Tag Archives: Blockades

CN shuts down eastern rail network, Via service due to anti-pipeline blockades

A train sits parked on the tracks after land defenders blocked the CN and Via rail line near Headingley, Manitoba on Wednesday, in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s fight against a Coastal Gaslink pipeline in their territory. (Photo: Harrison Powder/ Facebook)

Blockades set up by anti-pipeline protesters have forced Canadian National Railway Co. to shut down its entire network in Eastern Canada and Via Rail to cancel passenger service across the country.

CN said Thursday that the company must initiate a “disciplined and progressive” shutdown in the East and stop and safely secure all transcontinental trains across its Canadian network.

Via Rail said it has no other option but to cancel all its service on CN track in Canada. There were no more departures as of 4 p.m. eastern and all trains en route were brought to the closest major train station.

“We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel plans,” Via said in a news release.

CN said its shutdown may imminently lead to temporary layoffs for eastern Canadian staff.

The company said it has sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

It said while the blockades have been dismantled in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in B.C., the court order in Ontario has yet to be enforced and continues to be ignored.

Protesters across Canada have said they’re acting in solidarity with those opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would cross the traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern B.C.

CN said it has tried to adjust its operations to serve customers, but it is now left with the only remaining responsible option: progressively shutting down eastern Canadian operations.

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protesters,” said JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer, in a news release.

“This situation is regrettable for its impact on the economy and on our railroaders as these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities, and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely.”

He said while Via service will be discontinued across CN’s network, commuter rail services such as Metrolinx and Exo can keep operating as long as they do so safely.

The federal and B.C. governments are setting up meetings with Indigenous leaders in an effort to halt the rail blockades that have choked Canada’s economy.

Premier John Horgan said in a letter that Gitxsan Chief Norman Stephens proposed a meeting of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to discuss a blockade near New Hazelton, B.C.

Horgan said he understood that if his government and the Canadian government agreed to a meeting, then the blockade would be removed to allow for a period of peaceful calm and dialogue.

Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser is set to attend on behalf of the B.C. government while Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will represent the federal government.

Marc Miller, the federal Indigenous services minister, also sent a letter to three Indigenous leaders in Ontario on Thursday suggesting a meeting to discuss a blockade near Belleville, Ont.

“My request, that I ask you kindly to consider, is to discontinue the protest and barricade of the train tracks as soon as practicable. As you well know, this is a highly volatile situation and the safety of all involved is of the utmost importance to me,” Miller said in the email posted publicly on Thursday.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Chief Donald Maracle, one of the three recipients, said he expects the meeting will proceed but he can’t comment on Miller’s request to end the blockade because it wasn’t initiated by his council.

“We’re happy that he’s agreed to come,” Maracle said.

In Manitoba, protesters dismantled a blockade on an east-west Canadian National Railway line due to a court injunction but insisted that there would be more action to come.

Protesters in B.C. continued to demonstrate against the provincial government on Thursday, days after hundreds of people blocked the entrances to the B.C. legislature and chanted “Shame.”

Dozens of people occupied the office of Attorney General David Eby, demanding that RCMP and Coastal GasLink withdraw from Wet’suwet’en territory.

The head of the province’s civil service also sent an email to employees warning that another protest may occur on Friday.

Don Wright wrote that staff may have heard protesters are planning to “shut down” as many ministries as possible.

“Please ensure that your safety and that of your colleagues is your first priority,” he said. “We will not ask public servants to put themselves into any situation where they do not feel safe.”

By: The Canadian Press, February, 13, 2020.

[SOURCE]

Indigenous Mexicans spurn Presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers

Members of the Supreme Indigenous Council block the entry to their community to avoid the installation of polling stations for Mexico’s general election in the indigenous Purepecha town of Zirahuen. Reuters

NAHUATZEN, Mexico – Mexican voters will stream to the polls this Sunday in a pivotal presidential contest, but leaders representing tens of thousands of indigenous people have vowed to block voting in their communities to protest a system they say has failed them.

Polls say Mexico is on the verge of electing its first leftist anti-establishment president in modern history, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. But the prospect of change has failed to resonate with inhabitants of small towns nestled in the lush, wooded countryside of southwestern Michoacan state.

Residents here have destroyed campaign signs and set up blockades to prevent the government from delivering ballots. Election officials have declared 16 towns here “unviable,” and will not likely risk confrontation to force polling stations to open.

