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

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

UPDATED: Some states of local emergency suspended by ministerial order

Suspension applies to regional districts but not First Nations

A letter from Bella Coola doctors on COVID-19: ‘All our lives depend on your actions now’

“None of us are invincible; we can all get it and spread it without even knowing.”

COVID-19: Bella Coola RCMP close detachment front door access

The public is being asked to call 250 799 5363 for assistance

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Morning world update: Cases surge past 600,000; positive news in Germany

Spain suffers its deadliest day as Germany considers April 20 to possibly loosen restrictions

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

Most Read