Members of the Gitxsan Nation resurrect their blockade of the main CN rail line in New Hazelton Feb. 24. The supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory dismantled a previous blockade Feb. 13. Randall Shoop photo

Members of the Gitxsan Nation resurrect their blockade of the main CN rail line in New Hazelton Feb. 24. The supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory dismantled a previous blockade Feb. 13. Randall Shoop photo

Conservative MP questions whether rail blockades constitute terrorism

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett travelled to B.C. to meet Indigenous leaders

A Conservative MP is questioning whether rail blockades in Quebec and Ontario constitute acts of terrorism, which could allow the RCMP to intervene.

Doug Shipley put that question to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Thursday morning during testimony at the House of Commons public safety and national security committee.

The meeting happened as federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett travelled to B.C. to meet Indigenous leaders at the centre of the dispute that’s led to the blockades, and protesters gathered on a bridge in Kingston, Ont., that passes over a key rail line.

Shipley said he was asking on behalf of a constituent who sent him an email after a handful of protesters lit fires near and on railway tracks — actions that were denounced Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“They asked me if I knew the definition of terrorist activity according to the Criminal Code … This resident wanted to know if the current illegal blockades that are happening across Canada are being deemed as a terrorist activity?” Shipley asked.

Blair replied: “No they’re not.”

Shipley pressed Blair, leading to a pointed exchange at the committee table.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en herreditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

“I agree definitely with proper civil demonstrations. I’m all for that. But when we’re seeing certain things like I saw yesterday with burning goods on rail lines across Canada, I thought that may have crossed a line … what’s crossing a line, Minister?” said Shipley.

“As the minister I have a responsibility to leave it to the police of jurisdiction in the exercise of their discretion to determine and investigate criminal activity. So I avoid pronouncements of and defining that activity,” Blair replied.

“It’s very appropriate that I be careful in doing that because I do not want to interfere with the operational independence of both the police and our prosecutors. But at the same time that was terribly unsafe, deeply concerning. I have confidence in the police to deal with it appropriately.”

A meeting among the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the federal government and the British Columbia government is set to take place later Thursday.

Wet’suwet’en chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction calling for the removal of any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use.

On Feb. 6, the RCMP moved in to Wet’suwet’en territory to enforce the injunction. Hours later, outside of Belleville, Ont., east of Toronto, protesters started holding up railway traffic in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The blockades have spread elsewhere in Ontario and to Quebec, and blocked train travel between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified that the Mounties have discretion on how to enforce an injunction.

“Mostly about the timing, and the intensity,” she said. “So we can decide when and how we will enforce, even though the injunction is in place.”

Lucki testified that the RCMP is committed to finding a peaceful solution.

“Of course, enforcement is the last option. It’s about dialogue and trying to find a peaceful resolution to the blockades,” she said.

The Ontario Provincial Police took down major Ontario blockade earlier this week. But Thursday, about 20 demonstrators gathered near train tracks in Kingston, Ont., farther east along the same line.

Local police said the group gathered on the Canadian National Railway Co. train overpass around 8 a.m. Eastern time.

Const. Ash Gutheinz said train traffic had not been affected and officers were monitoring the situation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkIndigenousPipeline

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

Just Posted

The Kitimat River in July. (Clare Rayment photo)
Good News, Kitimat!

Bringing some local good news to your week

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has been named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC Liberals. (Peter Versteege photo)
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Previously, Ross was the critic for LNG, Resource Opportunities, and Responsible Development

Red sky in morning: an early-morning sunrise on May 16, 2020, captured just north of Kitimat. (Eric Roy photo)
Clare’s Corner: Hello, darkness, my old friend

Why does the after-work darkness affect you so much more as an adult than as a child?

(Corrado Colombo photo)
Corrado Colombo, with his wife, Lucy. Colombo is from Italy, but met Kitimat born-and-raised Lucy on one of his annual fishing trips to Kitimat in the early 2000s.
In Our Valley: Corrado Colombo

Corrado Colombo never expected that an annual fishing trip to Kitimat would change his life

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Most Read