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Trudeau calls for 'peaceful resolution' amid blockade arrests
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still calling for a "peaceful resolution" as the Ontario Provincial Police have moved in on a Mohawk blockade in Tyendinaga, Ont.
"We're still on the path to reconciliation, we needed a peaceful resolution and we're continuing to work towards that," Trudeau said, just hours after convening his Incident Response Group to discuss the current blockades.
Several people have been arrested at the protest site after the blockade was not dismantled before a midnight deadline, which the OPP had reportedly given to the protesters as an option to avoid charges.
The Incident Response Group includes senior cabinet ministers who hold relevant portfolios to the blockade issue.
"We are committed to reconciliation and we are committed to sitting down and having a dialogue over the specific problem that exists at the moment with the Wet'suwet'en, but at the same time the barricades had to come down because it was having a profound effect on the economy," Transport Minister Marc Garneau said as he stepped outside the meeting on Monday.
Protesters have been protesting next to rail lines near Belleville, Ont. in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline through their territory in northern B.C. Other blockades have sprung up across the country.
These blockades have caused rail cancellations, which have in turn disrupted the transport of goods and prompted Via Rail to issue temporary layoff notices for "close to" 1,000 employees.
CN Rail also laid off close to 450 workers in its operations in Eastern Canada after cancelling over 400 trains in the past week due to the blockade.
Speaking outside the IRG meeting on Monday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he believed the police of the jurisdiction are "doing their job," adding that the government will "let them continue doing their job."
"We are not in any way compromising our commitment to the reconciliation agenda, but at the same time, the impact of these rail disruptions and the barricades is untenable, it can't continue, it cannot persist, it's absolutely essential that those barricades come down and that rail service be resumed," Blair said.
As the police action continues in Tyendinaga, opposition leaders have also been weighing in on the issue.
Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke to Trudeau on the phone on Monday. While the main topic of discussion was Teck Resources Ltd.'s announcement that it is withdrawing its application for an oilsands mine in Alberta, Scheer tied the company's decision to the ongoing rail blockades.
"Mr. Scheer said the Prime Minister’s weakness over the last few weeks has sent a signal to businesses across Canada that the rule of law will not be upheld, court injunctions will not be enforced, and major projects cannot get built," the Conservative Party's readout of the phone call says.
He doubled down on the comments outside the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
"The fact that he has done literally nothing for 19 days while illegal blockades have brought our economy to its knees sends a very strong signal to proponents in the energy sector that this government will not uphold the rule of law, and that they will be on their own," Scheer said.
Striking a very different tone, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh expressed his concern about the police action during a press conference about pharmacare on Monday.
"I've been really concerned about the idea that police intervention will deescalate this national crisis, because it's won't. It's not the solution," Singh said.
Meanwhile, in a letter circulated in the early hours of Monday morning, the Mohawk people in Tyendinaga called for a speedy resolution to the issue.
"There has always and continues to be a willingness from the Tyendinaga Mohawks to discuss an exit strategy of the CN Rail Main line," the statement read.
"We want to remind the public that we have never physically obstructed the tracks and we have been in peaceful solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en."
Demonstrations have already cropped up in reponse to the police action. A Mohawk group in Kahnawake used a rolling blockade to slow traffic on Quebec's Mercier Bridge, which a source informed CTVNews.ca was in direct response to the arrests at Tyendinaga.
Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets in Ottawa to demonstrate their solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en, shutting down streets near Parliament Hill.