Hereditary chief Kloum Khun (Alphonse Gagnon) speaks with supporters at the blockade on the afternoon of Feb. 12. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

A blockade set up where the CN rail line intersects with Highway 16 at New Hazelton has been taken down.

Chief Spookwx (Norman Stephens) of the Gitxsan nation said following letters he received from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan members of the Gitxsan nation and supporters took down the blockade on Thursday evening.

READ MORE: CN Rail to shut down tracks in northern B.C. if pipeline blockade continues

When The Interior News stopped by the camp on Feb. 12 Spookwx said while the decision to set up camp on the tracks was not made lightly.

He added that the railroad is on Spookwx territory of the Gitxsan nation and that recent events gave them little choice but to assert their authority over the land.

“We decided that enough is enough,” he said of the blockade which began on Feb. 8. “We put [it] up … and naturally we got an injunction against us for trespass on our own lands, which is a little much to take.”

Spookwx also expressed cynicism towards the concept of seeking consent from the appropriate decision makers in terms of land development.

“Free prior informed consent works only if you say yes,” he said. “If you say no then it’s injunction time and enforcement time.”

The railway company previously told The Interior News it has obtained court injunctions to remove both blockades and are working with RCMP to enforce the orders.

The blockade is one of dozens across the country which has had a significant impact on CN rail service across Canada.

In a news release Tuesday, CN president JJ Ruest said that hundreds of its freight trains had been cancelled and that the Port of Prince Rupert was “effectively already shut down.”

As for Spookwx, he feels it’s becoming more and more likely the best option for Indigenous people is one which utilizes the courts.

“Hopefully we get back to where we can sit down and plan for how we’re going to finish Delgamuukw because that would appear to be the only option for us now,” he said.

“Canada is still not listening, the Province here is certainly not going to listen.”

In a letter addressed to Spookwx Justin Trudeau said maintaining a strong relationship with Indigenous people is of the utmost importance to his Government.

“In this spirit, I can confirm our government’s participation at a joint meeting with Gitxsan Simgyget and Wet’suwet’en Dini Ze’ and Ts’ake ze to engage in dialogue on how the current impasse over pipeline development arose, to discuss the current situation and to seek a process that avoids such situations in the future.”

The Interior News has learned that the Province will be sending federal Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett to the meeting.

Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser will be in attendance for the Province.

In an emailed statement Fraser said that he feels dialogue is the best way through the situation and that the Province welcomes the opportunity to sit down and hear the concerns of both parties.

“We are very pleased that after our letter was sent, the CN Rail blockade near New Hazelton was dismantled as a gesture of good faith,” said Fraser. “I know that we all ultimately want a peaceful resolution.”

A date for the meeting has not been set yet, and Spookwx has said if negotiations are unsuccessful it’s possible the blockade will go back up.

In an email to The Interior News Dawn Roberts with BC RCMP Communications confirmed the blockade had been taken down. She said the action was a result of discussions between all parties.

“Significant efforts took place to keep the lines of dialogue open between the Hereditary Chiefs, Elected Chiefs, the provincial and federal governments,” she said. “Ultimately a resolution was reached that saw the blockade peacefully end and all obstructions removed on Feb. 13 without the need for enforcement.”

The RCMP say they are hopeful the positive outcome can lead to further peaceful resolutions.

“That is exactly what happened here and we will continue this approach moving forward.”



trevor.hewitt@interior-news.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Closures and cancellations in the Bulkley Valley due to COVID-19

Many places and businesses have closed or reduced their hours

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

Concerns raised over publicly discarded masks, gloves

Deputy mayor says behaviour is simply unacceptable in time of elevated public health crisis

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. announces $3M for food banks to increase capacity during COVID-19

It is not clear how much of the money will flow towards Greater Victoria food banks

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Most Read