Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he plans to speak with members of his cabinet Wednesday to discuss “next steps” in the ongoing anti-pipeline protests that have hamstrung the country’s rail network.
“This is an issue that is of concern,” Trudeau said during a news conference in Senegal Wednesday morning.
“Obviously it’s extremely important to respect the right to freely demonstrate peacefully, but we need to make sure the laws are respected. That’s why I’m going to be engaging with our ministers and looking at what possible next steps there are.”
“I am encouraging all parties to dialogue, to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
One of the ministers he’ll call will undoubtedly be Marc Garneau.
On Tuesday, the transport minister said the federal government is “very concerned” after CN Rail said the railway has no choice but to temporarily shut “significant” parts of its network because of blockades by protesters near Belleville, Ont., and New Hazelton, B.C.
The Tyendinaga Mohawk protests in southern Ontario have halted freight and passenger rail traffic since Thursday. The Mohawks involved say they are standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.
Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters said Tuesday they won’t end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en, where there have been numerous arrests of demonstrators who have been blocking an access road to the natural gas pipeline construction site.
Watch: Trudeau says peaceful protests are an important democratic right but the rule of law must be respected
Ontario police warn protesters
Ontario Provincial Police have warned demonstrators near Belleville to clear the area or face a raid and arrests.
J.J. Ruest, the president and CEO of CN Rail, said the protests threaten industry across the country, including the transport of food and consumer items, grain, de-icing fluid used at airports, construction materials, propane for Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and natural resources like lumber, aluminum and coal.
Via Rail has also had to cancel more than 150 trips on the Toronto-to-Montreal corridor.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on Trudeau to end his overseas trip to address the mounting tensions.
“After centuries of colonialism, the way forward is not easy, but refusing to talk and pretending the federal government has no role is a failure of leadership,” he tweeted Wednesday.
“Across the country, the situation is escalating. [Trudeau] must return to Canada and meet with the chiefs.”