The blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day. (The Canadian Press)

Federal Indigenous services minister meets First Nation at rail blockade

Blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day

The federal Indigenous services minister began meetings Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk Nation to discuss a rail blockade that has shut down rail services across Eastern Canada.

Marc Miller said he didn’t want to predict the outcome of his meetings, adding that talk between the two sides is needed as members of the Mohawk Nation block the line in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en in their opposition to a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territory in northern B.C.

“This is a situation that is very tense, very volatile, there are some people that have been standing out there for days, so today is a chance to talk and have a real discussion,” he said.

“We’re a nation of people who have stopped talking to each other. We tweet, we make statements on Facebook, we go around asking, condemning, but we’re not talking.”

He met with protesters at the blockade before travelling further into the First Nation for a private meeting.

The blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day.

READ MORE: CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

Miller requested the meeting to “polish the silver covenant chain,” which the Mohawks say refers to one of the original agreements between the First Nation and the Crown.

Similar blockades across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, with pressure mounting on the federal government to end them.

As he arrived in Tyendinaga, Miller said the blockades have been divisive.

“All of Canada is hurting,” he added. “The economy is slowing down. Everyone knows the reports about supply shortages, but we can’t move forward without dialogue.”

He also acknowledged that First Nations have felt alienated in Canada.

“I can’t guarantee what the outcome will be. It isn’t mine to judge,” the minister said. “And so I’m here to discuss in peace and friendship with a bunch of people that haven’t felt part of this country.”

Canadian National Railway obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline, which is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

A growing number of business leaders and industry groups called for government or police intervention in the shutdowns, and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took up the cry on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the disruptions must be resolved through dialogue, not by ordering in the police. He acknowledged the difficulties the blockades have caused for travellers and businesses, but he said the federal government has no plans to make the RCMP dismantle them.

“We are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters,” Trudeau said in Munich, Germany, where he was attending a global security conference.

“We are a country that recognizes the right to protest, but we are a country of the rule of law. And we will ensure that everything is done to resolve this through dialogue and constructive outcomes.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkPipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COLUMN: Gardening is balm for your soul

Some expert tips to help build your green-thumb this year

Local First Nations pro-active in dealing with COVID-19

“We are in it for the long haul.”

COVID-19: Stepping away from the ordinary

Freelance writer Marcie Callewaert talks about her self-isolation in Ahousaht

Tofino-Ucluelet choir conductor launches singing contest

“What motivates me is making my community happy.”

Vancouver Island farmers demand on-site slaughter

COVID-19 pandemic puts supply chains at risk, says group

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

B.C. unveils $3.5M COVID-19 emergency fund for post-secondary students

Money will help students cover living expenses, food, travel, portable computers

North Cowichan to police popular trails to ensure physical distancing

“You can expect delays accessing Mount Tzouhalem, or even to be turned away.”

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Most Read