Tag Archives: Railway Blockades

Alberta’s Bill 1 Is ‘Racially Targeted’: First Nations Leaders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, left, sits with Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, centre, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, right, during a meeting in Edmonton with First Nations leaders about increasing Indigenous participation in the economy on June 10, 2019.

The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act bans protests at pipelines, oilsands sites, and railways

First Nations leaders are outraged the Alberta government is rushing to pass Bill 1, which would outlaw protests and other disruptions to “critical infrastructure.”

Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, said the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act violates Indigenous and treaty rights, calling it a “racialized bill,” and one that will aggravate tensions between police and Indigenous people.

“We knew this bill was enacted because of Wet’suwet’en protests,” said Noskey, referring to the First Nations-led demonstrations that lasted several weeks this year across Canada. The protests drew thousands of supporters, with some blocking highways and railway infrastructure in opposition to Coastal GasLink’s LNG pipeline slated to run through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C.

“The intent of this bill is racially targeted towards First Nation treaty partners in this country. With all of the racial tension happening today, the [United Conservative Party] government should realize this bill is not going to work,” said Noskey. “Under treaty, we have collective, inherent rights. When people come together to protest, it’s because of their collective rights.”

Hundreds of protesters occupy the Macmillan Yard in Vaughan, Ont. on Feb. 15, 2020 in solidarity with traditional Wet’suwet’en leaders opposed to an LNG pipeline through their territory.

The bill bans demonstrations at “critical infrastructure” areas, described as pipelines, oilsands sites, mining sites as well as utilities, streets, highways, railways, and telecom towers and equipment. Violators who protest, trespass, interfere with operations, or cause damage around that kind of infrastructure will face fines as high as $10,000 or six months in jail or both. Further offences will garner fines of up to $25,000 and jail time.

Bill 1 passed its third reading on May 28 and now awaits royal assent from the lieutenant-governor that would make it a law.

This is a desperate move by Premier Jason Kenney to save a “completely failing economy and energy system,” said Eriel Deranger, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action.

“Bill 1 seems like it’s out of the same playbook as [U.S. President Donald] Trump. It’s fascist, anti-democratic, anti-civil rights and completely annihilates the rights of Indigenous communities,” she said.

“I think people will protest this bill given where we are in the world with the Black Lives Matter movement, and this bill has impacts across the nation. I hope the federal government intervenes and sees the true colours of this unconstitutional move by Alberta.”

Federal government says it remains committed to UNDRIP

The office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General said in a statement to HuffPost Canada that it wouldn’t be “appropriate to speak to provincial legislation.”

“We remain fully committed to introducing legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) by the end of 2020,” it said.

One of UNDRIP’s authors, Cree lawyer, Indigenous rights expert, and former Alberta MP Wilton Littlechild said the declaration plays a crucial role in protecting and upholding Indigenous rights when it comes to Bill 1.

He says the bill is wide in scope and wonders if the Critical Infrastructure Act also applies on reserve and in traditional Indigenous territories.

“Utility lines, roads, railways, pipelines all go through reserves and nothing mentions this in the bill,” said Littlechild. “There’s no mention of us at all. It’s a complicated matter and we weren’t at the table for free, prior and informed consent on these serious issues.”

Jonah Mozeson, senior press secretary to the Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General, saidthe province ”will work collaboratively to ensure that input from Indigenous and Metis Albertans are heard and are scheduling additional outreach to receive additional feedback and discuss the concerns being raised.”

Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras, left, stands with activist Greta Thunberg, centre, at a climate rally in Montreal in 2019.

But Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Alberta, Marlene Poitras, who has participated in countless demonstrationsf or Indigenous rights in Canada and around the world, said the discriminatory elements in government law-making has to stop.

“We have a human right to voice our concerns. In our case, we have a treaty right and that’s not being respected,” explained Poitras, who marched alongside Greta Thunberg in Montreal last fall to bring awareness to climate change.

“Our people are concerned about the environment. Alberta is deregulating everything and doing whatever it can to open it up for oil and gas development without consulting our people — but our people will respond.”

There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

Noskey said he thinks Bill 1 further strains the relationship between police and Indigenous Peoples, mirroring an international narrative that’s dominating headlines. Protests have swelled in the U.S. and around the world against anti-Black racism and police brutality.

