National News

The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti-pipeline demonstrators

By The Canadian Press

Published 10:33 PST, Thu February 13, 2020

Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural-gas pipeline project in British Columbia:

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Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is offering to meet with three Indigenous leaders in Ontario as the federal government seeks a solution to rail blockades in several areas of the country, prompted by protests against a pipeline in northern British Columbia.

Miller calls the situation volatile.

In exchange for the meeting, he asks for an end to protests and barricades that have halted some passenger and freight service through Ontario and Quebec.

Miller's letter, posted online, says he hopes the leaders will agree to the meeting "in the spirit of peace and co-operation that should guide our relationship."

The offer includes a proposal to meet wherever the Indigenous leaders choose and comes after the Assembly of First Nations and Opposition politicians urged the Liberal government to take swifter and firmer action to defuse tensions over the pipeline.

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British Columbia Premier John Horgan has agreed to work toward a period of calm amid spreading protests over a natural gas pipeline in northwestern B.C.

The premier says he expects his agreement will prompt the lifting of a blockade of the Canadian National Rail line though the region in northwestern B.C.

In a letter of response to a proposal from a Gitxan Chief Norman Stephens, Horgan says either he or a senior cabinet member will attend a meeting with Indigenous leaders to discuss the impasse over the construction of the pipeline through their traditional territories.

Horgan's letter says his office has informed the federal government of B.C.'s willingness to take part in the meetings and it urges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to respond as quickly as possible.

With the receipt of his letter and a similar commitment from the federal government, Horgan says he understands the blockade of the CN line "will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue."

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The transit authority that operates commuter trains between Montreal and its suburbs has cancelled service on one of its lines for the fourth straight day due to an Indigenous protest.

Exo confirmed the cancellation of all departures on the line between Candiac, Que., and downtown Montreal.

Protesters from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake south of Montreal established a blockade near the tracks on the weekend in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposing construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Protesters have said they intend to remain at the site beside the CP Rail line as long as the RCMP is present on Wet'suwet'en First Nation territory in British Columbia.

Another protest in Ontario has disrupted passenger and freight rail service between Montreal and Toronto.

In Quebec City, provincial Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get directly involved to resolve what he called a crisis.

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The group that speaks for farmers in Saskatchewan has added its voice to those concerned about the damaging effect of rail blockades set up by opponents of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia.

The vice-president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan says the blockades are affecting almost every commodity.

Ian Boxall says dozens of ships in Vancouver are waiting to be loaded, while eight are idled in Prince Rupert.

Canadian National Railway has warned it may have to close some of its rail lines if the blockades continue much longer, while Via Rail has already cancelled service on two passenger routes between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal until at least the end of the day on Friday.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says an injunction will be sought to end a rail blockade west of Winnipeg and he believes the Justice Department will have it enforced within a few days.

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Demonstrators in Victoria are promising to shut down all provincial government offices in that city on Friday as a show of solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project being built across traditional territories of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.

A social media post says the shutdown is being planned for between 8 a.m. and noon.

It calls on settlers and union members to "take responsibility for the colonial institutions causing violence against Wet'suwet'en people."

On Tuesday, hundreds of people surrounded the B.C. legislature, preventing access to the building and forcing cancellation of some of the ceremonial events leading up to the reading of the throne speech.

That demonstration and other protests across Canada are in response to RCMP enforcement of a court injunction last week against Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been blocking construction of the pipeline.

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Vancouver commuters are bracing for more disruptions today as protesters supporting Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs promise further actions.

Spokeswoman Natalie Knight says a gathering is planned for the Kitsilano neighbourhood of the city.

She says the group will then move to an undisclosed location.

A major intersection in Vancouver was blockaded for about 16 hours earlier this week and demonstrators also paraded through the downtown core Wednesday, blocking one of the main bridges into the city centre for part of the afternoon before dispersing for the night.

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