'The time has come': Despite pleas from government, no sign of blockades coming down
TORONTO -- As hereditary chiefs from Wet’suwet’en First Nation return to British Columbia, protesters show no signs of removing the blockades crippling the country’s rail network despite ongoing pleas from the federal government.
“The time has come. The barricades must come down,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said during an interview with CTV’s Question Period Sunday, reiterating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message to protesters Friday.
“The law must be obeyed. But at the same time we are not in any way stepping back from our commitment to continue the dialogue that is part of the entire reconciliation agenda.”
On Friday, 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 theblockade near Belleville, Ont. blocking a critical east-west rail line between Toronto and Montreal, where there are no signs that protesters plan on dismantling their camp. Meanwhile, Via Rail said it is set to resume certain routes, including its Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa route on Monday.
“We all understand the importance of a peaceful resolution, but a speedy resolution because the impact of these barricades is unacceptable, untenable,” said Blair, noting that while the government wants protesters to remove the blockades, he understands there is still “a lot of work to be done” with Indigenous leaders.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders spent Friday near the Belleville-area blockade meeting with Mohawk supporters.
Following the meeting, Hereditary Chief Woos said the group was ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C. and federal government once the RCMP and Coastal GasLink leave their traditional territory and cease work on the natural gas pipeline project.
The RCMP have “temporarily” closed a remote detachment that stood on Wet’suwet’en territory at the 29-kilometre mark on the Morice West Forest Service Road, positioning themselves instead in the nearby town of Houston, B.C. However, the RCMP says patrols will continue in the area.
Blair said the RCMP has held up their end of the deal, but noted that the RCMP will not abandon the area entirely.
“I have great confidence in the deputy commissioner in B.C. and in her officers. They have been working tirelessly to resolve this peacefully, and I would encourage the hereditary chiefs to come back to that discussion and let’s work together,” he said.
“The role and the duty and responsibility of the RCMP is to provide policing services and keep safe the thousands of people that live in that region. We’re not going to be able to abandon them and so they will continue to receive the services that they need from the RCMP.”
He also noted that Costal GasLink is in the process of obtaining a new permit and work would not continue on the territory until that permit is issued.
- With files from The Canadian Press