“Now, Alberta will be asking the peacekeeping police officers to arrest us. This is anti-racial law. So the racially motivated police in the force will say ‘I can do this’ (arrest and brutalize).”

Last week, his friend and colleague Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told a news conference that he was beaten and his wife “manhandled” during an arrest by RCMP in Fort McMurray. Alberta’s independent police watchdog is investigating the allegations.

Prime Minister Trudeau said he was “deeply alarmed” by the incident and vowed to “do more” to address systemic racism in policing.

As for reconciliation in Alberta, Noskey believes the move by Kenney to implement Bill 1 abolishes reconciliation.

“You’re going to criminalize the First Peoples of this land who agreed to share the lands with foreigners that came in. This impacts our way of life. There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.”

By Brandi Morin, On Assignment For HuffPost Canada

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Controversial bill targeting rail blockade protesters soon to be Alberta law

Around 20 demonstrators set up a blockade on a CN Rail line west of Edmonton. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Violators could face fines up to $25,000 and six months in jail

To some, it’s a bill that will enforce the rule of law, protect public safety and stop protesters from harming the economy.

To others, the Alberta government’s Bill 1 is an affront to democratic rights, an authoritarian overreach and a threat to Indigenous Peoples’ way of life.

The controversial Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, Premier Jason Kenney’s signature legislation to start the current session, passed third reading in the legislature on Thursday.

Government house leader Jason Nixon hopes it will receive the lieutenant-governor’s royal assent Friday, immediately making it law.

Introduced in February, the bill allows hefty penalties against any person or company found to have blocked, damaged or entered without reason any “essential infrastructure.”

The list of possible sites is lengthy and includes pipelines, rail lines, highways, oil sites, telecommunications equipment, radio towers, electrical lines, dams, farms and more, on public or private land.

Violators can be fined up to $25,000, sentenced to six months in jail, or both. Corporations that break the law can be fined up to $200,000. Each day they block or damage a site is considered a new offence.

Kenney introduced the legislation against the backdrop of protests across Canada, in which groups blockaded rail lines, commuter train routes and roadways in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline through their territory in northern B.C.

“When we brought this in, it was at a time of turmoil in Canada,” Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in the legislature Thursday. “We had lawlessness across this country, where critical infrastructure was being obstructed. That is simply unacceptable. Here in the province of Alberta we expect the rule of law to be upheld.”

A CN Rail line in west Edmonton was the site of one such blockade in February.

The blockades snarled the movement of goods and passengers across the country, prompting layoffs and concerns about the food supply.

MLAs call protesters ‘spoiled kids’

After a nearly three-month delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill returned to the legislature this week for debate.

United Conservative Party MLAs called the protesters “ecoterrorists” and “spoiled kids,” saying some participants joined blockades because they thought it was a cool thing to do with their friends and post about on social media.

Those characterizations make Alison McIntosh cringe. The Climate Justice Edmonton organizer said freezing on a winter’s day while being harassed by counter-protesters isn’t “fun.”

She said the politicians’ comments are demeaning and dismissive of protesters’ legitimate concerns about the environment and economic diversification.

“It shows a lot of disregard for people who are their constituents — the people they purport to be looking out for,” said McIntosh, 28. “And it really highlights that we’re not the ones they’re considering when they pass legislation like Bill 1.”

Although it’s hard to tell until pandemic public health restrictions ease, Bill 1 could substantially change grassroots protests in Alberta, McIntosh said.

The organization can’t afford to pay such penalties if protesters are convicted, she said.

“It’s really troubling, but we’re creative. We know that there’s ways we can get our message across,” she said.

David Khan, leader of the Alberta Liberal party and a constitutional and Indigenous rights lawyer, said Thursday the new law could interfere with Indigenous Peoples’ rights to hunt, fish or gather on traditional land.

He calls the law draconian, legally dubious and a piece of political theatre designed to trivialize the tensions between oil and gas development, Indigenous rights and the environment.

In addition to potentially running afoul of citizens’ rights to free expression and association, Khan thinks the law could jeopardize Alberta’s international reputation as an ethical and democratic source of oil.

When asked for comment on Thursday, the Assembly of First Nations pointed to a statement issued in February by Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras urging the premier to withdraw the bill.

