Blockade near Belleville, Ont. remains day after Trudeau calls for dismantling
TORONTO -- One day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for rail blockades across the country to be taken down, little has changed at a demonstration near Belleville, Ont. as disruptions to train service near their third week.
CTV News has been stationed near the blockade for much of the day and witnessed people arriving with coffee, donuts and lunch for the protesters, while at least one person visited to voice their displeasure with the blockades.
Ontario’s provincial police force is also on site.
While addressing reporters on Friday afternoon, Trudeau said court injunctions to put an end to the blockades “must be obeyed” and that “the law must be upheld."
But little has changed at the Belleville blockade, where there are no signs that protesters plan on dismantling their camp.
On Friday, protestors dismantled a blockade in St. Lambert, near Montreal, allowing for Via Rail to resume train routes between Montreal and Ottawa on Monday, though the blockade near Belleville remains largely unchanged.
The blockades are in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline from being built on their traditional territory in northern British Columbia. However, elected band councils along the route support the project.
On Saturday, the hereditary chiefs arrived in Quebec for a tour of the Mohawk communities involved in the blockades after a visit to Tyendinaga a day earlier. They have not scheduled a meeting with the federal government, however.
The hereditary chiefs and those participating in the blockades have said they will not back down until members of the RCMP move off the Wet'suwet'en territory. On Thursday, British Columbia RCMP offered to move from their position to a nearby town, though there’s little information as to the progress of this move.
On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators in downtown Toronto gathered for the second straight weekend to march through the streets in solidarity with the chiefs.
“They’ve had to deal with a lot for a very long time,” one protester told CP24. “Boil water advisories, lack of access to good jobs, corporations riding roughshod over their rights and governments that stand by.”
Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May said she believes the key to finding a solution is dialogue, but she isn’t sure that’s happening.
“I don’t know why the prime minister expressed yesterday that he had run out of patience. The talks, as far as I could see, hadn’t gotten started,” May said.
What would not be helpful, she said, are any clashes between police and protesters.
“We know that going the route of forcibly removing blockades when there aren’t talks and progress is a dangerous route and (would) likely cause more blockades, more delays and even the potential, which we all want to avoid, of anything violent,” she said.
Shelia North, the former Grand Chief for Northern Manitoba, said these demonstrations show that the issue is gaining traction in the public conscience.
“The message is coming loud and clear that Indigenous are to be respected in this country,” she told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
North added that while she empathizes with people who’ve been temporarily laid off or had travel plans cancelled, but she hopes people understand what the protestors are fighting for.
“You have to look at how Indigenous people have been made to live and made to feel in this country,” she said. “Two weeks of inconvenience like this and economic impact like this is certainly something Indigenous people in this country know all too well.”
On Tuesday, the heads of major business associations in Canada banded together to urge the federal government to address the blockades, which has resulted in temporary layoffs for more than 1,000 rail employees combined between CN Rail and Via Rail.