TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the barricades blocking rail service in Canada have to come down now and court injunctions must be obeyed.
Demonstrators have set up blockades in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.
Some hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory, though it has received approval from elected band councils.
Trudeau said the situation is unacceptable and untenable and every attempt at dialogue has been made over the last two weeks. He noted some people can’t get to work and others have lost their jobs. He said there’s no point making the same overtures to indigenous leaders if they aren’t accepted.
“We can’t have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table,” Trudeau said. “The onus is on them.”
Via Rail, Canada’s passenger train service, said this week it is temporarily laying off 1,000 employees due to the continued halt in service on CN Rail’s tracks in eastern Canada caused by railway blockades protesting a British Columbia pipeline. CN Rail also announced 450 temporary layoffs.
Trudeau has made reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations a priority for his government.
“We are waiting for Indigenous leadership to show that it understands,” he said
He said the army won’t be called in, saying you don’t use the army against Canadian citizens. He said must be done peacefully.
“Police have a job to do but how they do that, when they do that, no politician gets to say,” he said.
The prime minister said they have feared from the start that situation could get worse and spent the last two weeks showing good faith in an effort to resolve it. He said it would be lamentable if there was violence when the barricades are taken down, but said Canadians cannot continue to suffer as a result of the rail shut down.
Trudeau met with his top Cabinet ministers on Friday. His office said Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller discussed their ongoing outreach to Indigenous leaders across the country. His office also noted the repeated offers to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to address immediate and long-term issues have not yet been accepted.
Rob Gillies, The Associated Press