Sarnia rail blockade enters fourth day, police have no intention of shutting it down: Mayor

As members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation enter their fourth day of blocking a railway line running through their reserve in Sarnia, Ont., the mayor of the city is now questioning why Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t just meet with First Nation leaders, the main demand of the protesters.

By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
As members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation enter their fourth day of blocking a railway line running through their reserve in Sarnia, Ont., the mayor of the city is now questioning why Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t just meet with First Nation leaders, the main demand of the protesters.

The Aamjiwnaang protesters say they’re acting in solidarity with Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence who is in her 14th day of a hunger strike in Ottawa to force a meeting.

“I don’t understand why Stephen Harper can’t unite Canadians by saying ‘yes, we will meet at the highest level possible and talk about these issues.’ There is a solution there and it’s not a difficult one. That’s the frustration,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley

Bradley said municipal officials have no intention of shutting the blockade down through force because they don’t want to impair relations between the City of Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which sits within the boundaries of the city.

“This is an issue between the First Nations and the federal government and the community and the police service is in the middle. Our concerns are we have a very good relationship,” said Bradley. “CN (Rail) wants to ship products and get that line back open and we’re saying you’re going to have to live with some disruption until we can resolve this issue. Our long-term relationship is much more important to us as a community.”

The blockade began Friday and won’t stop until Harper gives in to the demands of Spence, said blockade spokesman Ron Plain.

Plain said they are disrupting shipments to dozens of oil refineries in an area known as Chemical Valley.

He said CN representatives came to them Sunday trying to negotiate a closure of the blockade by promising to write Prime Minister Harper and urging him to meet with First Nation leaders.

“We made them blink. They came to us (Sunday) to get us off the tracks. CN and companies of Chemical Valley are willing to write a letter to Harper telling him they want Harper to meet with Chief Spence,” he said. “Tha’s all well and good but until the meeting takes place we won’t consider taking it down. But the fact that we made them blink tells you something.”

CN Rail spokesman Jim Feeny said they are calling on the local and federal governments to stop the “illegal” blockade.

“Some plants are facing shutdowns if service is not resumed. It could potentially affect the supply of various products, including propane,” said Feeny.

Plain said they have moved their blockade once after being served with a court injunction by CN police but now believe they are in a position where the courts can’t touch them.

“The CN police came to the first site we were at and handed us an injunction to have us removed. There is several sites where these tracks cross reserve roads and there is one road in particular where there was no agreement ever made with the Indian agents over the road because the road didn’t exist when the Indian agents were around,” he said. “They don’t have permission to cross that road so that’s where we moved the blockade to on the second day and we have been there since. They can’t issue an injunction to that piece of road because they don’t have legal crossing on that road.”

Plain said the crossings were negotiated back in the 1960s and because Chemical Valley grew so fast there are some crossings CN doesn’t have permission to cross.

“We have several of these holes in their legislation because of Chemical Valley, because it was built so fast,” he said.

Bradley said he hadn’t heard of this and was going to look into it. He was told there is a court date scheduled for Thursday to deal with the court injunction. As far as he knows police have the right to stop the blockade but will not.

Plain also said they’ve been told their blockade is causing $5 million dollars a day in economic disruption but Bradley said while there is disruption he hasn’t heard of that number.

Feeny said CN Rail is in a legal position to shut the blockade down and while there is some economic affect it’s too early for CN to say how much per day.

Meanwhile, Aamjiwnaang members were also planning to shutdown Highway 402 and the Blue Water Bridge Monday halting traffic across the United States border.

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13 thoughts on “Sarnia rail blockade enters fourth day, police have no intention of shutting it down: Mayor

  1. First of all if anyone was offended by my post I apologize! It was not my intension to do so. I believe in standing up for your rights and having your voice heard. I was only commenting the blocking of a roadway. Your chief in Ottawa is a very brave person and I hope this issue gets resolved.

