Tag Archives: Wet’suwet’en First Nation

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]

Manitoba protesters blockade CN Rail line, demand RCMP leave Wet’suwet’en territory

About half a dozen protesters occupy a rail station along the CN line approximately seven kilometres west of Winnipeg. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

CN rail lines in B.C. and Ontario have also been blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters in the last week

A Manitoba railway just outside Winnipeg is being blocked by a group of protesters to show support for the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia, whose hereditary leaders are fighting construction of a pipeline through their traditional territory.

About a dozen protesters lit a fire Wednesday morning and are occupying an area near a crossing of a CN rail line about seven kilometres west of the Perimeter Highway, on Wilkes Avenue.

The protesters said they won’t end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en people in B.C., where police arrested more than 20 people over the weekend who were blocking Coastal GasLink workers from accessing the traditional territory.

RCMP began enforcing a court order against those blocking construction on the pipeline last Thursday, sparking protests across the country.

“We’re here showing solidarity for other Indigenous people, for other Indigenous nations — First Nations whose territories were invaded by RCMP [and] Coastal GasLinks,” said Harrison Powder, one of the Manitoba blockade participants.

“They violated Indigenous laws, Indigenous lands, and Indigenous rights, and that kind of stuff has to be protested against. We have to stand up against that,” he said.

“We want the RCMP out of there.”

Harrison Powder said the group will continue to block the rail line until RCMP leave the Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters filled Winnipeg’s downtown streets to show support for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are trying to stop construction of the pipeline.

Blockades in other provinces have cancelled more than 150 Via Rail passenger trains and forced a similar number of freight trains to sit idle.

CN Rail’s president and CEO, J.J. Ruest, told CBC News on Tuesday that the protests threaten industry across the country, including the transport of everything from food to construction materials to natural resources.

On Wednesday, CN Rail said train movements in the area of the Manitoba protest are currently stopped.

“We are monitoring the situation and evaluating our legal options very closely,” a spokesperson said in an email.

While the blockade is focused on the CN line, protesters are set up a spot where it intersects with a CP Rail line.

CP Rail said it is monitoring the situation, but wouldn’t say if any of its trains would be affected.

‘A long time coming’

The Manitoba protesters, who gathered Wednesday as bitter winds made it feel as cold as –44, hope to send a message to the federal government, as well as RCMP and industry leaders.

“When you invade Indigenous territory, and you try to force pipelines on our people, there’s consequences to that, and this here today is one of those consequences,” said Powder.

“This has been a long time coming, these blockades. Our people have been saying for years ‘we can shut down this country, we can stop the economy, we can cause major economic damage’ — and it’s happening now.”

Both RCMP and CN Rail police were monitoring the blockade site on Wednesday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Both Manitoba RCMP and CN Rail police were at the blockade Wednesday. An RCMP spokesperson said officers were there to monitor the protest and keep the peace.

“The Manitoba RCMP has sent Division Liaison Team (DLT) officers to the protest site,” the spokesperson said in an email. “The role of the DLT officers is to establish a dialogue and maintain open and ongoing communication.”

Province will seek injunction

The Manitoba government said Wednesday it plans to seek a court injunction to end the blockade.

Premier Brian Pallister says the province’s Justice Department will seek to obtain an injunction and have it enforced within a few days.

He says he respects the rights of protesters, but laws need to be applied.

“The point is to make sure that we’re standing up for the freedoms and rights of all people, and not standing back while two-tier justice happens in our province,” Pallister told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

“As much as we will always respect the right of protesters to have a voice, they don’t have a veto and … they don’t have the right to put their rights ahead of everyone else and to disregard the laws of our province and country.”

By: Holly Caruk · CBC News · Posted: Feb 12, 2020

[SOURCE]

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]

Potential Pipeline Clash Worries First Nation Chief In B.C.

While Chief Ogen, who represents the elected council, is in favour of the gas pipelines, Freda Huson, who represents the Unist’ot’en, is steadfastly opposed. Ms. Huson is pictured with her husband, chief Toghestiy, in this photo when they spoke to the media about a blockade they've set up against the proposed Pacific Trail pipeline near Houston, B.C., in Vancouver on Monday April 7, 2014 (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

While Chief Ogen, who represents the elected council, is in favour of the gas pipelines, Freda Huson, who represents the Unist’ot’en, is steadfastly opposed. Ms. Huson is pictured with her husband, chief Toghestiy, in this photo when they spoke to the media about a blockade they’ve set up against the proposed Pacific Trail pipeline near Houston, B.C., in Vancouver on Monday April 7, 2014
(DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Globe and Mail | Published, Sep. 07, 2015

There are growing fears violence could erupt if a protest camp in northern B.C. remains in place on the right-of-way of two proposed gas lines.

But resolving the dispute will require untangling a complicated internal conflict that has set hereditary and elected chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation against one another.

Chief Karen Ogen of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation said she’s worried band members working for contractors on the gas line right-of-ways could clash with protesters blocking an access road.

She’s also concerned about what might happen if the RCMP move in to dismantle the camp, which has been in place for several years but has recently begun to hold up industry work crews.

“I just hope it doesn’t have to escalate into violence and that our people are safe because we have a lot of Wet’suwet’en people working on the ground with contractors for Coastal GasLink,” said Chief Ogen. “I just want to make sure all of our Wet’suwet’en people are safe out there and I’m sure that’s what the position of the police would be too.”

Tensions in the long simmering dispute were highlighted when the RCMP sat down for a four-hour meeting in Smithers recently with the protest group, a Wet’suwet’en clan or family group known as the Unist’ot’en, after some native leaders claimed the police were about to raid the camp.

The RCMP have denied there were any plans for a raid and have stressed police remain neutral in the conflict.