“Allowing the bill to pass will serve to erode individual rights, unfairly target Indigenous Peoples, and has no place in a democratic society,” she said at the time.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the broadness of the law could allow the government to potentially shut down political demonstrations at the legislature or interfere with a strike picket line.

He said the federation will launch a constitutional challenge.

“The UCP is trying to frame Bill 1 as a patriotic defence of our oil and gas industry,” he said Thursday. “But if you’re patriotic, this is actually the last piece of legislation you should be supporting because it is fundamentally undemocratic.”

NDP justice critic Kathleen Ganley attempted to introduce amendments to Bill 1 this week, which were voted down by the United Conservative Party.

Government says it supports legal protest

The Opposition NDP also raised concerns the bill is too far reaching.

The party’s legal analysis found the language is so broad, it could be interpreted to mean that just being on public land or walking down a highway or next to a rail line could be illegal, justice critic Kathleen Ganley said in the legislature Thursday.

Such strict application of the law could be especially problematic given the large fines allowed, she said.

Central Peace-Notley UCP MLA Todd Loewen said in the legislature her concerns were “ridiculous.”

The high fines are designed to help perpetrators understand the drastic economic consequences of interfering with industries, he said.

Nixon said stopping protests or demonstrations is not their goal.

“You have a right to protest and express yourself in democracy and this government will always fight to make sure that happens,” he said.

“You do not have a right while you’re protesting to stopping trains from moving and products from getting to market, causing companies to go bankrupt, or to have to suspend or fire or layoff employees because your products can’t get to market.”

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As Quebec rail blockades come down, supporters demand Indigenous rights be respected

After dismantling the rail blockade, Mohawks from Kahnawake built a new barricade in a green space near Montreal’s Mercier Bridge on Thursday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Encampments blocking lines through Kahnawake, Listiguj had been in place since early February

The remaining blockades halting rail traffic in Quebec were taken down Thursday, putting an end to three weeks of protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia.

Supporters in Kahnawake, a Mohawk territory on Montreal’s South Shore, and in Listiguj, where Mi’kmaq activists had blocked a rail line that connects the Gaspé Peninsula with New Brunswick, dismantled their encampments Thursday afternoon.

But they stressed their fight isn’t over.

In Kahnawake, people marched through the streets, temporarily blocking traffic, with a banner that read: “Protect our future. No more pipelines.”

Roxann Whitebean, a filmmaker who lives in Kahnawake, said the decision to take down the blockade on a CP Rail line should be seen as a message of “good faith to all of Canada.”

“Depending on how Canada moves forward, we are ready to react and we will ensure that our rights and lands will no longer be violated. We will not back down until these standards are met,” she said.

Roxann Whitebean, a Mohawk writer and filmmaker, addressed reporters in the middle of the highway. She said Indigenous rights must be respected.

The encampment was relocated to a green space near the Mercier Bridge, a heavily trafficked connection between Montreal and the city’s South Shore.

“We want the fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge, to show that we are here to stay for as long as the Wet’suwet’en need us,” said Whitebean.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation in Wet’suwet’en as well other Indigenous communities.”

The blockade in Listuguj, Que., was taken down soon after. Raquel Barnaby, a spokesperson for Mi’kmaq activists, said their goals had been met.

“Our goals were for the RCMP to back away from the Wet and for hereditary chiefs to be at the table,” she said. “We just want to end it on a positive note.”

Supporters in Listiguj took down their encampment Thursday. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada)

Other blockades across Canada have already come down.

Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in an ongoing dispute over a pipeline that would run through traditional land.

Quebec Premier François Legault’s government had expressed growing impatience with the Kahnawake blockade, arguing it was hurting the province’s economy.

Injunctions were obtained against both barricades, but never enforced.

Legault told reporters last week Quebec provincial police hadn’t moved in because there are AK-47s in Kahnawake. The comment was decried as “reckless” by leaders in the Mohawk community.

After the blockades came down, the premier said on Twitter the “negative effects that these blockades had, particularly on public transport users & on the economy, are deplorable. Solutions must be found so that it does not happen again.”

Highway 132 near the Mercier Bridge was briefly blocked after the barricade in Kahnawake was dismantled. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

In a statement on its website, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake said Thursday the blockade was a “sincere and peaceful expression of support” for Wet’suwet’en chiefs.

