Trudeau government offers to meet anti-pipeline protestors if they end rail blockade
The Trudeau government is attempting to end anti-pipeline protests that have led to rail service being delayed or cancelled across the country.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has asked for a Saturday meeting with Mohawk protesters who claim to be supporting the Wet’suwet’en first nation and oppose the building of a pipeline in northern B.C.
All he asks in return is for them to stop their blockades.
City News 1130 reports that “the demonstrations are having a severe impact on the Canadian economy, according to Ryan Greer, senior director, transportation and infrastructure policy with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
‘They’re losing sales, curtailing production and having to make challenging business decisions … It’s up to government to take charge here and demonstrate that Canada is a reliable supply-chain partner that the rule of law will be enforced.'”
The blockade of the Toronto, Ottawa Montreal corridor is a response to the raid of an anti-pipeline camp in Northern British Columbia that was fighting against the building of a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.
Despite the blockade and the protests being held across the nation, the Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council supports the pipeline project.
The blockades continue throughout Canada with protestors carrying signs that say things like “Stand with Wet’suwet’en” and “Wet’suwet’en Strong”.
Most of them are showing their support for the hereditary chiefs who disagree with the construction of the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline through their land in northern BC, according to CBC News.
It is now known that many Wet’suwet’en people support the pipeline and are angered by the ongoing protests. Some people see the natural gas pipeline as a chance to build their community with the new jobs it will bring.
Though there is still some division in the community, the 20 elected First Nations councils have signed agreements and shown their support for the project.
The national protests began when some of the hereditary chiefs showed their opposition to the project and claimed that it violated their rights.
On Wednesday, the community of Houston held an event at a movie theatre and brought out about 200 people from their community of 2,000, for three hours. Houston is located right on the path of the pipeline. The pro-pipeline event had Wet’suwet’en Nation members explaining why they support the project.
During the meeting people mentioned that they wanted to see the economic opportunities that could be created by the construction.
One of the supporters, Robert Skin, was an elected member of the Skin Tyee First Nation council which is also a part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. He noted that the pipeline will give the next generation a better life.
“With the benefit agreement that [the Skin Tyee] did sign, I see us being in a better place even within the next five years,” he said.
When he was talking at the theatre, he noted that the protestors only have “one side of the story” and are not looking at the positive things that the project could bring.
As the lumber industry has been struggling in the region many people at the event explained that they wanted more of the community to have job opportunities so that they could provide for their families.
The Wet’suwet’en people also said that the protests have made conflict in the community worse than before. Some also noted that they did not want to see a separation between the First Nation and Canada.
Another part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation called the Witset First Nation is very divided on the issue according to Edward Tom, who told CBC that he thought the protestors are “very pugnacious and overbearing,” and added, “They’re professional protestors.”
A lot of people in attendance said that protestors seem to be unaware that many Wet’suwet’en people want the pipeline to be built. The people who have backed the pipeline said that they have received threats and intimidation from other members of the community.
The event marked Marion Tiljoe Shepard’s first time voicing her support for the project. She has a trucking company in the area and feels that the project will help her business along with others in the area. Shepard said that the protestors do not represent her or her community.
“It’s none of their business,” she said. “All of these protesters don’t have the right to close down railways and ships. It’s not right. Go away. I want them to leave.”
The President of the National Coalition of Chiefs, Dale Swampy has claimed that some anti-pipeline protestors are being paid by environmental activists groups.
“People who are opposed to the project–even though we respect their position on the matter–should respect the fact that the majority of the First Nations support the project through their elected officials,” said Swampy to APTN News.
But Swampy also intimated that not only do the majority of pipeline protesters have no connection to any First Nations people, they may also be getting paid to protest by environmental groups.
“I don’t think they’re Indigenous,” he said. “People in our communities around Calgary have been offered money to protest on the streets of Calgary and the streets of Vancouver.”
Swampy claimed people were promised $300 per day and up to $500 if they wore a headdress. “They choose people who are disenfranchised, who have no job, no education, are in poverty, collecting welfare,” he said. “It’s a real concern for us that these corrupt environmentalists are taking advantage of our poor people, putting them in front of RCMP.”
This claim has yet to be proven with documentation.
The protests surrounding the Coastal GasLink pipeline have been going on for weeks now and there is much confusion surrounding the issue. The protestors have been heavily covered in the mainstream media as doing so in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people, however the reality is there are only some hereditary chiefs who are opposed to the pipeline.
“The recent conflict between the RCMP and the professional protesters, who wrongfully use Wet’suwet’en ancestry as the means to advance their agenda, are putting Wet’suwet’en community members at risk,” said hereditary Chief of the Gidimt’en Grizzly House Andrew George to APTN News.
Coastal GasLink has met all regulatory and environmental guidelines. The company has also signed pipeline benefit agreements with all 20 elected First Nation band councils along the route. This includes five of the six elected councils in Wet’suwet’en Nation.
The vast majority of anti-pipeline protestors don’t speak on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en people despite themselves, and many media outlets claiming otherwise. There are 634 First Nations in Canada.
Swampy said, “We believe there are as many as 400 chiefs across the country that want to work with the natural resource industry–including alongside the CGL pipeline right-of-way,”
An extraordinary scene unfolded in Edmonton this afternoon as citizens drove to the site of an anti-pipeline train blockade, tore it down, and loaded it into a truck.
Global TV’s Nicole Stillger tweeted “Counter-protestors hauling away the blockade and loading it into this truck.”
People are beginning to speak up and take action against the anti-pipeline protests and blockades as Canada’s economy is stalling.
City News’ Carly Robinson revealed via Twitter that the protestors had been served with an injunction.
Fletcher Kent of Global added that “Counter protesters in Edmonton have all but hauled away the barricades on the CN tracks. A protester is talking like it’s all over now. A few protesters have walked away already.”
Earlier today, Minister Doug Schweitzer posted on Twitter in response to the Cuzzins of Wetsuweten protests, calling the blocking of economic infrastructure “an offence [that] will not be tolerated.”
The blockade is the work of the “Cuzzins of Wet’suwet’en” group that was endorsed by Extinction Rebellion Edmonton.
The protests and blockades throughout Canada are a response to the raid of an anti-pipeline camp in northern British Columbia that was set up to oppose the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.
Despite the protests, the Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council and the majority of hereditary chiefs support the pipeline project.
As for the blockade in Edmonton, the tracks are now clear.
The Premier of Quebec has expressed his concern of Prime Minister Trudeau’s handling of the anti-pipeline protestors at the National Assembly, Tuesday.
“[Mr. Trudeau] wants it to be done in peace. We agree with that, but there must be results and, for the moment, the situation has become very dramatic for the Quebec economy,” said Mr. Legault told the press. The federal government must resolve the crisis in the short term, in “the next few days,” he said otherwise the situation will only get worse.
In particular, the Premier of Quebec says he is worried that the Port of Montreal will no longer be able to receive new goods because there will be no space to store them. Legault also expressed concerns that stores may soon start to run out of certain items according to Le Journal de Quebec.
“We are losing control. I don’t want to fall back into the propane crisis with the farmers, I don’t want people to be unable to take off from planes because there is no more fuel,” said François Legault.
Justin Trudeau has been the subject of much criticism for being abroad while the country was at an impasse. Trudeau has stated that he would like all parties involved to remain “patient” until a peaceful resolution can be reached.
The Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller and the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, Ontario held a meeting at a local community centre for many hours although they have not released much details on what their conversations entailed.