TORONTO -- Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said that “modest progress” had been made in discussions surrounding a railway blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk territory which has shut down rail services across eastern Canada. 

Miller was speaking in a scrum outside the Belleville community centre where he had met with representatives of the Mohawk Nation all day Saturday.

Members of the Nation have been taking part in railway blockades in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and land defenders currently barring access to their ancestral territory in protest over the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C.

Miller said he had opened a dialogue with people who had been standing “outside in the cold for eight or nine days,” and that the conversations inside the community centre were conducted “openly, frankly and painfully at times.”

“There’s a lot more work to be done, and I have a few messages I need to go back to the prime minister with,” Miller said, adding that he would be discussing with his cabinet “what the next steps are.”

Miller reiterated those steps would not be “easy,” saying “there will be more steps to do to address some underlying issues that have characterized our relationship for longer than I’ve lived.“

“The people in that room are dedicated to peace…there’s some good people in that room who have sadly gone through this before and too often in this country,” he said.

Miller said that the representatives of the Mohawk Nation he had met with had a message for the prime minister and for Canadians, but “it’s one of peace... we’re committed to resolve this in peace.”

Expressing concern over the “growing tides of bigotry and racism” that Miller said are being levelled against “amazing people that have helped us in hard times,” the Indigenous services minister expressed that relationships between Canadians and Indigenous and First Nations people were “characterized by alliances” and that in “some cases we’ve broken our promise to them.”

“This won’t get better any time soon without more dialogue and discussion,” he said, declining to answer a question over whether the blockade would be lifted soon.