“Even in 2020 it seems that it takes a crisis for governments to truly engage,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton.

“We have been advocating for meaningful dialogue in the interest of peace and safety for all people.”

Supporters of the blockade in Kahnawake say they want Indigenous rights to be respected. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

By: Benjamin Shingler · CBC News · Posted: Mar 05, 2020

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Ottawa ‘very concerned’ about blockades as CN Rail says it will close ‘significant’ parts of its network

Canadian National Railway Co. says it will have to temporarily shutter much of its national network because of protests affecting its rail lines. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Anti-pipeline protests crippling transport network will undoubtedly damage economy, minister says

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the federal Liberal government is “very concerned” about growing anti-pipeline protests that are crippling parts of the country’s transport network, including one of the main rail arteries in southern Ontario.

J.J. Ruest, the president and CEO of CN Rail, said in a statement Tuesday the railway has no choice but to temporarily shutter “significant” parts of its network because blockades by Indigenous protesters near Belleville, Ont., and New Hazelton, B.C., have made train movements in the rest of the country all but impossible.

“We are currently parking trains across our network, but due to limited available space for such, CN will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in key corridors unless the blockades come to an end,” Ruest said.

Ruest said the protests threaten industry across the country, including the transport of food and consumer items, grain, de-icing fluid at airports, construction materials, propane to Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and natural resources like lumber, aluminum and coal.

“These blockades will have a trickledown effect on consumer goods in the next few weeks,” Ruest said.

Ruest said the impact of the blockades are “being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner.”

The Tyendinaga Mohawk action in southern Ontario has halted freight and passenger rail traffic since Thursday, snarling winter travel plans and the movement of Canadian exports. The Mohawks involved say they are standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

Tyendinaga Mohawk members said Tuesday they won’t end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en, where there have been numerous arrests of protesters who have been blocking an access road to the natural gas pipeline construction site.

Members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory bring their protest to the CN/Via Rail tracks near Belleville, Ont., for a sixth day on Tuesday, in support of the Wet’suwet’en, who are fighting construction of a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territories in northern B.C. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Via Rail has had to cancel 157 scheduled trips on the Toronto-to-Montreal corridor as of 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, leaving 24,500 passengers in the lurch.

The New Hazelton blockade has stopped traffic in and out of the Ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat in B.C., among the country’s largest, halting waterfront operations.

First Nations workers affected, says shipping terminal CEO

Shaun Stevenson, the CEO of the Port of Prince Rupert, said the shipping terminal has nothing to do with the Coastal GasLink project and yet its operations, and the thousands of First Nations people who work there, have become collateral damage to the protests.

“We have in excess of 6,000 people that rely on the Port of Prince Rupert, its operations and its modes and nodes of transportation, for their livelihood in northern B.C.,” he said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Daybreak North. “The economic vitality of northern B.C. depends on the port.”

He said as many as 3,600 jobs — 40 per cent of the workforce is Indigenous — depend on a fully operational port.

“They’re involved in every aspect of the port operations; they’re entrenched in every facet,” Stevenson said of Indigenous peoples. “They have ownership stakes in terminals here. First Nations operate the largest trucking company with the port … we’re hopeful that a peaceful resolution can be reached,” Stevenson said.

Ruest said CN has obtained court injunctions that allow the police to remove the protesters in Ontario and B.C. so that rail traffic can resume.

Garneau said the continuing disruptions will undoubtedly damage the economy as CN moves tens of billions of dollars worth of goods over those tracks each year.

“The government of Canada is seized of the issue. We’d like to resolve it as quickly as possible, but it’s a complex issue. Hopefully we’ll resolve it as quickly as possible,” Garneau said.

Beyond the economic hit, Garneau said the protests are a risk to public safety.

“It is illegal. It infringes on the railway safety act. It’s dangerous to block the rails so we’re very concerned about it from that point of view,” Garneau said.

While concerned, Garneau said it is not for Ottawa to enforce court injunctions giving police the power to clear away Indigenous protesters. He said it is for provincial authorities to enact the removal orders — not Ottawa.

