Canadian rail update: Pipeline construction to resume, but some tracks still blocked

The Canadian government reached a deal with protesters Sunday which should allow construction crews to resume work on a natural gas pipeline today.

Work is expected to resume today on a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia that has been at the centre of protests that have disrupted both rail and road traffic in many parts of the country.

It follows a proposed arrangement that was reached Sunday during talks in Smithers, B.C. involving Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and senior ministers of the federal and B.C. governments. The agreement still needs the approval of the Wet’suwet’en people.

Details of the draft accord, which centres on Indigenous rights and land titles, were not disclosed, however, a joint statement by representatives of Wet’suwet’en Nation, the province and the federal government acknowledged they had not come to an agreement on the pipeline.

The refusal to allow construction crews access to Wet’suwet’en despite a court order  resulted in the RCMP moving in and making a handful of arrests last month. In response to that action, tribes in other parts of Canada began a rail blockade demanding that the RCMP withdraw. Those solidarity protests shut down much of the Canadian rail system for three weeks.

Last Monday, Ontario police moved in and arrested Mohawk protesters at one of the rail blockades. Some protesters reacted by setting fires on the tracks, including near moving trains.

Now that the underlying issue which prompted the rail blockade appears to be resolved, the remaining protests should come to an end. But as of Monday morning several blockades are still up. A Mohawk leaders said a meeting to discuss taking down one particular barricade would be held Monday night:

The rail barricade will remain in place for the time being until the community learns more about the details of the agreement, which still requires the approval of the Wet’suwet’en people.

Kenneth Deer, the secretary of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake, said there is a meeting scheduled for Monday night where residents are asked to gather and discuss their next steps.

“It is a big decision whether or not to dismantle a barricade,” he said on Sunday. “They want to make sure they have all the details of the deal before making this decision.”

The agreement still hasn’t been signed because the Wet’suwet’en people haven’t agreed to it yet. Reuters reports that process could take about two weeks. Will protesters attempt to keep the rail blockade up for that long?

So far the protests have remained peaceful, but there was a lot of tension Sunday when an abandoned CN Rail building burned down. Police have arrested one person for suspected arson but, so far, say there’s no indication the arson was connected to the protests:

The fire burned for hours after breaking out Sunday afternoon. RCMP were called around 4 p.m. PT, and officers soon arrested a young man for suspected arson…

Cpl. Devon Gerrits said the incident isn’t believed to be related to recent protests at CN Rail sites across the country, some of which have involved small fires.

Here’s a Global News report on the situation. As you’ll see in the second half of this report, the rail blockaders seem to be looking for an all clear sign from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs which they haven’t received yet.