Trudeau says Wet’suwet’en crisis, rail blockades a critical moment for country

First Nations leaders suggest it may be time to peacefully end the blockades

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde releases “Honouring Promises: 2019 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada” during a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s past time to resolve the nationwide blockades and tensions over a B.C. pipeline project and is asking demonstrators to engage with his government to seek a solution.

Speaking in the House of Commons Tuesday morning, the prime minister warned that a path forward won’t be easily found, but says everyone has a stake in getting this right.

He said the protests are serious and a critical moment for the country.

Trudeau is under increasing pressure to end the blockades, which he says he wants to do quickly but peacefully.

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline through their traditional territory, though it’s received approval from elected band councils.

Since the RCMP moved in to enforce an injunction and keep the hereditary chiefs and their supporters away from the pipeline worksites, protests by Indigenous people and supporters have shut down the CN rail network in eastern Canada, suspended most Via Rail passenger service, and temporarily blocked traffic on streets and bridges and at ports in multiple cities.

Trudeau said he is formally extending his government’s hand in partnership and trust to Indigenous demonstrators.

Opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer replied that Trudeau’s speech was a weak response and a failure of leadership. He called on the prime minister to denounce what Scheer called radical activists.

The response, and heckling in the House of Commons, came hours after the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations called for calm and constructive dialogue to ease tensions.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde told reporters in Ottawa that governments and industry have to give the time and space to work with the Wet’suwet’en people.

Bellegarde said he has spoken with all parties involved to find a way forward.

“We say we want to de-escalate and we want dialogue,” he said.

“And I say our people are taking action because they want to see action — and when they see positive action by the key players, when they see a commitment to real dialogue to address this difficult situation, people will respond in a positive way.”

Other chiefs speaking alongside Bellegarde on Tuesday morning suggested it may be time to bring the situation to a peaceful conclusion and bring down the blockades.

Indigenous-relations ministers both federally and in B.C. are seeking to meet First Nations leaders in hopes of finding a solution.

And this evening, the House of Commons will hold an emergency debate on the issue after the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois successfully lobbied the Speaker of the House.

Also Tuesday, Via announced it expects to resume partial passenger service Thursday between Ottawa and Quebec City, including a stop in Montreal.

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

Northern Health ready for COVID-19 surge

Health authority confident with inventory of ventilators

Kitimat’s new economic recovery task force looking for business volunteers

The team is looking for members from three different sectors of the local business community

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Burning restrictions in response to COVID-19 issued for District of Kitimat

All current Class A and Class B open burning permits are suspended until at least April 15

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP calling for halt on sport fishing licenses to out-of-province fishers

Bachrach and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns co-signed the letter to the Minister of Fisheries

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

How to cope with your mental health during a global pandemic

Becca Shears, clinical counsellor in Vanderhoof speaks about ways to deal with stress and anxiety during this time.

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

Most Read