  2. it’s a shame the reserve hasn’t done this a long time ago. the reserve has been poisoned by the chemical plants for years. I remember seeing a documentary and the reserve was featured.

    The Sarnia area is one of the most heavily industrialized in Canada, accounting for more than 40% of Canada’s total chemical industry. According to Ecojustice’s 2007 report, Exposing Canada’s Chemical Valley, there are 62 industrial facilities within 25 kilometres of the Aamjiwnaang reserve and city of Sarnia that released more than 131 thousand tonnes of air pollution in 2005, including numerous chemicals associated with reproductive and developmental disorders and cancer.

    The Aamjiwnaang First Nation has long been concerned with the quality of the air and water. Refineries and chemical plants surround the community of 900, the Aamjiwnaang have been evacuated from their homes several times from chemical releases. Chief Christopher Plain commented, “Industry needs to be working in partnership with the Aamjiwnaang. We believe that it is possible to have a safe and healthy community, environment, and workforce, but we all need to work on it together.”

  3. Full support to the Mayor of Sarnia who recognizes how important relationship is!!!.

    More importantly the railway runs through the reserve and crosses roads illegally. Further you can be sure that First Nations will not interfere with emergency situations.

    You are right there is “a better way” however you are probably not about to stand up and support this cause, write the Prime Minister or call him. Selfish, look at what you have and tell me what you are willing to give up to support conditions in First nations communities. Selfish is easy to identify when you have everything you need and are criticizing others who are wanting what you already have.

  4. I don’t understand how you can just shut a highway down?? We live in a free society, and have rights but this is ridiculous! All roads serve a purpose, get us home, transport supplies and provide access to emergency situations. I think ther’s a better way to get a message out. This is not one them! I find very little reason to sympathize when I see selfish acts like this!

    1. not selfish, is it selfish that a woman is on her 14th day of a hunger strike so she can have a meeting with Stephen Harper? Her community is dying and the selfish one here is the Prime Minister.

    2. It all goes to prove how selfish Canada was to begin with, these lands have never been Canada’s to start with, why Canada is there is their own fault, not our own so talk to Canada about how things like this can happen. They keep encroaching and selling us out that there will be nothing left for us to survive on, let alone the average Canadian. You can all move away after the devastion leaves us blanketed in oil and air unbreathable but because First Nations have always been a part of this land we will be staying because that is our responsibility to try and nuture her back from sickness. Canadians are losing jobs and the benefits of all the resources not just the First Nations. Canadians will all be on assistance to the government of Canada because you are just starting to feel the impact of what the Indian Act has done to us. Canadians will have no jobs because those are being filled by work visas by the corporations that are being allowed to buy and mine our resources. When you have no job then what do you do to get income to pay mortgages, medical, food. Canada’s government needs to be overhauled, they have been playing with all of us far too long. Why is it we have no jobs but they have big pensions and can spend our money where we don’t want it. As far as I am concerned Canada needs to have its funds frozen until all is settled with First Nations and then they can rebuild like they should have years ago on what they actually have and not what they keep stealing from the people, all peoples not just First Nations.

    3. your lack of knowledge is why you don’t understand

      the Federal government “Harper” has ignored law by passing legislation without consultation, maybe you need to learn about history and the current bill C-45

    4. I’m sure in your obvious and infinite wisdom, you have devised a strategy to reconcile the aforementioned dispute or “get the message out”. Also, you must be very well educated on Bill C-45, and the threat it poses to ALL Canadians, not just First Nations. Please, do share with this discussion panel, your extensive knowledge regarding these issues. If articulating all that you have researched proves too daunting, here is an article which can’t begin to bring to light the plight of the people in opposition to this legislation. In case your post was just the mindless regurgitated ramblings of one not yet educated, you yourself may want to read the ensuing article. You may also want to google Theresa Spence or Idle no more.

    5. First of all if I have offended anyone by my comments I appologize! I was only commenting on the blockade, not your right to protest. I think your chief is a very brave person and hope this gets resolved.

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