Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says let’s have more talks. Opposition leader Andrew Scheer says let’s call in the cops.
Two different reactions to the ongoing cross-Canada protests over construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Indigenous lands in B.C.
“”You need to know we have failed our Indigenous peoples over generations, over centuries. And there is no quick fix to it,” Trudeau told reporters in Munich where he is attending a security conference.
“We also are, obviously, a country of laws. And making sure that those laws are enforced, even as there is, of course, freedom to demonstrate free and to protest.
“Getting that balance right and wrapping it up in the path forward … is really important.”
Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, who earlier this week said he was “concerned” about the blockades, now said he is “very concerned.”
But he stressed protesters have the right to demonstrate – despite the fact legal injunctions are in place against them.
Garneau was at a meeting in Toronto of provincial and territorial transportation officials.
On Thursday, CN Rail announced it was closing down operations in eastern Canada while Via Rail shuttered its entire network because of a Mohawk rail blockade near Brockville, Ont.
And it could get worse Friday as protesters have vowed to try and shut down the B.C. government.
Tory leader Andrew Scheer said enough is enough and it’s time for Trudeau to call in the RCMP to clear the blockades.
“Quite frankly, this is getting ridiculous. Radical activists, many of whom have no connection to theWet’suwet’en people, are holding our economy hostage. Meanwhile our prime minister has been out of the country on a vanity project to win a vote at the UN, neglecting his duties here at home,” Scheer said, referencing Trudeau’s jaunt to Africa.
“Do the right thing, Prime Minister Trudeau. We can’t allow a small number of activists to hold our economy hostage and threaten thousands of jobs. I believe it’s time for the law to be enforced. Law enforcement should enforce the law. We have court orders, court injunctions, they need to be respected.”
Garneau said it is up to the provincial police to enforce a court-ordered injunction to clear away the blockades.
But that’s not the way the provinces see it.
“It’s up to Justin Trudeau to solve the problem,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters. “It does not concern Quebec, it does not concern Ontario, it concerns the federal government. It’s up to them to find the solution.”
Greg Rickford, Ontario’s Indigenous affairs minister, issued a statement saying: “This is a national issue affecting all of Canada. It is imperative that the federal government take a more proactive role.”
• What the Western Standard says
The protests have been growing across Canada since last Thursday when the RCMP raided and tore down an Indigenous camp near Smithers.
Thursday, the protesters at the main camp released a new video of RCMP action at the site.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said provincial Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser would meet with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on the condition they end their rail blockade of the Port of Prince Rupert.
Thursday afternoon an agreement had reportedly been reached that will see a meeting between the chiefs, federal and provincial ministers over that blockade.
The pipeline has the support of all First Nations along the route, but hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation, through which 28% of the 670-km route passes, oppose it.
A group of unelected hereditary chiefs had set up a camp near Smithers and have kicked out Coastal GasLink workers.
The RCMP said they have found traps like felled trees and three stacks of tires along with flammables along the access road.
On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP arrested 14 protesters along the B.C. logging road.
International attention was drawn to the issue when a British newspaper reported RCMP were ready to shoot protesters when they broke up the camp. The RCMP denied the story.
On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation from blocking the pipeline route near Smithers, B.C.
But the situation has been further complicated after a Jan. 3 edict by the Unist’ot’en, a smaller group within the First Nation, that they intend to terminate an agreement that had granted the company access to the land.
The RCMP checkpoint had been set up at the 27-km mark of the forest service road “to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway.”
The $6.6 billion pipeline, to be operated by TC Energy Corp, would transport gas from near Dawson Creek in northeast B.C. to Kitimat on the coast and supply Canada’s largest liquefied natural gas export terminal, called LNG Canada, which is under construction.
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard