Protestors put up new rail, road barricades in wake of arrests

The first CN train passes through the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory on Feb. 24, 2020 after a camp next to the tracks was raided by police earlier in the day. (Photo: Reuters/Chris Helgren)

Ottawa/Toronto | Reuters — Protesters in Canada have blocked train lines, Vancouver’s port entrance and at least one highway in Quebec Tuesday in response to the arrest of 10 indigenous protesters on Monday as police cleared a three-week rail barricade in southern Ontario.

Ontario Provincial Police on Monday arrested some of the Tyendinaga Mohawk campaigners who had barricaded the line in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en from British Columbia, who are seeking to stop construction of a gas pipeline over their land.

The new blockade is located at a junction of three busy Canadian National Railway (CN) lines, for both freight and passengers. That led to the closure of four stations on the GO Transit passenger line to Toronto from Hamilton, which is owned by Ontario’s Metrolinx, although freight traffic was still moving.

“Right now we’re monitoring the situation,” Hamilton Police Constable Jerome Stewart said in an interview broadcast live on CBC. “Hopefully we can resolve this as soon as possible.”

The group, which on Facebook calls itself “Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity,” said police served them with an injunction, which they burned, late on Monday.

“We’re shutting down an effective junction that handles all rail traffic in and out of Hamilton. For each day we shut it down, it takes them twice that or more to recover!” the group said on Facebook.

CN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A rail union source said the new blockade was at a “strategic location.”

“As long as that blockade is up, nothing is going to move,” the union source said.

Tuesday’s protests are part of an increasingly tense standoff between authorities and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have been battling the gas line for a decade. Other First Nations and climate activists across Canada have taken up the hereditary chiefs’ cause.

The protests are testing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge to reconcile Canada with its indigenous groups, who face higher levels of poverty and violence and shorter life expectancies than the national average.

An injunction was granted to clear a line south of Montreal blocked by Kahnawake Mohawk, CBC reported Tuesday, and Quebec’s premier said the barriers should be dismantled.

Also in Quebec, Kanesatake Mohawk are stopping traffic on Highway 344, and in British Columbia protesters continued to block a major intersection near the Port of Vancouver’s main entrance.

Indigenous youth also slept overnight in protest on the steps in front of British Columbia’s legislature.

— Reporting for Reuters by Denise Paglinawan in Toronto and Steve Scherer in Ottawa.

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