The Wetʼsuwetʼen hereditary chiefs maintain they have sole authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, and did not give consent to the Coastal GasLink proponent, TC Energy, to build in the area.

While opposed by the hereditary chiefs, all 20 First Nations impacted by construction of the natural gas project have signed impact benefit agreements with TC Energy. The elected Indian Act band council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation has also given the go-ahead to TC to build the project, which will employ hundreds of local Indigenous people.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is a key component of a $40-billion LNG Canada export terminal at Kitimat, B.C., under development to ship natural gas to international markets. It is on the territory of the Haisla Nation, which supports the project.

Objecting to #ShutDownCanada message

Conservative leadership contender Erin O’Toole said the government isn’t doing enough to support the police as they move to enforce the injunction against the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters camped out on the access road near the Coastal GasLink site.

He said the anti-pipeline protesters there have gone too far in their rhetoric.

“When I see people with a hashtag of ‘Shutdown Canada’ and signs calling the RCMP apartheid — there is a total disconnect with some people who feel that they can take protests to a stage of actually stopping people from working, stopping court orders; that’s very disruptive.

“I don’t think the Trudeau government has any plan to deal with it,” O’Toole said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics.

John Paul Tasker · CBC News · Posted: Feb 11, 2020

[SOURCE]

Conditions Present for First Nations Uprising

Masked warrior on guard at burning car barricade, Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Source: warriorpublications

Masked warrior on guard at burning car barricade, Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

Non-Indigenous Canadians have dismissed recent warning signs

Canada is headed toward a confrontation with its First Nations people that could lead to “coherent civil action” that threatens the country’s economic lifeblood, a new book warns. Time Bomb, written by Doug Bland, former chair of Defence Management Studies at Queen’s University, argues the conditions are present for an uprising by First Nations people frustrated by decades of seeing their aspirations ignored by Canadian governments.

He urges people not to minimize the risk this frustration could turn into a rebellion and that Canada’s critical transportation links – railways and roads – are vulnerable to protests that could shut them down and cost the economy millions.

His sober warning comes amid deeply strained relations between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and some aboriginal leaders.

Next week, hundreds of chiefs from the country’s largest aboriginal group, the Assembly of First Nations, will meet in Winnipeg to elect a new national chief and discuss key issues, from First Nations education, to missing and murdered indigenous women, to treaty rights.

“If Canada’s present policies and the historic indifference of Canadians toward the people of the First Nations and their aspirations continue without amendment, and if First Nations leaders continue to assert their right to unconditional sovereignty in Canada, then a confrontation between our two cultures is unavoidable,” Bland writes.

“The critical questions for both societies in such a circumstance are: What form would such a confrontation take, and how widespread would it become?” Bland cites one academic theory that says if a rebellion is “feasible,” it will occur.

In an interview with Postmedia News, Bland stressed he is “not predicting a revolution or an armed uprising.” But he said he is issuing a warning a “confrontation” could occur unless the government and First Nations leaders find innovative ways to prevent one.

He said part of the problem is many non-indigenous Canadians have dismissed recent warning signs: Grassroots movements such as Idle No More and threats from some aboriginal leaders to mount protests to shut down the economy.

“People just aren’t listening to them,” he said. “And they don’t understand how vulnerable the country is.”

Bland writes there is growing support among aboriginals favouring “a unified First Nations strategy for coherent civil action” and people should not ignore roadblocks and political standoffs.

“There is a pattern in these events, a pattern that is in 2014 heading in one way: Toward more demonstrations and confrontations and a gathering confidence in the First Nations communities that their causes can be advanced through the power of ‘activist politics.'”

Bland notes 48.8 per cent of the First Nations population is under the age of 24 and that some of those young people can be transformed into “warriors.”

“These young people, like most of the First Nations population, are concentrated in areas critically important to Canada’s resource industries and transportation infrastructure.”

Bland writes the railways and roads transporting everything from oil and grain to manufactured goods are “impossible to defend”. A small cohort of minimally trained ‘warriors’ could close these systems in a matter of hours.

“All the danger is sitting out there. And getting it wrong is for the government to try to bully its way through this thing. Or for some of the aggressive chiefs to try to bully their way the other way, pushing each other back and forth. It’s going to end up in a confrontation sometime.”

Originally published by the Star-Phoenix

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