Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller looks back during a meeting with protesters at a rail blockade on the tenth day of demonstration in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Hours of talks between the federal government and representatives of the Mohawk First Nation ended with “modest progress” Saturday evening, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said as he left the meeting near a rail blockade that’s shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada.

But Miller declined to tell reporters what that progress was, saying he would deliver that message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly.

“Tonight, we made some modest progress by opening up a dialogue with the people standing out there in the cold and doing so for eight or nine days,” he said. “We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There’s a lot more work to be done.”

The focus, Miller said, was firmly on the natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia and is opposed by their hereditary chiefs.

He said there are steps the federal government needs to take to resolve the blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., which was in its 10th day on Saturday.

“They aren’t easy, no one said they were,” he said. ”The underlying issues did not arrive yesterday, they’ve been present in this community for hundreds of years.”

Miller requested the meeting to “polish the silver covenant chain,” which the Mohawks say refers to one of the original agreements between the First Nation and the Crown.

Similar blockades across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, with pressure mounting on the federal government to end them.

On Saturday, people milled in and out of the camps by the railway to deliver toilet paper and snacks at the Tyendinaga blockade, while a pizza restaurant delivered free pies to the demonstrators.

As he arrived in Tyendinaga some nine hours before his meetings would end, Miller said the blockades have been divisive.

“All of Canada is hurting,” he added. “The economy is slowing down. Everyone knows the reports about supply shortages, but we can’t move forward without dialogue.”

CN obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

The company also announced it had obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.

“In Vaughan, protesters put their personal safety at risk by climbing on and between railcars … Trespassing on railway property and tampering with railway equipment is not only illegal, but also exceedingly dangerous,” JJ Ruest, CN’s president and CEO, said in a written statement.

An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline, which is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat. More than two dozen protesters have been arrested for refusing to obey it.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

READ MORE: Federal Indigenous services minister meets First Nation at rail blockade

READ MORE: Industry warns of empty shelves as CN rail blockade hits ninth day

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney maintained his criticism of the protests.

“Fascinating to see champions of wokeness suddenly embrace hereditary patriarchy as a preferred governance model,” he tweeted.

A growing number of business leaders and industry groups called for government or police intervention in the shutdowns.

Trudeau rejected a suggestion from federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to have the public safety minister use his authority under the RCMP Act to end what he called the “illegal blockades.” The prime minister said the dispute must be resolved through dialogue, while acknowledging the blockades have caused disruption for travellers and businesses.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press


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

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected today

The government has rolled out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

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

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands as you would after touching any surface or object

‘It’s up to us: Recently-returned B.C. couple urges Canadians to take COVID-19 seriously

Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

Most Read