Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that while Canadians have been patient with protests that have blocked rail traffic in parts of the country, the situation is “unacceptable and untenable” and the barricades must come down.
“Everyone involved is worried,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa moments ago. “Canadians have been patient, our government has been patient. But it has been two weeks and the barricades need to come down now.”
Trudeau said that his government has engaged directly with Indigenous leaders and premiers with the aim of finding a “peaceful and lasting resolution” to the crisis.
“That focus does not change,” Trudeau said. “This is a complex issue and the situation we now find ourselves in is a delicate one. History has taught us how governments can make matters worse if they fail to exhaust all other possible avenues.
“When some urged us to use force immediately, we chose dialogue and mutual respect. When others urged us to give up, we extended a hand in good faith.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated. An earlier version of this report appears below:
Requests by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, whose opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline inspired other Indigenous groups to protest in solidarity, have gone unanswered.
Asked Friday if the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had responded to an offer from the B.C. RCMP to pull back officers from their traditional territory, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he couldn’t comment.
“We know that we still have a great deal of work to do. We’re doing that work and we very much recognize the importance and the urgency of resolving this as quickly as possible,” Blair said on his way into the incident response group meeting.
The Mohawk protesters in Tyendinaga had said they would continue their blockade of the CN Rail line near Belleville, Ont., until the RCMP abandons its temporary detachment on Wet’suwet’en land. The B.C. RCMP has said it will move its operations to nearby Houston, B.C., as long as the hereditary chiefs guarantee free access to Morice West Forest Service Road, a public road used by construction crews building the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
“We are waiting for a commitment before we finalize that transition of our operations to Houston. However we are doing all the planning now and getting things ready so it can be happen as soon as we get that commitment,” a spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP said.
“The RCMP recognizes the importance for this crisis to be de-escalated, both across the country and in the Wet’suwet’en traditional territory … Ultimately, we remain open to any service delivery scenario that keeps people safe and secure.”
On a call with premiers late Thursday, Trudeau was told Ottawa needs to resolve this crisis quickly or risk a backlash from counter-protesters and vigilantes determined to put an end to Indigenous demonstrations that have snarled the flow of goods and people.
The protests have put 1,500 railway workers temporarily out of a job and disrupted the transport of food, farm products, consumer goods and essential items like chlorine for water and propane for home heating.