Among the no-go zones is the impoverished hamlet of Nahuatzen, where Purepecha indigenous locals grow avocados and eke out a living on tiny plots. On Thursday, several dozen men, some in cowboy hats, stood vigil near the town’s entrance. They had laid a tree trunk across the road to stop outsiders from entering.

“The politicians haven’t done anything besides enrich themselves and they’ve left us behind,” said Antonio Arriola, a member of a recently-created indigenous council that has petitioned the Mexican government for autonomy.

After word spread on Friday that local party bosses may try to deliver ballots in their personal cars, indigenous leaders said they would use bulldozers to dig a trench in the main road to strengthen their blockade, a tactic already employed in a nearby town.

Arriola and other local leaders grudgingly acknowledged some common ground with Lopez Obrador, the 64-year-old former Mexico City mayor who got his start in politics decades ago advocating for indigenous rights.

But Arriola said the Purepecha have learned the hard way not to pin their hopes on promises coming from politicians, even ones that purport to have their best interests in mind.

“Our roads, schools and health care have been in the gutter for more than 40 years,” he said.

Nahuatzen is part of a growing movement among Mexico’s indigenous communities, who are seeking self-rule and turning their backs on mainstream elections.

Dissent in Michoacan ignited seven years ago, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, when just one jurisdiction, the municipality of Cheran, opted out of voting. This year, the boycott spread to six additional municipalities affecting dozens of polling stations across the 16 towns, home to at least 50,000 voters.

Agitation has likewise spread to traditional Maya communities in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Guerrero.

Indigenous leaders in at least six towns and small cities in those states are also pledging to block balloting on Sunday. That could impact tens of thousands more voters.

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Residents block the access to their community to avoid the installation of polling stations for Mexico’s general election in the indigenous Purepecha town of Nahuatzen. Reuters

Electoral authorities may set up polling stations outside towns that have rejected them, allowing those who want to vote to do so, said Erika Barcenas, a lawyer based in Morelia, Michoacan’s capital, who advises communities that want more autonomy.

“But I think the view of the majority is a more global rejection, a rejection of political parties and of the kind of democracy we have right now,” she said.

The growing complaints of indigenous Mexicans appear to track a broader restlessness in the country, where widespread political corruption, drug violence and entrenched poverty have fueled discontent.

Support for democracy among Mexicans plummeted from slightly more than 70 percent in 2004 to just under half last year, according to data from the Latin America Public Opinion Project.

Never conquered

Resistance to far-away masters goes back centuries for the Purepecha of Michoacan. Known for their fierce independence and closely guarded metal-smelting skills before the Spanish conquest of 1521, they were one of the few kingdoms in central Mexico that Aztec armies never subdued, despite repeated attempts.

On a federal highway near the town of Zirahuen, about 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Nahuatzen, several hundred locals set up another blockade with a big yellow truck, cutting off transit in both directions.

Many in the crowd said they were determined to repel any attempt by election authorities to deliver ballots or set up polling stations.

As of Friday evening, authorities had made no such efforts.

Young indigenous men in baseball caps walked down long lines of idled vehicles, telling drivers if they wanted to pass they must remove any visible campaign advertising. In a couple of instances they peeled political party stickers from windshields.

But the cradle of Michoacan’s movement is Cheran, home to 18,000 mostly Purepecha residents. The municipality proudly displays it indigenous heritage on its police vehicles, where the town’s name is written in the indigenous language, rather than Spanish.

Anger over widespread illegal logging believed to be organized by drug gangs sparked the unrest in Cheran. Outraged residents expelled their mayor and the local police force, whom they accused of being complicit. In 2012, citizens began to set up a new governing council based on indigenous customs.

During mid-term elections in 2015, 11 polling stations in four more municipalities joined Cheran in blocking balloting.

Pedro Chavez, president of Cheran’s indigenous governing council, said he is pleased that the movement has expanded yet again during this presidential election year.

“We can be an inspiration for free self-determination and a lesson about the rights of native peoples,” said Chavez, speaking outside his nearly-completed traditional wood-plank home.

The rights of Mexico’s indigenous poor last commanded the nation’s attention just after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994 and the Zapatista National Liberation Army issued a “declaration of war” against the government.

A 12-day battle ensued, claiming at least 140 lives.

“Free determination (for indigenous communities) is something that’s now being discussed for the first time since the Zapatista revolt,” said Barcenas, the attorney.

Some election officials say a solution to rising resistance among indigenous communities lies in more local control over public finance.

“We think the crux of their struggle is the push for direct funding to address the marginalization these communities face,” said David Delgado, the national electoral institute’s delegate for Michoacan.

