Federal and provincial governments will meet with hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia to try to find a negotiated solution to blockades and demonstrations that have halted trains for weeks and disrupted infrastructure across the country.
Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett tweeted Thursday morning that she arrived in Vancouver late Wednesday for “truly important” meetings between the chiefs, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, and herself.
Arrived in Vancouver last night, flying to Smithers this morning for truly important meetings with BC Minister @ScottFraser and the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs.
— Carolyn Bennett (@Carolyn_Bennett) February 27, 2020
This comes after the Office of the Wet’suwet’en issued a statement on Wednesday saying B.C. and Canada “abruptly” cancelled the talks.
Hereditary Chiefs Na’Moks, also known as John Ridsdale, texted this to reporters.
“They cancelled ten minutes ago!” he said. “We would not ask other nations (sic) allies to step down so both Governments have walked away!”
The statement from the office thanked supporters for their “tireless dedication” and asked for “their continued support.”
Government has been seeking a solution to solidarity demonstrations for weeks.
Na’Moks said later that the cancellation was a “miscommunication” and talks were back on.
Supporters of the hereditary chiefs halted trains in one of Canada’s busiest rail corridors by setting up a camp and parking a snowplow near CN Rail tracks just off Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) arrested ten people there on Monday. Footage emerged Wednesday of trains passing through. People responded by lighting skids on fire beside the moving train and throwing debris onto the tracks. Some stood on the tracks as a train approached. Police and demonstrators faced each other down after one train passed, with the tracks in the middle.
“Individuals are putting the safety of themselves and others in jeopardy” and could face charges, said OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson in an email.
The Tyendinaga Mohawks met with the hereditary chiefs last week. Kanenhariyo (Seth Lefort) said after the meeting that their only demand was for the RCMP to “get out” of Wet’suwet’en territory.
The chiefs also said they would not negotiate until the RCMP had withdrawn.
Then the Mounties offered to pull back from the Morice West Forest Service road and conduct patrols from the nearby town of Houston, B.C.
The chiefs also demanded Coastal GasLink (CGL) cease operations on the disputed lands. CGL’s proposed 670-kilometre pipeline would run through traditional territory over which hereditary chiefs claim jurisdiction.
Hereditary chiefs oppose the project. It would carry natural gas from a hydraulic fracturing facility near Dawson Creek to a liquefaction facility near Kitimat on the B.C. coast. It would then be shipped to markets in Asia.
All but one elected Wet’suwet’en government signed on to the project, however.
The hereditary chiefs argue that they have jurisdiction over 22 000 square kilometres of unceded traditional territory.
Demonstrations in solidarity with them continue to erupt across the country.
-with files from Brett Forester, Kathleen Martens, Lee Wilson, and Jamie Pashagumskum