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Protests in downtown Toronto ended at Queens Park in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of Wet'suwet'en. (Photo: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Trudeau Calls for 'Dialogue' as Indigenous Rights Protesters Declare, 'When Justice Fails, Block the Rails'

Demonstrations in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en land defenders fighting against a proposed fracked gas pipeline have been held across Canada.

Jessica Corbett

While addressing Canada's House of Commons Tuesday, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for "dialogue and mutual respect" regarding the ongoing rail blockades and protests in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en Nation hereditary chiefs and land defenders fighting to prevent construction of a natural gas pipeline on their unceded territory in British Columbia.

"I know that people's patience is running short. We need to find a solution and we need to find it now," Trudeau told members of Parliament a day after convening a meeting of key ministers to discuss the government's response to disruptions of goods and services caused by the rail blockades that began earlier this month.

Protesters from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory have stationed themselves beside rail tracks near Belleville, Ontario, since Feb. 6 to protest violent Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raids targeting Wet'suwet'en land defenders demonstrating against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Reuters reported Tuesday that "Canadian National Railway Co (CN) has obtained a court injunction to end the blockade in Ontario, but police have so far refrained from using force to uphold it." VIA Rail announced Tuesday that following a notification from CN, partial service is set to resume between Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa beginning Thursday morning.

"To the Wet'suwet'en and Mohawk nations, and Indigenous leaders across the country: We are listening," the prime minister said Tuesday. "We are not asking that you stop standing up for your communities, your rights, and for what you believe. We only ask that you be willing to work with the federal government as a partner in finding solutions."

Trudeau referenced the pressure he is under to use the RCMP to clear the tracks. "To those who would want us to act in haste, who want us to boil this down to slogans and ignore the complexities, who think that using force is helpful: It is not," he said.

"Finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination, hard work, and cooperation," added the prime minister. "We are creating a space for peaceful honest dialogue with willing partners... We need Canadians to show both resolve and collaboration. Everyone has a stake in getting this right."

Among those who have called for ending the blockades by force is Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who denounced Trudeau's speech Tuesday as the "weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history." Scheer has blamed the blockades on "a small group of radical activists" and accused them of holding the Canadian economy hostage.

According to CBC News:

Trudeau had a meeting with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Elizabeth May, the Green Party's parliamentary leader, in his office Tuesday to discuss the government's response to the ongoing blockades.

Scheer said Trudeau was using the meeting to distract from a "disastrous speech" that was void of any concrete plan to dismantle the blockades. He said the other opposition leaders were used as pawns by the Prime Minister's Office.

Scheer was not invited to the meeting. Trudeau told reporters that the Conservative leader's comment suggested he was unwilling to cooperate. As the prime minister put it: "Mr. Scheer disqualified himself from constructive discussions with his unacceptable speech earlier today."

The comments from top party leaders in Canada came as protests continued not only along the nation's railways but also in the streets. More than 1,000 people marched in Toronto Monday, chanting, "when justice fails, block the rails, shut Canada down," as they walked from Christie Pits Park to Queen's Park.

CBC News reported that protesters carried placards that read: "No Consent No Pipeline" and "Protect Land Defenders."

Erika Chan, a protester at the Toronto march on Family Day, told CBC News that "there needs to be meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples before building a pipeline." She added: "It's pretty clear what true reconciliation and true sustainability would actually mean. It's up to the government to decide whether they are going to follow through with that."

On Tuesday afternoon, demonstrations continued, with protesters blocking traffic in the city of Kitchener, Ontario. They reportedly carried signs that said: "We stand with Wet'suwet'en land defenders" and "Hands off Wet'suwet'en."

As Common Dreams reported last week, throughout the month, "Indigenous protesters and their allies have gathered at government buildings and Coastal GasLink offices and shut down ports, railways, streets, and Vancouver's Granville Street Bridge to support Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs."

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg turned to Twitter Tuesday to urge her followers to support the Wet'suwet'en Nation in the fight against the pipeline.

Thunberg, a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, shared a resource guide for supporters of the protests.


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