Talks begin in Canada as CN rail blockade enters 10th day

Posted Feb 15, 2020 by Karen Graham
Members of the Mohawk First Nation are meeting Saturday with Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller at a CN rail crossing in Ontario - even as 66 shipping vessels are stalled in British Columbia's waters.
CN Forced to Shut Down Parts of Network Due to Blockades.
CN Forced to Shut Down Parts of Network Due to Blockades.
Canadian National Railway
The protests over the Coastal GasLink Pipeline are now in their 10th day. The blockades at several key rail crossings forced CN Rail to temporarily discontinue service last week.
A rail blockade near Belleville, Ontario continued into its ninth day on Friday, which has resulted in CN and Via Rail stoppages, while a blockade near Hazelton, B.C., ended after the federal and provincial governments agreed to set up a meeting between high-level officials and hereditary chiefs.
Hence, the meeting this morning with Mohawk leaders and the Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller. Apparently, there is a lot of nuance in how the blockade talks will be handled. On the one hand, the Ontario provincial police have been present at the blockades, talking with protesters, in line with how they handle conflicts with Indigenous communities.
"All of Canada is hurting, the economy is slowing down," said Miller. "Everyone knows the reports about supply shortages, but we can't move forward without dialogue and that's what we're going to do today," reports CBC Canada.
However, a growing number of businesses and industry groups, including federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, have called for police or government intervention to shut down the blockades, reports CTV News Canada.
"Law enforcement should enforce the law," he said. "We have court orders, we have court injunctions. They need to be respected," Sheer said.
However, Transport Minister Marc Garneau pointed out that the long history between Ontario Provincial Police and Indigenous communities may call for a more delicate approach.
"Also remember that they have to take into account some history here when we're talking about what happened at Ipperwash," he said, referring to a violent 1995 standoff that resulted in the death of Indigenous activist Dudley George. "It is their decision about how to approach that."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in agreement with Garneau. "We are not the kind of country where politicians tell police what to do in operational matters," Trudeau said at a press conference in Germany.
Ships offshore in B.C.
In the meantime, about 66 shipping vessels ate sitting off British Columbia's coast, according to the maritime shipping industry, held up because of the rail stoppages.
The Chamber of Shipping, along with the B.C. Maritime Employers Association and the B.C. Marine Terminal Operators Association, issued a joint statement Friday calling on the province and the federal government to de-escalate tensions and remove blockades.
Not only are the blockades creating an unsafe working environment, but they are impeding the movement of goods, according to the statement. Robert Lewis-Manning, president of the Chamber of Shipping of B.C., says Canadians will start noticing the lack of essential goods.
Lewis-Manning says there are 48 vessels anchored in Vancouver and 18 in Prince Rupert, waiting to unlead. "Those line-ups are only going to increase, of course, ships are continuing to arrive," he said. "Eventually there will be no space and they'll be waiting off the coast of Canada, which is a situation we'd like to avoid."