Land protectors stand near the closed train tracks on the ninth day of the protest in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., on Friday Feb. 14, 2020, the protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

No quick fix to pipeline protests, Trudeau says, as rail links severed

Protests continue as political leaders look to negotiate solutions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there are no easy answers to the dispute over a B.C. pipeline project that has sparked Indigenous protests at vital rail links across Canada.

In his most extensive public comments since anti-pipeline protests began affecting freight and passenger rail traffic across Canada last week, Trudeau said Friday that the path forward is “fraught with challenges and obstacles to overcome.”

“You need to know we have failed our Indigenous peoples over generations, over centuries. And there is no quick fix to it,” Trudeau said, adding that all parties must move towards reconciliation.

“We also are, obviously, a country of laws. And making sure that those laws are enforced, even as there is, of course, freedom to demonstrate free and to protest,” he said.

“Getting that balance right and wrapping it up in the path forward … is really important.”

Tensions could heat up today, with the added threat of activists planning to shut down government offices in B.C.’s capital.

Protests continue as political leaders look to negotiate solutions, while business leaders, opposition politicians and ordinary people call for immediate action to end the disruptions, which have already seen more than 80 arrests.

Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan spoke Thursday about the need to work together to resolve the pipeline tensions that have resulted in solidarity blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and B.C.

Indigenous leaders in B.C.’s northwest have invited federal and provincial politicians to meetings to find solutions, and said they would ensure a blockade of a Canadian National Railway track near New Hazelton, B.C., would come down during talks.

CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis confirmed Friday morning the New Hazelton blockade had been lifted.

READ MORE: B.C. officials meet Wet’suwet’en chiefs over gas pipeline protest

The railway said Thursday it was starting a progressive shutdown in the East, while Via Rail cancelled all service on CN tracks in Canada.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said safe and efficient passenger and freight rail service is critical to Canada’s well-being.

He is to meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as representatives of national Indigenous organizations to discuss a way forward.

The blockades began last week after RCMP enforced an injunction against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who were blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada export project.

Horgan has rejected calls from the Opposition Liberals to seek immediate injunctions to end the blockades and protests in B.C.

“We can’t just use force,” he said in the legislature. “It needs to be dealt with by co-operation, by consultation, by discussion so that we can all move forward.”

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Horgan was taking an “entirely passive approach in the face of implacable protesters who are intent on shutting down constituency services, shutting down the universities, shutting down our transportation arteries.”

“The issues going on right now, these days, in Canada are pitting Indigenous Peoples and concerns about the environment against economic development,” Trudeau said.

“But, of course, there are lots of Indigenous Peoples who want economic development. They just need to want to see this being done in the right way, and in a way that is respectful and partnership.”

Groups including Grain Growers of Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have said rail delays caused by the blockades are hurting their members and the economy.

Teamsters Canada, the country’s largest union in the transportation sector, called on the federal government to intervene.

The union warned the impasse could put up to 6,000 employees at CN and other rail companies out of work.

Protesters have threatened to block government buildings in Victoria on Friday, but late Thursday a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted an injunction against further blockades at the legislature.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route.

However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

More than two dozen people have been arrested in the pipeline construction area near Houston by RCMP enforcing an injunction order. Vancouver Police arrested more than 50 people this week enforcing an injunction order against people blocking access to Vancouver area ports.

Mia Rabson and Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkPipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: First presumptive case of COVID-19 in Prince Rupert

Doctor says it was a visitor, Northern Health won’t confirm

Digital Daffodils

April is Canadian Cancer Society’s cancer awareness month

North District RCMP see massive spike in domestic calls

Connection to COVID-19 pandemic likely for reduced call volume, increased severity

City gives no response to homelessness concerns

City demands shelter close, but no response to pleas from shelter to open Jim Ciccone Civic Centre

Northwest mines lengthen crew rotations in response to COVID-19

Northern Health confident precautions sufficient enough to keep work camps open

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

Most Read