By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (A) – As a representative of the Canadian government met Saturday with native protesters who have shut down the main Montreal-Toronto train corridor, other protesters blocked trains heading for New York and Michigan.
The protests, to show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are opposing construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia, have shut down all passenger train service in Canada and much of freight trains.
The tenth day of rail obstruction by Mohawks on the Tyendinaga Territory, about two hours east of Toronto, was marked by the first meeting Saturday between Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and about a dozen protesters, with the aim of restoring rail services across Eastern Canada.
“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,” Miller said.
There was no report on the talks but the blockade and protesters remained.
Canadian National Railway was granted a court injunction to end the Mohawk blockade, but law enforcement authorities have so far chosen not to enforce the injunction and remove protesters.
In Vaughan just north of Toronto, the railway also obtained a court injunction but when it was delivered to protesters Saturday they burned it.
In British Columbia, all 20 elected band councils gave approval for the Coastal GasLink pipeline to be built across their lands, including the Wet’suwet’en band.
But the heredity chiefs said elected officials only look after the reservations, while they are responsible for all the land.
Protesters have chosen to support the hereditary chiefs.
“We are here also to shut down Canada,” one protester said.
Pressure is mounting on the government to act to end the blockades as the rail shutdowns are damaging the Canadian economy.
"Every day that it goes on, the damage compounds," said Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“It is damaging our international reputation as a reliable supplier. It is affecting our supply chains around the world.
A rail disruption of this magnitude constitutes an emergency for the Canadian economy," he added.