Business associations band together to urge federal action on rail blockades
OTTAWA -- The heads of Canada's major business associations have banded together to urge the government to address the ongoing protests and rail blockades that have shut down much of the country's rail system.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, the heads of the Business Council of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters all demanded the government take action – and fast.
"The damage inflicted on the Canadian economy and on the welfare of all our citizens mounts with each hour that these illegal disruptions are allowed to continue," the letter says.
"Each additional day rail lines are disrupted requires three to four days for supply chains to recover. This is why it is imperative that the Government act now to get the Canadian economy moving again."
The letter says the companies these associations represent employ millions of Canadians across the country – Canadians they say are feeling the impact of the rail blockades. Between disruptions to public transit and the "countless" middle class jobs they say are at risk, the associations say the blockades are creating "severe problems."
"They also threaten public safety by preventing the distribution of essential products like chlorine for water treatment and propane for heating homes, seniors facilities and farms," the letter reads.
Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan acknowledged that the blockades are weighing on Canada's industries.
"We are a country of natural resources, so the pressure is severe," O'Regan said on his way out of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
The protesters are pushing back against a planned natural gas pipeline that would cross Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C., with tensions escalating into a broader conversation about First Nations rights, sovereignty and the rule of law.
After the RCMP took action to enforce an injunction at the initial protest site in B.C., Canada exploded with protesters blockading railways and taking to the streets to express their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en opponents to project.
Following meetings between Ministers and First Nations leaders as well as a meeting of the government's Incident Response Group on Monday, Trudeau spoke in the House of Commons on Tuesday to call the issue a "critical moment for our country and our future."
"I know that people’s patience is running short. We need to find a solution. And we need to find it now," Trudeau said.
The Assembly of First Nations also spoke out on the issue on Tuesday. National Chief Perry Bellegarde told reporters that First Nations want to "de-escalate" and "want dialogue."
"And I say our people are taking action because they want to see action -- and when they see positive action by the key players, when they see a commitment to real dialogue to address this difficult situation, people will respond in a positive way," Bellegarde said.
Ta’Kaiya Blaney and Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, who took part in the blockage the B.C. legislature in Victoria last week, said that the blockades are a last resort.
"We stand for Canada to uphold, observe and be accountable to its promises to negotiate in good faith with Indigenous nations and that cannot come with the conditions of coercion, military invasion, exclusion zones that bar them access to their territory,” Blaney said on CTV News Channel on Friday.
Sutherland-Wilson, who is of the Gitxsan First Nation, said the protesters want to make it clear to the country "that it will be far costlier to allow this project to run its course than to revoke the permits."
With files from CTVNews.ca's Meredith MacLeod and Rachel Aiello.
Here's a copy of the letter the @CFIB, the @CdnChamberofCom, @cme_mec, and the @BizCouncilofCan sent to Trudeau today, urging him to address the rail blockades.— Rachel Gilmore (@atRachelGilmore) February 18, 2020
"It is imperative that the Government act now to get the Canadian economy moving again," the letter says. #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/s77a0mCkbY