Underlying the dispute between the gas industry and the protesters is a complex political struggle within the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

While Chief Ogen, who represents the elected council, is in favour of the gas pipelines, Freda Huson, who represents the Unist’ot’en, is steadfastly opposed.

Ms. Huson claims the backing of several hereditary chiefs. But Chief Ogen says she has the support of both hereditary and elected chiefs.

In an interview, Chief Ogen said she hopes the matter can be resolved in a meeting she’s trying to set up involving the First Nations Leadership Council, a highly influential body that represents the political executives of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“Whether we compromise or find a way to get both of our needs met, we [the Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en] are one people and we should be able to sit down and have a discussion,” said Chief Ogen. “My position is we want to sit down … and have the Leadership Council neutral in all of this and help us find a resolve.

The Wet’suwet’en, a First Nation that claims about 55,000 square kilometres of land in the Burns Lake area, lie directly on the routes of the 480-kilometre Pacific Trails Pipeline, proposed by Chevron Canada and Woodside Energy International Ltd., and TransCanada’s 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline. The pipelines would link rich northeast gas fields with a planned LNG facility in Kitimat.

Recently Unist’ot’en protestors blocked Coastal GasLink crews from accessing the area, and the company filed a complaint with the RCMP.

In an interview from the protest camp, Ms. Huson said the Unist’ot’en intend to maintain the protest camp – and she’s not interested in attending the meeting Chief Ogen is trying to set up.

She said the Unistot’ot’en function under the traditional hereditary chief system, while Chief Ogen gets her authority though an electoral process established by the federal government.

“Our government structure is around the [traditional] feast hall, it’s not around a [elected band council] boardroom table,” she said. “So if Chief Ogen or anybody else wants to discuss business on our territory they need to come to our feast hall.”

Gillian Robinson-Riddell, a spokesperson for Chevron Canada Ltd., said the company is hoping a peaceful settlement can be reached.

“Throughout the years we have always maintained that it’s our hope to see this blockade resolved through dialogue and discussion. So we’re continuing to work to see that happen,” she said.

Mark Cooper, a spokesman for TransCanada, said in an e-mail his company wants to continue work in the area.

“We have been conducting important environmental fieldwork along the proposed pipeline route for months,” he stated. “Our goal is to carry out this seasonal work in the safest possible manner for our staff, contractors and First Nations participants.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/potential-pipeline-clash-worries-first-nation-chief-in-bc/article26244455/

Wet’suwet’en Chiefs Challenge Recent Unist’ot’en Camp Media Coverage

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen.

Wet’suwet’en Chiefs Say Unist’ot’en Do Not Speak For Their Nations

BURNS LAKE, BC, Aug. 31, 2015 /CNW/ – Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen, Nee Tahi Buhn Chief Ray Morris, Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George, and Skin Tyee Nation Chief Rene Skin, say they are disappointed at recent media coverage that represents the Unist’ot’en as speaking for their Nations, and that fails to represent the complexity of the issues.

“We have long believed it is short sighted to turn down projects such as the Coastal GasLink project before understanding the true risks and benefits; that is just an easy way to avoid dealing with complex issues,” says Chief Ogen, spokesperson for the four Chiefs and for the First Nations LNG Alliance, a group of First Nations that support LNG development in British Columbia. Chief Dan George states, “Our Nations support responsible resource development as a way to bring First Nations out of poverty and bring opportunities for our young people.”

The Chiefs say they are also concerned with the number of individuals and groups, some Aboriginal, some political, some environmental and others, who have signed the We Stand with the Unistoten petition. “The definition of sustainability for some of the groups who signed the petition and live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, elsewhere in Canada and outside the country, is very different from what it means for Nations in northern British Columbia that are anxious to climb out of poverty and find meaningful opportunity. This issue needs to be resolved by the Wet’suwet’en people, and not by others who hold no interest in our land,” says Chief Skin.

After careful study and consideration of the dedicated natural gas pipeline, a number of First Nations entered into benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink once they were satisfied that economic and social benefits would be balanced with the protection of the environment.

The Chiefs also point out that should the Coastal GasLink project proceed, the Unist’ot’en Camp that has been established at the Morice River Bridge, could continue to operate, as a proposed route option, requested by some of the Hereditary Chiefs for Coastal GasLink to consider, if selected, would not conflict with the continuance of the Camp.

“It is in times of crisis where we have the greatest opportunity to come together as Wet’suwet’en leaders,” says Chief Ogen. “There is a way to work together to find a path forward and keep everyone safe.” “We are urging all Wet’suwet’en leaders – First Nation and Hereditary Chiefs – to meet as soon as possible to discuss a path forward. We as leaders are responsible for the collective well being of Wet’suwet’en people. We have an obligation to work together in our collective interest to represent our people,” states Chief Morris.

By participating in these processes with industry, and by collaborating among First Nations, the Chiefs believe that First Nations have the opportunity to raise the bar on environmental protection. “Environmentalism must mean more than just saying no,” Chief Ogen said. “There is no doubt sustainability means protecting our environment. But sustainability also means ensuring our people have access to real opportunities and a decent standard of living. Sustainability means standing on our own two feet, providing our young people with good paying jobs, and reducing the 40 to 60% unemployment we now experience. Already, many of our members have been working on this project, which brings tangible benefits to our communities.”

The four Chiefs are confident the path forward for First Nations is to collaborate and find ways to balance environmental protection with economic opportunity, and in the process, create a more sustainable future for all.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen
Nee Tahi Buhn Chief Ray Morris
Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George
Skin Tyee Nation Chief Rene Skin

SOURCE: Wet’suwet’en First Nation

http://www.kcentv.com/story/29923546/wetsuweten-chiefs-say-unistoten-do-not-speak-for-their-nations