,” Deer said.

Equally concerning to the Kahnawake Longhouse is the lack of clarity on the “stance or location of the RCMP,” Deer said.

On Friday, Grand Chief Joe Norton extended an offer to send members of the local police force, the Kahnawake Peacekeepers, to lead an Indigenous police force to relieve RCMP officers on the ground in British Columbia – an offer that both Public Security Minister Bill Blair and the hereditary chiefs declined.

Two other solidarity groups are similarly concerned with RCMP action in Wet’suwet’en territory, resulting in the creation of two new railway blockades around Montreal.

On Saturday night, an anonymous group sent out a mass party invitation to a “Railway Ruckus” at Champ-des-possibles, a park parallel to a CN Rail line in the Mile End neighbourhood.

“The party ends when ‘Canada’ respects Wet’suwet’en territorial authority!” the invite read.

About 20 demonstrators dispersed after about two hours, according to Montreal Police. No arrests were made.

On Monday afternoon, another group using a Twitter account called “SW Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en,” posted a public call-out for another blockade and support rally, this time on a CN train bridge in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood.

Suspending banners reading “Wet’suwet’en Strong” and “F**k Colonialism” across the tracks, the group dispersed a few hours later, after moving their protest into the streets.

“CN is aware of the new protests on its network. We are keeping a close watch on the situation,” a CN media representative said in an email.

In the Mi’gmaq community of Listuguj, in Quebec’s Gaspésie Region, an ongoing CN rail blockade is creating tension among residents.

In response to a provisional injunction obtained by the Procureure générale du Québec, the Listiguj Mi’gmaq Government (LMG) said in a statement last Friday though “disheartened,” they had “no intention of forcefully removing peaceful protesors” from the rail line on Gospem Road.

In a Facebook live video posted from the site on Saturday night, land defender Alexander Morrison explains that CN police retreated after discussions about letting a scheduled train pass through the blockade.

“The train was called off, the police are leaving, the train is stopped,” Morrison said, addressing the camera. “We don’t know what repercussions we’re gonna be facing for it.”

In a public Facebook post, Darren Methot – another demonstrator –said that the trains were carrying important windmill supplies meant for both Listiguj and its sister community of Gesgapegiag, and that the Listuguj chief asked him to communicate with fellow land defenders to ask them to temporarily stand down.

The Listiguj Mi’gmaq government did not respond to an APTN News request for an update by deadline.

On Tuesday, Listuguj Chief Darcy Gray told APTN that he never told blockaders to leave the tracks – only to be safe when a train does come near.

Reporter / Montreal

Lindsay was born and raised on the unceded territory of Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), and joined APTN News as a Quebec correspondent in 2019. While in university, she collaborated on a multiplatform project about the revitalization of the Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) language to commemorate the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Before APTN Lindsay worked at the Eastern Door, CTV Montreal and the Montreal Gazette.