Rail blockades expand, snarl southern Ontario transit
TORONTO -- Several rail blockades in support of hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation halted traffic for hours along public transit routes in southern Ontario as the protests grow in numbers.
Metrolinx, the company that owns GO Transit, said at least three blockades caused major service disruptions and cancellations across its entire grid.
"These are all related to security incidents that are quickly evolving," Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins told The Canadian Press. "It's an extremely unfortunate, difficult situation for us to manage and for our customers to manage."
The demonstrations are in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, who oppose a natural gas pipeline from being built in their traditional territory. These protests have grown in size and numbers since OPP officers moved in and arrested 10 people on Monday morning at a rail blockade in support of the chiefs in Tyendinaga, Ont.
In Hamilton, GO Transit delays began on Monday afternoon when a blockade emerged on some of the city’s tracks. Protesters left by 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to Hamilton police.
Another route running west of Toronto was suspended, where dozens of protesters had blocked a railway at a busy station. A media liaison for the blockade said eight people had been arrested.
A third route east of Toronto was halted briefly before returning to service, leading to several lengthy delays in the area.
A group called “Wet'suwet'en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity” has claimed responsibility for the Hamilton rail blockade. The group has been posting regular updates on their Facebook page, where they hint at another demonstration soon.
"It's a new day, and we started it by burning the injunction delivered by CN rail!" the group wrote on Facebook early Tuesday.
"Remember why we're out here; the violence the state has perpetrated towards Indigenous land defenders and their supporters, the forced removal and criminalization of Indigenous people from their lands."
SLOW MOVING NEAR TYENDINAGA
As of Tuesday afternoon, only one train had moved along the CN Rail line since the arrests, despite weeks of concern that the protests were halting operations and causing an escalating cargo backlog.
CN Rail told CTV News that they are “closely monitoring the situation,” but wouldn’t comment on why rail service hasn't fully resumed.
Late Monday night, protesters gathered next to the Tyendinaga tracks, chanting, dancing, playing drums and holding signs. A few demonstrators returned Tuesday morning near the train tracks. A row of police officers stood in front of them and large concrete barriers were in place to prevent anyone from approaching the tracks.
14 ARRESTS NEAR WET'SUWET'EN
A leader of a B.C. First Nation near Wet'suwet'en traditional territory said RCMP arrested 14 people on Monday at a blockade outside New Hazelton, B.C.
Gitxsan Nation Hereditary Chief Spookwx tole The Canadian Press that he was among four hereditary chiefs to be taken into custody while officers removed a blocked along a rail line in northern B.C. He added that all 14 demonstrators have since been released.
DEMONSTRATIONS GROWING NATIONWIDE
Demonstrations have been growing across the country since the OPP moved in on a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, Ont. on Monday morning. Officers dismantled the camp and arrested 10 people, nine of whom have been charged under the Criminal Code.
In Vancouver, six protesters were arrested following a demonstration at an intersection near the Port of Vancouver, where 43 people have were arrested earlier this month following a similar protest.
On Vancouver Island, protesters are planning to shut down a major highway on Wednesday.
In Quebec, CP obtained an injunction Tuesday to end a blockade in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, a spokesperson told The Canadian Press. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake said it intends to challenge with injunction.
"We must make it clear to our own people that this injunction will not be executed on this Territory," Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton said in a statement. "It is truly unfortunate that CP is taking this rash course of action, which will only add to the problems at hand."
Smaller blockades also popped up near Caledonia, Ont. and along a rail line in Sherbrooke, Que.
Earlier this week, more than 500 people gathered in a downtown Halifax park tosupport the cross-country demonstrations and “nation-to-nation discussion,” as one protest organizer put it.
“There can’t be dialogue at the barrel of a gun,” Stacey Gomez told CTV News Atlantic.
In Winnipeg, about 100 protesters staged a “die-in” on a downtown street and spoke out against the police action in Ontario.
“We really don’t like seeing on video our people being intimidated and bullied from their own territories,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organization. “Canada’s systems have failed and they’re continuing to fail as long as they think they’re just going to push things through us.”
“We are willing to put our bodies in the streets as an expression of solidarity with our relatives, our brothers and our sisters, our aunties and our uncles and the youth who are fighting alongside Tyendinaga and Wet'suwet'en,” said activist Natalie Knight.
With files from The Canadian Press