[Marxism] Canadian Police Move Against Pipeline Blockades, Arresting Dozens

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 13 07:07:05 MST 2020

NY Times, Feb. 11, 2020
Canadian Police Move Against Pipeline Blockades, Arresting Dozens
By Ian Austen

OTTAWA — The Canadian police on Monday began moving against protesters 
who had set up transportation blockades around the country in sympathy 
with an Indigenous group’s campaign to halt construction of a natural 
gas pipeline to Canada’s West Coast.

The blockades affected at least 19,500 rail passengers, according to Via 
Rail Canada, and 200 freight trains were unable to travel.

By late Monday, more than 47 protesters had been arrested. The 
nationwide demonstrations had been set off by the recent arrests of 21 
protesters at the pipeline construction site itself.

The first blockade appeared on Thursday night and led to the shutdown of 
all rail passenger trains between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, as well 
as some freight trains. Another group was blocking freight and passenger 
rail traffic near Smithers, British Columbia.

Protesters also effectively ended operations at major ports in Vancouver 
and nearby Delta, British Columbia; shut down a commuter railway line in 
Montreal; and blocked traffic in Regina, Saskatchewan. A small group 
also occupied an area outside the Ottawa office of Canada’s justice 

The protests were in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, some of 
whose members are opposed to the construction of a 416-mile, 6.2 billion 
Canadian dollar project to link gas wells in the interior of British 
Columbia to a new liquefied natural gas terminal on the coast for export 
sales to Asia. For more than a year, members of the Wet’suwet’en have 
been blocking roads in Houston, British Columbia, where the pipeline is 
under construction.

The gas line is strongly supported by the government of British 
Columbia. And Coastal GasLink, the company behind the project, has 
signed construction agreements with the 20 elected Indigenous councils 
along the route and has promised to award 620 million Canadian dollars’ 
worth of contracts to Indigenous businesses.

But a number of chiefs who hold Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership fear 
the project will irrevocably alter their land. They oppose reaching any 
sort of agreement with the company or accepting any economic benefits.

The protests began after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved last 
week to enforce an injunction granted on Dec. 31 against the 
Wet’suwet’en who have been blocking the roads at the construction site.

Chief Smogelgem of the Wet’suwet’en said he and other hereditary chiefs 
had been in talks with the province about the pipeline shortly before 
the police moved in last week. He said the arrests will only inflame the 
situation and prompt further protests elsewhere in the country.

“It’s guaranteed,” he said. “This is an uprising that’s happening all 
across the country.”

The police are now stopping most people, including members of the 
Wet’suwet’en, from entering a wide area around the protesters’ 
encampment. Access to the area by journalists has been limited to a few 
escorted visits; the national police force said in a statement that 21 
people had been arrested there since Thursday, though eight have since 
been released without being charged.

On Monday before dawn in Vancouver, the police made 33 arrests at the 
entrance to the port. Video from the scene suggests that the arrests 
took place peacefully and that the police allowed other demonstrators to 
remain near the scene if they did not try to block the port. In nearby 
Delta on Monday, 14 protesters were arrested.

The Canadian National Railway company, which owns the tracks in British 
Columbia, as well as those in Ontario used by the Via Rail Canada 
passenger service, has obtained injunctions against the protesters in a 
bid to reopen its lines. There was no indication on Monday of how and 
when they may be enforced.

Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte said the 
blockade on its territory east of Toronto, which has at times involved a 
snow plow and a sofa, was not authorized by the band council. He said he 
had first learned about it from the railway.

The Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty and in 1997 Supreme Court of 
Canada ruled that they hold “Aboriginal title” to the territory now 
involved in the dispute.

Chief Smogelgem said he and the other leaders will not end efforts to 
block the pipeline “until the R.C.M.P. get off our land and the Coastal 
GasLink company stops the pipeline.”

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