Marco Banos, an official with the national electoral institute, said Mexico needs to find ways to fuse indigenous customs with the country’s existing election laws in communities where resistance to voting is playing out.

Still, he said resistance to voting is not as widespread as activists assert.

But, in Arantepacua, another restive Michoacan community which is boycotting the election, Dionisio Lopez said he is finished casting ballots.

“It’s all one big mafia. We having nothing but pure corruption here in Mexico and it’s proven,” he said. “Why pretend otherwise?”

By Reuters

[SOURCE]

Judge grants Trans Mountain injunction preventing blockades at terminals in Burnaby

(Source: Camp cloud at km surveillance post/Facebook)

A Supreme Court Justice has granted Trans Mountain an interim injunction aimed at preventing anti-pipeline activists from using blockades at two terminals in Burnaby, B.C.

The energy giant filed an injunction on Friday a day ahead of a public demonstration to protest its controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline project.

The Globe and Mail reports the company listed 15 individuals, along with John Doe, Jane Doe and “persons unnamed” in a notice of civil claim as part of its request to restrict protesters from coming within 50 metres of the facilities.

Justice Kenneth Affleck agreed with that condition and said the injunction will last until Wednesday, when a hearing on the matter will continue.

According to Metro News, the injunction is not meant to affect protest on public lands, but will apply to blockades of lands owned by Trans Mountain.

Protesters have repeatedly blocked access to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby to prevent workers from getting in and out of the site.

Protesters of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project block access to workers at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

A Kinder Morgan spokesperson said “Trans Mountain supports the right to peaceful and lawful expressions of opinions and understand not everyone agrees with the project.”

Since Trudeau’s approval, there has been opposition in British Columbia, where the pipeline is fiercely opposed by First Nations and environmentalists worried about oil spills.

Indigenous activists will be marching on Saturday alongside environmental groups, local residents and other supporters in Burnaby, against plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The expansion would increase the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil a day.

The City of Burnaby and the City of Vancouver have opposed the project.

BIV reports, the 15 protestors named in the injunction, and their aliases, are: David Mivasair, Bina Salimath, Mia Nissen, Corey Skinner (aka Cory Skinner), Uni Urchin (aka Jean Escueta), Arthur Brociner (aka Artur Brociner), Kari Perrin, Yvon Raoul, Earle Peach, Sandra Ang, Reuben Garbanzo (aka Robert Abbess) Gordon Cornwall, Thomas Chan, Laurel Dykstra and Rudi Leibik (aka Ruth Leibik).

The injunction will not stop the protest from going ahead.

The rally and march begins Saturday at 10:45 a.m. at the Lake City Way SkyTrain station in Burnaby.

Frustrated Families Vow to ‘Blockade’ Missing and Murdered Inquiry Hearings

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, right, comforts Shirley Gunner, as John Fox looks on during a news conference regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls national inquiry in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Father of murdered woman says inquiry is at a ‘crisis’ point

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017

Some family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are vowing to blockade meetings of the national inquiry to protest what they call a disastrous start.

“We are prepared to take blockades against this inquiry, if it goes through our communities we will be there, it doesn’t matter where,” John Fox told reporters Tuesday.

Fox said many families are “tired of the commissioners,” the people who are responsible for collecting testimony from families, and they are frustrated with the lack of familial support. Fox said calls to the 1-800 number are not returned and emails go unanswered by the bureaucrats staffing the inquiry’s office. He wants to ensure he can get on the list of speakers when the inquiry finally rolls through his town.

“What are we supposed to do? What other things can I do to get my name on there?” he asked.

Fox, the father of Cheyenne Marie Fox, a 20-year-old woman who died in Toronto in 2013, said the inquiry has unfairly placed the blame on families for cancelling scheduled meetings this summer rather than admit they were simply not prepared.

The inquiry has said it would go ahead with the first meeting in Whitehorse at the end of the month, but suspend others until the fall because many witnesses told them that they would be out on the land hunting, trapping and harvesting and would not have time to meet with commissioners. Fox said Tuesday that was nonsense.

“They took that little bit of information, somebody said it in passing, but now they paint all our families with that one big brush, but that’s not fair,” he said. “The harvesting and all of that other stuff, that’s always going to happen … we would be there.”

‘They can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.’– John Fox

Fox said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was able to hold pre-inquiry meetings throughout the country in a matter of months, but, nearly a year after the launch of the national inquiry, things remain largely at a standstill.

