RCMP announced operations on Wet’suwet’en territory have wound down, but demonstrations in response to it have not.
Tense scenes unfolded as protesters blocked the entrance to the British Columbia legislature, actions on Kahnawake Mohawk Territory shut down commuter trains into Montreal for the second day and demonstrations near Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario and New Hazelton in B.C. are still going strong.
CN Rail said it will have to shut down “significant parts” of its network “imminently” unless these actions cease.
“There are currently no movements of any trains, freight or passenger, at both those locations. Hundreds of trains have been canceled since the blockades began five days ago,” the company said today in a press release.
“The impact is also being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner.”
“We are currently parking trains across our network, but due to limited available space for such, CN will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in key corridors unless the blockades come to an end,” said President JJ Ruest.
CN has obtained court injunctions for both locations and said it’s working with local agencies to enforce them.
Hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan, whose territory neighbors Wet’suwet’en, were present at the New Hazelton site. They met with RCMP Tuesday morning.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) served the injunction to those at the Tyendinaga site, which is just off Mohawk territory and therefore under OPP jurisdiction.
But those present reiterated what they’ve said all along: they don’t plan on moving. In response, they gave police a lesson in the Two Row Wampum.
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Reporters asked Transport Canada minister Marc Garneau about the government’s position on the blockades.
Garneau said it’s a provincial matter.
“When injunctions are obtained by the train companies, it is up to the provinces. They are the ones who have the jurisdiction to act with respect to those injunctions. It is not the federal government. We hope this will get resolved because it’s having an important impact on the economy.”
He said Transport Canada is “concerned” about the effect the actions are having on transportation of people and goods.
He described the protests as a public safety concern and “illegal” infringements of the Railway Safety Act.
Justice Canada minister David Lametti had a similar message to Indigenous youth and their allies who spent the night occupying the Justice Building in Ottawa.
On Monday, Lametti spoke with the protesters at roughly 5:00 p.m. ET, where he too said this a matter under B.C. provincial jurisdiction.
“I have spoken by phone with the protestors [sic] and have heard their demands,” said Canada’s Attorney General in an email.
“I committed to bringing their demands to my cabinet colleagues and to engaging with them in good faith in my capacity and within the confines of my powers as a federal Minister.”
But Sophia Sidarous, a Mi’kmaw demonstrator and spokesperson for the group, rejected his answer and reiterated their demands.
“As the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, we know that Lametti has tools at his disposal to intervene in what’s happening in Wet’suwet’en territory,” she said.
“We are calling on him to take immediate steps to stop the injustices happening to the Wet’suwet’en people and to engage with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs within the next 24 hours.”
Solidarity with hereditary chiefs
These are some of the actions taking place. Another action blocked access to a port in Halifax today, while sit ins and demonstrations continue in different cities.
Many say they’re acting in solidarity with hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation.
The chiefs assert inherent jurisdiction and Aboriginal title to land they’ve never surrendered or ceded.
They oppose construction of the $6.6 billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline.
The project would carry fracked natural gas from Dawson Creek to a facility near Kitimat on the coast. There it would be liquified for export to markets in Asia.
RCMP said Monday “major enforcement operations” of an injunction on that territory had ceased. Federal police spent the last six days dismantling obstructions along the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston B.C.
Mounties arrested 28 as of Monday evening, which is exactly double the number arrested in similar raids on Wet’suwet’en territory last January.
That was an interim injunction, while this year’s interlocutory injunction was handed down Dec.31.
Images of the raids flooded social media, while demonstrations against the RCMP and in solidarity with the chiefs continue to pop up. These show no signs of wavering.
While the grassroots have been vocal, reactions are beginning to trickle in from those in power.
“The recent arrests in Wet’suwet’en Nation territory signal a failure on Canada’s part to recognize and respect the laws and rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Sen. Kim Pate in a release.
“Too often, Canadian legal systems have failed to protect and uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples, but have not demonstrated the same hesitation when it comes to criminalizing and imprisoning them,” wrote the Senator.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents First Nations in Saskatchewan, threw in their support as well.
“Our ancestral lands belong to our First Nations people. The lands are ours to protect and preserve for future generations,” Chief Bobby Cameron said in a statement.
“The Wet’suwet’en people are fighting for what is right and we fully support them. Our First Nations Inherent and Treaty lands are ours to protect. We condemn any acts of violence and urge peace in the Wet’suwet’en territory.”
Amid all this, one hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en proposed to call a rare “all-clans meeting” to resolve internal governance disputes.
There is division within the Wet’suwet’en. Some want the pipeline because of the economic benefits it promises.
Elected Wet’suwet’en governments have signed impact benefits agreements (IBAs) that express support for the pipeline.
But, traditionally, a hereditary title confers exclusive territory rights to the holder of that name, meaning the pipeline would require permission from the specific chiefs through whose territory the route passes.
Investiture ceremonies for hereditary titles happen in the Feast Hall, or potlatch, the main Wet’suwet’en governance institution.
That’s where Skit’den’s meeting would take place.
– with files from Jamie Pashagumskum and Kathleen Martens