Hereditary chief Kloum Khun (Alphonse Gagnon) speaks with supporters at the blockade on the afternoon of Feb. 12. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

A blockade set up where the CN rail line intersects with Highway 16 at New Hazelton has been taken down.

Chief Spookwx (Norman Stephens) of the Gitxsan nation said following letters he received from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan members of the Gitxsan nation and supporters took down the blockade on Thursday evening.

READ MORE: CN Rail to shut down tracks in northern B.C. if pipeline blockade continues

When The Interior News stopped by the camp on Feb. 12 Spookwx said while the decision to set up camp on the tracks was not made lightly.

He added that the railroad is on Spookwx territory of the Gitxsan nation and that recent events gave them little choice but to assert their authority over the land.

“We decided that enough is enough,” he said of the blockade which began on Feb. 8. “We put [it] up … and naturally we got an injunction against us for trespass on our own lands, which is a little much to take.”

Spookwx also expressed cynicism towards the concept of seeking consent from the appropriate decision makers in terms of land development.

“Free prior informed consent works only if you say yes,” he said. “If you say no then it’s injunction time and enforcement time.”

The railway company previously told The Interior News it has obtained court injunctions to remove both blockades and are working with RCMP to enforce the orders.

The blockade is one of dozens across the country which has had a significant impact on CN rail service across Canada.

In a news release Tuesday, CN president JJ Ruest said that hundreds of its freight trains had been cancelled and that the Port of Prince Rupert was “effectively already shut down.”

As for Spookwx, he feels it’s becoming more and more likely the best option for Indigenous people is one which utilizes the courts.

“Hopefully we get back to where we can sit down and plan for how we’re going to finish Delgamuukw because that would appear to be the only option for us now,” he said.

“Canada is still not listening, the Province here is certainly not going to listen.”

In a letter addressed to Spookwx Justin Trudeau said maintaining a strong relationship with Indigenous people is of the utmost importance to his Government.

“In this spirit, I can confirm our government’s participation at a joint meeting with Gitxsan Simgyget and Wet’suwet’en Dini Ze’ and Ts’ake ze to engage in dialogue on how the current impasse over pipeline development arose, to discuss the current situation and to seek a process that avoids such situations in the future.”

The Interior News has learned that the Province will be sending federal Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett to the meeting.

Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser will be in attendance for the Province.

In an emailed statement Fraser said that he feels dialogue is the best way through the situation and that the Province welcomes the opportunity to sit down and hear the concerns of both parties.

“We are very pleased that after our letter was sent, the CN Rail blockade near New Hazelton was dismantled as a gesture of good faith,” said Fraser. “I know that we all ultimately want a peaceful resolution.”

A date for the meeting has not been set yet, and Spookwx has said if negotiations are unsuccessful it’s possible the blockade will go back up.

In an email to The Interior News Dawn Roberts with BC RCMP Communications confirmed the blockade had been taken down. She said the action was a result of discussions between all parties.

“Significant efforts took place to keep the lines of dialogue open between the Hereditary Chiefs, Elected Chiefs, the provincial and federal governments,” she said. “Ultimately a resolution was reached that saw the blockade peacefully end and all obstructions removed on Feb. 13 without the need for enforcement.”

The RCMP say they are hopeful the positive outcome can lead to further peaceful resolutions.

“That is exactly what happened here and we will continue this approach moving forward.”



trevor.hewitt@interior-news.com

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