Trudeau promises update on blockades as Wet'suwet'en chiefs meet Mohawk supporters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a meeting of his emergency-response team in Ottawa.

He promises a full account of his government's work to clear transportation blockades in a news conference at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Meanwhile, a group of hereditary leaders from the Wet'suwet'en Nation in British Columbia is spending the day with Mohawk supporters in Ontario.

The B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to a pipeline project on their traditional territory by blocking a critical rail line between Toronto and Montreal.

A notice telling police and reporters to stay away says the gathering is to celebrate friendship, healing, peace and optimism, and to talk politics.

The chiefs have scheduled their own news conference at the blockade near Belleville, Ont., this afternoon.

The rail blockade, and others like it across the country, went up after the RCMP enforced a court injunction against the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and supporters, forcing them off an access road to a worksite for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The hereditary Wet'suwet'en leaders say they're willing to talk with representatives of the Crown, but only after the RCMP and Coastal GasLink workers have left their traditional lands.

On Thursday, the RCMP in B.C. sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, telling them the force intends to move its officers out of the territory and station them instead in the nearby town of Houston.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he believes this move meets the original conditions set by the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and that the time has come for the barricades to come down.

Trudeau has been under increasing pressure to end the blockades, with Conservatives calling for the government to use force, while the Liberal government insists peaceful negotiations are the only way to a lasting solution.

Canada's premiers are among those pressing for a swift resolution, including Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who said Thursday provincial police in Quebec would dismantle a blockade in a suburb south of Montreal as soon as an injunction was granted.

Canadian National Railway received a court injunction to end the blockade in St-Lambert Thursday, but so far police have not moved in.

Trudeau spoke with Canada's premiers Thursday evening by teleconference, and an account of the conversation from his office stressed his recognition of the need to restore rail service across the country and that the federal government is looking at all options to resolve the current interruptions given the impact on the economy.

Trudeau called it a ``complex issue'' on which he working closely with B.C. Premier John Horgan. He also noted his hope that the RCMP's offer to withdraw from the traditional territory in B.C. will lead to a meeting between Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to address both urgent and longer-term issues.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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