Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller looks back during a meeting with protesters at a rail blockade on the tenth day of demonstration in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Hours of talks between the federal government and representatives of the Mohawk First Nation ended with “modest progress” Saturday evening, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said as he left the meeting near a rail blockade that’s shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada.

But Miller declined to tell reporters what that progress was, saying he would deliver that message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly.

“Tonight, we made some modest progress by opening up a dialogue with the people standing out there in the cold and doing so for eight or nine days,” he said. “We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There’s a lot more work to be done.”

The focus, Miller said, was firmly on the natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia and is opposed by their hereditary chiefs.

He said there are steps the federal government needs to take to resolve the blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., which was in its 10th day on Saturday.

“They aren’t easy, no one said they were,” he said. ”The underlying issues did not arrive yesterday, they’ve been present in this community for hundreds of years.”

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.

On Saturday, people milled in and out of the camps by the railway to deliver toilet paper and snacks at the Tyendinaga blockade, while a pizza restaurant delivered free pies to the demonstrators.

As he arrived in Tyendinaga some nine hours before his meetings would end, 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.”

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

The company also announced it had obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.

“In Vaughan, protesters put their personal safety at risk by climbing on and between railcars … Trespassing on railway property and tampering with railway equipment is not only illegal, but also exceedingly dangerous,” JJ Ruest, CN’s president and CEO, said in a written statement.

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. More than two dozen protesters have been arrested for refusing to obey it.

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.

READ MORE: Federal Indigenous services minister meets First Nation at rail blockade

READ MORE: Industry warns of empty shelves as CN rail blockade hits ninth day

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney maintained his criticism of the protests.

“Fascinating to see champions of wokeness suddenly embrace hereditary patriarchy as a preferred governance model,” he tweeted.

A growing number of business leaders and industry groups called for government or police intervention in the shutdowns.

Trudeau rejected a suggestion from federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to have the public safety minister use his authority under the RCMP Act to end what he called the “illegal blockades.” The prime minister said the dispute must be resolved through dialogue, while acknowledging the blockades have caused disruption for travellers and businesses.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley food banks reopen on a limited basis

CMS handing out hampers, Basket Society doing hampers and sandwiches

Province restricts open burning in Cowichan Valley until April 15

Measure meant to assist fight against COVID-19

What you said: Shingles vaccine worthy of consideration

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash

‘The Office’ star John Krasinski offers Some Good News in trying times

‘The human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away’

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

Order of Canada Vancouver Island musician pens ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’

Qualicum Beach lawyer and saxaphonist Phil Dwyer notes health officer has become a ‘folk hero’

Canada to spend $2B more on procuring medical supplies for COVID-19 fight

Government has signed deals with three companies

World COVID-19 updates: Putin may be exposed; 30,000 prisoners released

Comprehensive news update from around the world as of Tuesday, March 31.

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

‘This is no joke’: B.C. woman in Alberta hospital asks people to stay home during COVID-19

‘I want people to start listening to what the doctors are saying. This is no joke, please stay home’

Rest stops barring washroom access to truckers a ‘huge problem’ as COVID-19 spreads

Teamsters Canada says truckers are increasingly being denied warm meals

Most Read