Trudeau demands rail blockades be lifted

Canadians' patience running out, PM says

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to media, flanked by (l-r) Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and Transport Minister Marc Garneau in Ottawa on Feb. 21, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Patrick Doyle)

Ottawa | Reuters — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday demanded aboriginal protesters lift rail blockades that are hurting the economy and made clear police should, if necessary, enforce injunctions to remove the obstacles.

Trudeau also told a news conference that the Liberal government’s talks with various indigenous leaders over the last two weeks had not been productive and would be broken off.

“The situation as it currently stands is unacceptable and untenable… the barricades need to come down now,” he said in remarks that represented a notable hardening in his tone.

“Canadians who are feeling the very real impact of these blockades are running out of patience.”

Protesters have blocked lines in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta in solidarity with members of a British Columbia aboriginal band seeking to stop the construction of a gas pipeline over its land.

Most of the economic damage stems from a blockade of a crucial Canadian National Railway (CN) line near Belleville, Ont.

CN obtained a court injunction against the protesters on Feb. 7 but the Ontario Provincial Police have so far declined to act, citing the complexity of the situation.

“The injunctions must be obeyed and the barriers must come down,” said Trudeau. “The intervention in the case of the (Belleville) blockade is the responsibility of the Ontario Provincial Police.”

— Reporting for Reuters by Steve Scherer and Kelsey Johnson; additional reporting by David Ljunggren.

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