Last week I wrote about protests which shut down Canadian railways for both passengers and freight, creating travel problems for tens of thousands of people. A week later, the situation still hasn’t been resolved and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now asking for Canadians to be patient as he tries to negotiate an end to the disruption:
The blockade has been in place for 12 days and CN has been forced to shutter its network east of Toronto since Friday — a devastating development for businesspeople, commuters and farmers who rely on the railway for their livelihoods. The protesters from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory say they are acting in solidarity with some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project running through their traditional territory.
“On all sides, people are upset and frustrated. I get it,” Trudeau said. “It’s understandable because this is about things that matter — rights and livelihoods, the rule of law and our democracy.”
While the prime minister did not lay out a clear path forward in his speech, Trudeau seemed to be ruling out police intervention at this point in favour of more conversations with the protesters. He said the suggestion from the Conservative Opposition that Ottawa forcibly remove the protesters from camps along the CN tracks in Belleville, Ont. is “not helpful.”
The protesters had a meeting with Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister over the weekend but nothing changed. It’s important to point out that this is a potentially serious situation for the entire country. The Financial Post reported last week that if this continues it could be a “catastrophe” for the economy:
“Rail is the backbone of infrastructure in this country, critical for industry but also for inter-city movement of goods,” said Brian Kingston, vice president of policy, international and fiscal Issues at the business council of Canada. “This is not the kind of thing you can take a wait and see approach on for too long because this is potentially a catastrophe for the Canadian economy.”
Part of the disruption would also include sparse products on store shelves:
Retailers and food producers warned that an extended strike could lead to shortages of groceries and household products on shelves, and the “spoilage of fresh foods.” While urban centres would not escape the impact, smaller communities would be particularly affected.
“This is not solely a food supply issue,” the Retail Council of Canada and Food and Consumer Products Canada said in a joint statement. “Among the type of goods impacted are items like personal hygiene products, infant formula, fire alarms and the type of cleaning and sanitary products that help deal with concerns about the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases.”
So the consequences are potentially quite serious and yet, after 12 days of this, Trudeau’s response is to be patient until he can convince the handful of protesters to leave on their own terms. Meanwhile, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has been hammering Trudeau’s weak response to the crisis:
Scheer called Trudeau’s address “the weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history.”
He said Trudeau’s speech offered Canadians “a word salad” with no meaningful plan to restore rail service and end the illegal blockades that are hampering the country’s economy.
“The prime minister’s statement was a complete abdication of responsibility and leadership,” Scheer said. “The prime minister has emboldened and encouraged this kind of behaviour.”
Here’s Scheer last week comparing this situation to a hostage crisis and pointing out the obvious, i.e. freedom of speech and the right to protest does not extend to interfering with entire industries that millions of people depend on.
Finally, here’s Trudeau’s speech from earlier today. This comes right at the beginning of the clip and goes on for about nine or ten minutes. Watch as much of it as you can bear and then skip ahead to 11:45 and watch Scheer’s blistering response. It worries me to think that this is where the U.S. is headed if we aren’t careful. It’s not hard to imagine President Sanders (or some future far left president) negotiating with Antifa and Extinction Rebellion as they shut down major infrastructure. Consider what is happening in Canada now a warning.