Rail blockades by indigenous groups and demonstrations in cities across Canada, continue today well into the second week.
Both indigenous and non-indigenous protesters have blocked bridges and roadways and rail lines across the country in support of a small group of hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs in their opposition to a gas pipeline across their claimed territory.
Coastal GaLink has received approval from all 20 elected indigenous band councils along the 670 kilometre route in northern British Columbia including the elected council of the Wet’suwet’en.
Prime Minister Trudeau has been under increasing criticism for his handling of the situation which is having serious economic repercussions for the economy.
While Via Rail has announced resumption of some limited passenger service, the majority of freight rail service continues to be blocked.
Some economists estimate the loss to the economy by the rail shutdown at $20 million per day. There are also concerns that some smaller manufacturers may not survive if they cannot get their products to market. Dennis Darby said many will have to start layoffs of workers.
Farmers and others in the agriculture and food processing industry are extremely concerned about shipments being blocked. They are concerned not only about perishable goods being stalled, but also the potential for lost export markets.
Canadian National announced today it is embarking on temporary layoffs of some 450 workers because of the blockades. While ViaRail has just announced that 1,000 of its employees will be laid off due to the blockades.
An emergency meeting of Parliament yesterday resulted in heated debate during which Andrew Scheer, leader of the official opposition Conservative party, called Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech, “word salad” and the “weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history”.
Trudeau, who has long billed himself as “inclusive”, then excluded the Conservative leader from a special meeting with the leaders of the other opposition parties, the separatist Bloc, the New Democratic Party, and the miniscule Greens.
Some federal and provincial ministers have requested meetings with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs but have so far been ignored.
News conference by Wet’suwet’en in favour of line
As for the Wet’suwet’en, the elected council which supports the pipeline with the millions of dollars and jobs it will bring to the community, will hold a press conference today to express their position.
In early January, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had called on Canada to halt work on the pipeline until indigenous consent was granted.
Karen Ogen-Toews is CEO of the First Nations LNG (Liquefied natural gas) Alliance and the former elected chief of Wet’suwet’en First Nation. In an open letter to the United Nations she wrote that the UN statement should be withdrawn and an apology given to the 20 First Nations who agree with the pipeline.
She expressed shock that the U.N. committee issued the statement “without investigation or research, and without taking into account the extent of existing First Nations support for the pipeline, and without consultation with those Nations”. She added, “that 20 First Nations participated extensively during five years of consultation on the pipeline, and have successfully negotiated agreements with Coastal GasLink. This is on the public record.”
A meeting between federal minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, with the Mohawk in an attempt to end that blockade of rail lines near Belleville Ontario, met with no success.
Saskatchewan Premier says Trudeau has no plan
Saskatchewan’s premier Scott Moe has scheduled a conference call with other premiers for today in light of Prime Minister Trudeau’s stance on the blockades and what he calls “a lack of federal leadership in addressing this ongoing illegal activity.”
- Aboriginal Peoples Television Network : Jan 27/20: We’ve got a real divide in the community:’ Wet’suwet’en Nation in turmoil
- Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters statement Feb 18/20:
- Financial Post: D. Francis: Feb 18/20: Diane Francis: Get to work, Trudeau, and blockade the blockades
- CBC: JP Tasker: Feb 18/20: Trudeau asks for patience as rail blockades continue, bars Scheer from leaders’ meeting
- Canadian Press (via Ottawa Matters): Feb 18/20: The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti-pipeline demonstrators
- Burns Lake District News: B. McBride: Jan 2.20: LNG development a historic opportunity for First Nations, group says
- First Nations LNG Alliance : open letter to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination