Ontario Provincial Police officers lead away a man after making an arrest at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., on Monday Feb. 24, 2020, as they protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs attempting to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territories. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ontario Provincial Police officers lead away a man after making an arrest at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., on Monday Feb. 24, 2020, as they protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs attempting to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territories. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Indigenous leaders condemn police use of force to clear Ontario rail blockades

Ontario Provincial Police and CN Rail had given protesters until midnight Sunday to clear the blockade

A police operation that saw officers descend on a rail blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in central Ontario and arrest several protesters Monday seemed to stoke tensions even as it paved the way for train service to resume.

Ontario’s provincial police said officers moved in after efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution with the protesters were exhausted and a midnight deadline to clear the rail blockade, which has brought freight and passenger rail traffic in much of Eastern Canada to a virtual standstill, was ignored.

Politicians hailed the police raid on the blockade near Belleville, Ont., but the use of force angered Indigenous leaders, community members and advocacy groups who had hoped for a peaceful resolution.

“Today’s arrests of First Nations activists at Tyendinaga shows once again that we will never achieve reconciliation through force,” said Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, in a statement. “The Crown is removing people from their lands but is not removing the central barrier to progress — action on long-standing issues of First Nations title and rights.”

The Mohawk people of Tyendinaga also condemned the use of force by police, saying the protesters were “standing up for human rights and the land and water.”

“The rule of law includes human rights and Indigenous rights,” they said.

The raid started at 8:30 a.m. when a column of police vehicles drove up the dirt road toward the blockade. Dozens of police officers then lined up in front of the protesters at the encampment, which has been in place since Feb. 6.

Officers detained a few demonstrators, wrestling one to the ground before taking the group away. The officers held the line near the tracks until about 9:15 a.m. when they moved in again to arrest more men and take control of the area around the tracks.

Police later said 10 people were arrested and are facing multiple charges. They said all 10 have been released with conditions but provided no further details.

The protesters had set up the blockade in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose the development of a natural gas pipeline project that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern B.C. The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, however, has the support of elected band councils along the pipeline route.

Numerous similar rail and road blockades have sprung up in multiple provinces throughout the month, halting freight and passenger train service for much of the country.

One of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Na’moks, offered words of encouragement for the Ontario protesters.

“They’re doing the right thing for the right reasons,” said the chief, who also goes by John Ridsdale.

He later said those who visited Mohawk supporters in Ontario have returned to B.C., and that while he previously believed the RCMP was removing its mobile detachment from the First Nation’s territory, he now believes it has simply been shut down because there is a new gate blocking a turnoff towards it.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have called for the removal of the RCMP mobile unit, the end of foot patrols and the removal of Coastal GasLink workers from the territory as conditions for meeting with the federal government.

Meanwhile, about 200 protesters marched through downtown Ottawa in support with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders.

And in B.C., members of the Gitxsan First Nation erected a new blockade on a rail line outside of New Hazelton. Protesters also returned to the Port of Vancouver and the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Monday afternoon.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the federal government remained committed to the reconciliation agenda.

“But at the same time, the impact of these rail disruptions is untenable. It can’t continue,” he said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coastal GasLinkIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Millet Fire Department 2019. Photo/ Pipestone Flyer.
Millet Fire Department hosts “Light it Up for Liam” event

The Millet Fire Department is lighting up the fire hall this season with holiday spirit.

file photo
Wetaskiwin, Maskwacis RCMP search warrant seize drugs; numerous charges laid

39-year-old Wetaskiwin man, Wayne Wiebe charged with 21 criminal code offences.

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

Ilaria Rubino is shown in this undated handout image at University of Alberta. Alberta researcher Rubino has developed technology allowing mostly salt to kill pathogens in COVID-19 droplets as they land on a mask. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Alberta
Alberta researcher gets award for COVID-19 mask innovation

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval.

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Most Read