The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti pipeline demonstrators

Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia:

A Wet’suwet’en hereditary house chief says he won’t meet with federal or provincial cabinet ministers until the RCMP removes a mobile unit from their First Nation’s traditional territory.

Chief Woos of the Grizzly House says all hereditary chiefs are in agreement and he accuses the RCMP of being “bullies” and threatening pipeline opponents.

Under the Wet’suwet’en traditional governance system there are 13 house chiefs and five senior clan chiefs.

Carolyn Bennett and Scott Fraser, the federal and provincial ministers in charge of Indigenous relations, sent a joint letter to the hereditary chiefs asking for a meeting with the goal of reaching a peaceful resolution to the impasse.

The RCMP say an exclusion zone has been lifted in the remote area where they arrested 28 people while enforcing an injunction but their community industry safety office will remain in place and they’ll continue “patrols of the corridor to ensure everyone’s safety.”

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Canadian National Railway Co. is temporarily laying off about 450 workers at its operations in Eastern Canada.

CN says the layoffs will affect operational staff, including employees working at Autoport in Eastern Passage, Moncton, Charny and Montreal.

The Montreal-based freight transporter says the situation is “regrettable.”

CN says it’s had to cancel about 400 trains as a result of blockades erected in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose development of a natural gas pipeline that crosses their traditional territory.

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Via Rail says passenger service will resume throughout southwestern Ontario later this week.

The company says routes between Toronto and Windsor, Niagara and Sarnia will be up and running Thursday morning.

Thursday will also see Via resume service between Ottawa and Quebec City.

Trains remain suspended in most of the rest of Canada, including a key stretch of Via’s most profitable corridor running from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal.

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One of the investors buying a stake in the Coastal GasLink pipeline says it remains committed to the deal despite protester blockades that have shut down railway lines in large parts of Canada.

Alberta Investment Management Corp., which looks after more than
$115 billion in public sector pension funds for the province, agreed with American partner KKR in December to buy a 65 per cent interest in a deal that’s expected to close in the first half of this year.

AIMCo spokesman Denes Nemeth says the corporation has confidence that the pipeline developer can deal with the current situation and ensure the project is completed successfully.

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The federal minister in charge of Crown-Indigenous relations says she’s waiting on an invitation from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs to meet in their community.

Carolyn Bennett says a meeting had been proposed at the end of the month, but she would like to meet as soon as possible to discuss a peaceful resolution to the conflict over a natural gas pipeline that has spawned Canada-wide protests.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs have been silent about whether they are open to a joint meeting with Bennett and B.C.
Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser since the minister publicly stated interest in such a gathering yesterday.

The meeting was originally proposed by a hereditary chief with the neighbouring Gitxsan First Nation, and Wet’suwet’en chief Na’moks said on Sunday they would only participate as witnesses.(The Canadian Press)

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says anti-pipeline protests by “radical activists” are a warm-up act in the next battles against the Trans Mountain expansion project and the proposed Teck Frontier oilsands mine in northeastern Alberta.

Scheer told Parliament that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has encouraged these types of protests by cancelling other projects based on political considerations.

Scheer says every person has the right to free speech, but nobody has the right to hold the Canadian economy hostage.

Scheer says it’s time for the government to step in to do something about the protests that have been blocking rail traffic for more than a week.

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Police responded to the Victoria-area home of B.C. Premier John Horgan this morning when anti-pipeline protesters blocked his driveway.

Members of the group Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island said Monday they would attempt a “citizen’s arrest” to show support for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and disrupt the provincial budget, due to be delivered later today.

Four RCMP vehicles were called to Horgan’s home in Langford where two people were lying across the driveway while others stood in the street.

The two in the driveway were taken into custody, and Horgan left for the legislature a few minutes later accompanied by his security detail.

Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson condemned the protesters’
actions, saying no one should ever feel unsafe in their home or workplace. (CTV, The Canadian Press)

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is listening to those opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline through traditional Wet’suwet’en territories in northwestern B.C.

Trudeau addressed Parliament as it resumed today, saying the protests and their consequences represent a “critical moment” for the country as protests flare over the multibillion-dollar project.

But he also says a solution will not be quick or simple.

He says he is extending his hand to the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk nations as his government continues to work on a path forward, one that he says “cannot afford to fail.”

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Business groups are calling on the federal government to take steps to immediately restore disrupted rail service.

Dennis Darby, C-E-O of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, says the situation is “beyond serious.”

The group estimates that goods worth about 425-million-dollars are being stranded every day the blockade continues.

Darby says it will take three to four days of work to recover from a single day of disruption.

His message is underscored by Maple Leaf Foods president Curtis Frank, who says Canada exports 60 per cent of its pork products and needs an urgent government response to resolve rail blockades.

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An emergency debate will be held in the House of Commons tonight to consider the blockades set up in support of Wet’suwet’en leaders opposed to a pipeline project in their traditional territory.

The NDP and Bloc Quebecois successfully lobbied Speaker Anthony Rota for the debate.

It will allow MPs to discuss the stoppage of rail traffic in eastern Canada and on-again-off-again blockades at roads, bridges and ports elsewhere.

A revision to the Commons agenda was announced this morning.

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The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is calling for calm and constructive dialogue to ease tensions over a British Columbia pipeline and the nationwide protests the project has spawned.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde says governments and industry need to give the time and space to work with the Wet’suwet’en.

Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the pipeline through their traditional territory, though it’s received approval from elected band councils.

Bellegarde says it’s vital that honest political activism not be criminalized.

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Via Rail is preparing to resume part of its passenger rail service as anti-pipeline protests continue to shut down freight and passenger train routes in much of the rest of Canada.

The company says partial service will be resume Thursday to and from Ottawa and Quebec City, with a stop in Montreal.

Almost all other Via trains, except for the Sudbury-White River and Churchill-The Pas routes, remain cancelled.

Protesters have blocked rail lines in several parts of Canada to show solidarity with hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs opposed to construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline through their traditional territories in northwestern B.C.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020

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