The blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day. (The Canadian Press)

Federal Indigenous services minister meets First Nation at rail blockade

Blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day

The federal Indigenous services minister began meetings Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk Nation to discuss a rail blockade that has shut down rail services across Eastern Canada.

Marc Miller said he didn’t want to predict the outcome of his meetings, adding that talk between the two sides is needed as members of the Mohawk Nation block the line in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en in their opposition to a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territory in northern B.C.

“This is a situation that is very tense, very volatile, there are some people that have been standing out there for days, so today is a chance to talk and have a real discussion,” he said.

“We’re a nation of people who have stopped talking to each other. We tweet, we make statements on Facebook, we go around asking, condemning, but we’re not talking.”

He met with protesters at the blockade before travelling further into the First Nation for a private meeting.

The blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day.

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

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.

As he arrived in Tyendinaga, 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.”

He also acknowledged that First Nations have felt alienated in Canada.

“I can’t guarantee what the outcome will be. It isn’t mine to judge,” the minister said. “And so I’m here to discuss in peace and friendship with a bunch of people that haven’t felt part of this country.”

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

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.

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.

A growing number of business leaders and industry groups called for government or police intervention in the shutdowns, and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took up the cry on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the disruptions must be resolved through dialogue, not by ordering in the police. He acknowledged the difficulties the blockades have caused for travellers and businesses, but he said the federal government has no plans to make the RCMP dismantle them.

“We are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters,” Trudeau said in Munich, Germany, where he was attending a global security conference.

“We are a country that recognizes the right to protest, but we are a country of the rule of law. And we will ensure that everything is done to resolve this through dialogue and constructive outcomes.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkPipeline

Just Posted

West Kootenay couple escapes Spain – safe, sound, and in self-isolation

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

Hospital’s Chief of Staff asks residents for help containing COVID-19

Invermere & District Hospital Chief of Staff says COVID-19 cases here, caution and care needed

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

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

MP Morrison touts non-partisan effort to provide relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The federal government has announced a slew of economic initiatives for those impacted by the pandemic

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

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

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Kootenay program encourages gardeners to share what they grow during pandemic

The West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op is sending out free seeds, but with a catch

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read