rail blockade

Protests ramp up across Canada after arrests at Ontario rail blockade

Protests in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en and Tyendinaga First Nations returned in full force overnight after Ontario Provincial Police dismantled the long-running Ontario blockade that had brought freight and commuter trains to a standstill for the last two and a half weeks.

Activists have retaken ports, highways, legislative buildings, rail lines, downtown intersections and more across the country, including the Port of Vancouver, the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge and train tracks at multiple locations in B.C. and Ontario, according to the Unist'ot'en Solidarity Brigade.

There has been police presence at some of these locations, and additional arrests have been made.

The action is in response to the OPP arrests and action at the blockade site near Belleville, Ont., which started yesterday morning.

Demonstrations on the rail line between Toronto and Montreal — on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory — began on February 6 in response to the RCMP's invasion onto unceded land in northern B.C. to clear the way for a controversial natural gas pipeline.

The 670 km-long Coastal GasLink pipeline is due to cut through First Nations territory, though 20 elected band councils signed off on the project amid community consultations by TC Energy.

But some Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs still opposed, and vowed to protect their land while RCMP attempted to enforce a court injunction to make way for work on the multi-billion dollar line to start.

After officers made more than 20 arrests at Wet'suwet'en posts, supporters across the country rallied, occupying government buildings, city streets, ports and railways to draw attention to the issue and demand that the RCMP vacate Wet'suwet'en land.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was put in a tough spot between those demanding that he bring an end to the blockades that were impacting livelihoods and the country's economy at large, and those calling for justice, reconciliation and indigenous sovereignty.

Things got even more heated when counter-protesters started taking matters into their own hands and drivers began driving through groups of activists.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is even tabling a bill today to enact stricter punishments on those "rioting on or blocking" transportation routes.

After the RCMP finally decided to pull out of Wet'suwet'en territory — one of the conditions of land protectors and allies — officials expected and later demanded that transportation barricades and other demonstrations cease.

The OPP gave Tyendinaga demonstrators a time by which they had to vacate the tracks, but when they showed no signs of stepping down despite facing a court injunction and potential criminal charges, officers stepped in — a move that has re-igniting tensions.

Though VIA train service through the Belleville area resumed last night after nearly three weeks, as of this morning, nearby GO train service west of Toronto has been stopped by new barricades near Hamilton.

Rail traffic is also stopped near Niagara, New Hazleton and Maple Ridge, B.C. as rallies surrounding this very complex, historic and delicate issue continue.

Lead photo by

Siiam Hamilton

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