“Why can she pull off the pre-inquiry, and get all the statements in that short period of time? And this inquiry now … they don’t have an idea of what they’re going to do? All the money and expertise in front of them and they can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.”

(As of May 23, the inquiry has already spent roughly 10 per cent of its $53-million budget.)

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also voiced his frustrations Tuesday. Bellegarde said he has invited the five MMIWG commissioners to meet with family members on three different occasions but was rejected.

“Clear communication and outreach to family members are essential to rebuild trust and ensure the national inquiry is a success,” Bellegarde said, adding the process must take a “families first” approach, based on respect for survivors and their loved ones.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many families have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

She said while Marion Buller, the chief commissioner, admitted last week some mistakes had been made, more needs to be done to regain the trust of many family members. Elders are trying to speak in their Indigenous languages but are simply not understood by record keepers, she said, and there is little respect paid to sacred instruments like the drum, fire ceremonies and tobacco.

“We cannot have our sacred stories yet again shelved like every other report has been shelved. We’ve had many family members state that it is running very much like the Indian residential school process when they were meeting with adjudicators. It is like a court process. We’ve been very consistent since the beginning that it has to be Indigenous knowledge-based.”

Iahtail said the commission has also been tight-fisted with money to help families travel to inquiry meetings, and has been reluctant to provide legal services to those in need.

Buller said Friday she understands frustration from families, but chalked up problems to poor communications.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished.”

The commission has cycled through three directors of communications in 10 months, and has been plagued by complaints from family members about compressed timelines. The first interim report from the inquiry is due by November 2017.

[SOURCE]

Blockade Tactic: The Spike Board

By: Warrior Publications

On August 4, 2016, a land defender was injured during a blockade action at the Mount Polley mine site in central BC when a driver, reportedly a worker for Imperial Metals, drove through the blockade. The blockade was comprised of people standing in the roadway to stop traffic, never a good idea in my opinion. The fact is, people blockading vehicles will always be dependent on the driver not forcing their way through for the simple reason that a group of people cannot physically stop a car or truck.

Some blockades will inevitably be comprised of people standing in the path of traffic. As I mentioned, I don’t think it’s a good tactic. But in some situations I understand why it’s used. For example, many protests in urban environments will simply stop at intersections to disrupt traffic. There have also been numerous highway blockades carried out by Black Lives Matter protesters, in which groups of people make their way onto a highway and stop the flow of traffic. These types of temporary blockades may be spontaneous or the police presence prevents the bringing of blockade materials (such as dumpsters or other large objects carried onto the roadway).

[Here’s a video from January 2013 of an Idle No More blockade during which a driver forced her vehicle through]

When a blockade is planned beforehand, however, and/or takes place in an environment in which it is relatively easy to bring obstacles onto a roadway, it is far safer to do so than to try and stop vehicles with one’s body.

To stop vehicles during a pursuit, police frequently deploy spike belts. These are folding steel devices that can be quickly thrown across a road and which have spikes sticking up. If a vehicle drives over the spike belt, the tires are shredded and the mobility of the vehicle is severely reduced.A fairly common tactic used by Indigenous land defenders in BC during the 1990s was a variant of the spike belt: the spike board. It is an inexpensive and easily made device, comprised of a board with spikes (or large nails) hammered through, usually with a rope handle attached.

  • The board is laid across a roadway to stop vehicles from simply driving through a blockade or checkpoint.
  • If a blockade was only targeting certain vehicles, such as logging trucks, it could be easily removed to allow passage of civilian vehicles.
  • The same applied to information checkpoints, during which all vehicles were stopped and checked, and then allowed to proceed (or turned away, if it was a targeted blockade).

The spike board was a very effective technique, because if a driver chose to force their way through, the result would be the destruction of their tires. A vehicle can still drive on its rims of course, but that would result in damage to the rims. So drivers always stopped for the spike board. Another option is to park a vehicle across the road that could then be moved to allow vehicles to pass, depending on the terrain. Something to think about the next time you take part in a blockade action.

Warrior Publications

Mount Polley blockade car In this video still, a car is forcing its way through the blockade at Mount Polley, BC, on Aug 4, 2016.

by Warrior Publications, August 5, 2016

On August 4, 2016, a land defender was injured during a blockade action at the Mount Polley mine site in central BC when a driver, reportedly a worker for Imperial Metals, drove through the blockade.  The blockade was comprised of people standing in the roadway to stop traffic, never a good idea in my opinion.  The fact is, people blockading vehicles will always be dependent on the driver not forcing their way through for the simple reason that a group of people cannot physically stop a car or truck.

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