The latest on protests across Canada in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

By Canadian Press

Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia (All times Eastern):


8:35 p.m. ET

The B.C. premier’s office says it is unfortunate an agreement couldn’t be reached to meet with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

In a statement, the premier’s office says it had hoped the chiefs would agree “to a period of peace and respect during the talks, which would include encouraging their supporters to remove blockades.”

It says they still want to meet with the chiefs and will continue to “engage” with them and the federal government.


8:22 p.m. ET

A protest that was blocking a major highway on Vancouver Island has ended.

Drive BC said there was still heavy congestion on the highway after a “significant traffic disruption” earlier in the day.

Central Saanich police warned of the planned protest between 2 and 5 p.m. local time in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a pipeline on their territory in northern British Columbia.

The blockade is along the highway that runs from Victoria to the region’s international airport and a B.C. Ferries terminal.


8:20 p.m. ET

A hereditary house chief with the Wet’suwet’en Nation says the federal and provincial governments have cancelled planned talks over a pipeline impasse that has inspired solidarity protests and rail blockades across the country.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, say government officials asked the hereditary chiefs to request that its supporters and other First Nations “step down on their actions,” but the chiefs responded that they can’t tell others what to do.

He says he is “heartbroken” over the development and the chiefs are still willing to hold discussions.

“Our integrity, our honesty, our trust was there, but their unwillingness to continue with the meeting is rather disappointing.”

The federal and B.C. governments could not immediately be reached for comment.


6:30 p.m. ET

Via Rail Canada will resume regular service between Winnipeg and The Pas in Manitoba on Sunday.

The passenger railway says it is working with CN Rail, the owner of the rail line, to make sure that normal service can resume on all other routes that have been affected by protests.


6:15 p.m. ET

Protesters are blocking a major highway on Vancouver Island, causing what Drive BC calls a “significant traffic disruption.”

Central Saanich police warned of the planned protest between 2 and 5 p.m. local time in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a pipeline on their territory in northern British Columbia.

The blockade is along the highway that runs from Victoria to the region’s international airport and a B.C. Ferries terminal.

The B.C. government has obtained a court injunction and a detour is in effect.


4:45 p.m. ET

The secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake has rejected Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s suggestion that there are assault weapons at a rail blockade on the territory south of Montreal.

Kenneth Deer says the protesters are not armed and described the premier’s suggestion that there are AK-47s at the site as “highly irresponsible and ludicrous.”

Legault said earlier today that provincial police officers are holding back from enforcing a court injunction to dismantle the Kahnawake blockade because they’ve received information that there are dangerous weapons, including AK-47s, in the community.

Deer said he cannot know whether there are weapons anywhere else on the territory but reiterated that the protest at the blockade is a peaceful one.


2:50 p.m. ET

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the latest actions by protesters on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory are “extremely concerning.”

Video shared online shows a group of protesters standing on the tracks near Belleville, Ont., as a CN Rail train approaches, then jumping out of the way at the last moment. A few appear to be throwing items at the train.

Provincial police say fires were also set near and on the tracks this morning.

The prime minister told reporters people should not be endangering their lives and those of others by interfering with the trains.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair made similar comments earlier today, but said police in the area are managing the situation.


2:25 p.m. ET

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the presence of dangerous assault rifles in Kahnawake is a reason for caution in enforcing an injunction to end a rail blockade in the Mohawk community.

Legault told reporters in Quebec City the government has information from what he called “good sources” that there are AK-47s in Kahnawake.

He says Warriors on the reserve are armed, and the situation is very delicate.

The premier says he will leave it to the provincial police to develop a strategy to officially serve the injunction issued Tuesday to people at the blockade.

Legault says he is disclosing the information because he wants the public to understand why provincial police have not yet moved in. He says he does not want to have it on his conscience that police officers were injured in an intervention.


2:17 p.m. ET

Indigenous youth who have been camping on the steps of the British Columbia legislature have issued several demands in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline across their traditional lands in northwestern B.C.

Spokeswoman Ta’Kaiya Blaney says demonstrators will occupy ministry offices, rail lines and other locations in order to hold all levels of the Canadian government accountable.

Speaking in front of the B.C. legislature, Blaney says reconciliation is dead and it is unacceptable for politicians to try to push the pipeline development through “at gunpoint.”

She says First Nations face undue pressure to sign mutual benefit agreements similar to those accepted by 20 elected band councils along the proposed Coastal GasLink route, calling the agreements a corrupt process that is not equivalent to true consent.


1 p.m. ET

A rail blockade on the Kahnawake Mohawk territory south of Montreal is being reinforced with concrete barriers and loads of rock.

The actions come after CP Rail was granted an injunction on Tuesday to end the blockade that began Feb. 8.

The secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Kenneth Deer, says the protesters do not intend to end the barricade and they need to be prepared for a possible intervention by outside police.

Grand Chief Joseph Norton has said the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is considering its options, including challenging the injunction.

Norton has said the injunction will not be executed in Kahnawake, and that the Mohawk Peacekeepers are the only policing agency with jurisdiction in the territory.


12:50 p.m. ET

A Wet’suwet’en hereditary house chief says progress is being made on three conditions set by the chiefs for meeting with federal and provincial leaders over a pipeline impasse.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, says the meeting could happen as early as tomorrow.

The chiefs have said they will only meet with government leaders once RCMP remove a mobile detachment from their territory and stop foot patrols, and Coastal GasLink pulls its natural gas pipeline workers from the area.

Na’moks says the chiefs have heard through a mediator that RCMP would dismantle the mobile unit, but it would take too much time to meet the chiefs’ deadline of tomorrow.

He says the chiefs have agreed that as long as the foot patrols stop and the unit is shuttered, they have accepted that as meeting the terms for now.


11:30 a.m. ET

Freight train service appears to have resumed through Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in central Ontario after being disrupted by fires at a second protest site.

Ontario Provincial Police say demonstrators lit tires on fire after a train moved through this morning, forcing a second train to come to a stop.

The second train eventually travelled through the area though it slowed down briefly after protesters tossed a lit pallet nearby.

Police say they have no plans to move in on the protesters at this point.


10:45 a.m. ET

Ontario Provincial Police say fires at a second protest encampment in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory have brought freight train traffic to a halt.

Police spokesman Bill Dickson says demonstrators lit a fire next to the railway tracks immediately after a train moved through the area near Belleville, Ont., this morning.

He says demonstrators then threw a few tires on the tracks and lit them.

Dickson says Canadian National Railway Co. is now inspecting the tracks after police and firefighters extinguished the blaze.


9:30 a.m. ET

Fifty-one health professionals in British Columbia have signed an open letter to the prime minister, B.C. Premier John Horgan, police and Indigenous leaders, calling for an end to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project across northern B.C.

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipelines, plus a further warning from the American Journal of Public Health that Indigenous groups are especially vulnerable to such risks.

The letter calls for a halt to further work on the pipeline, at least until the consent of the Wet’suwet’en people has been obtained.

It also calls for a moratorium on further construction permits for the project and a return to talks with Indigenous groups whose land is affected by the pipeline.

Those who have signed the letter range from licensed practical nurses to massage therapists, RNs, doctors and even David Bowering, the retired chief medical health officer of B.C.’s Northern Health Authority.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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