Pipeline protesters set up blockades along train tracks in Manitoba
Protesters set up a blockade along the CN and Via rail tracks near Headingley, Manitoba in support of the Wet'suwet'en standoff against the RCMP in British Columbia. (Source: Harrison Powder/ Facebook)
WINNIPEG -- Pipeline protesters have set up a blockade along the CN and Via Rail tracks near Headingley, Manitoba, stopping trains in both directions. Their message is clear – they want RCMP to get off Wet'suwet'en territory.
Two trains have been stopped on the tracks about 15km west of Winnipeg near Highway 334 and Wilkes Avenue, according to organizers of the protest.
The blockade is a sign of solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en standoff with RCMP over the Coastal GasLink pipeline which would cross the First Nation’s land.
"This is in support of the Wet'suwet'en land defenders and hereditary chiefs who didn't give consent," said an organizer of the protest.
"We are also protesting against (Coastal GasLink pipeline) and the RCMP who continue to violate Indigenous rights and lands."
While the group was only about six people strong as of Wednesday afternoon, more protesters were expected to come.
Despite the bitter cold, the group stood outside around a small campfire as they sang songs, after hoisting a Mohawk Warrior Society flag.
Manitoba RCMP said it is monitoring the scene along with the CN Police Service and has sent Division Liaison Team officers to the protest site.
"The role of the DLT officers is to establish a dialogue and maintain open and ongoing communication," said a spokesperson for Manitoba RCMP.
"These specially-trained officers are an essential part of building a relationship of trust, respect, and mutual understanding between the police, protestors and the affected public."
RCMP said it is mindful of its role to keep the peace and be part of the solution.
The protests in Manitoba come in response to the arrests made by RCMP near Houston, B.C. More than 20 protesters of the pipeline have been taken into custody, prompting protests across the country.
HUNDREDS OF TRAINS CANCELLED BY PROTESTS
In a written statement to CTV News, Via Rail said the blockade near Winnipeg has affected one of their trains from Vancouver, and it will be chartering busses and reserving hotel rooms for the affected passengers.
But this train is just one of hundreds across the country affected by the protests. Via Rail said as of Wednesday afternoon, 256 trains had been cancelled, affecting at least 42,100 passengers.
The rail service said it will be cancelling all departures until Friday on the Montréal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes.
The service said it is giving full automatic refunds for all cancelled trips, which could take up to 10 days.
Protesters near Winnipeg said they know it's costing these companies time and money.
"It costs a lot of money for these trains to be sitting here," said Black Turtle, a protester at the train tracks near Winnipeg.
"Nobody is going to listen, it seems like, unless you hit them where it hurts – and that’s the pocketbook."
As for CN Rail, it said the CN police and RCMP are responding to the protests.
"Train movements are currently stopped," said a CN spokesperson in a written statement to CTV news. "We are monitoring the situation and evaluating our legal options very closely."
PROVINCE SEEKS COURT INJUNCTION TO STOP BLOCKADE
CN is not the only one looking at taking legal action against the protesters.
In a written statement to CTV News, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the province will be seeking a court injunction to end the blockade.
"The point is to make sure that we are standing up for the freedoms and rights of all people, and not standing back while two-tier justice happens in our province," Pallister said.
"As much as we will always respect the right of protesters to have a voice, they don’t have a veto, and they don’t have the right to put their rights ahead of everyone else and to disregard the laws of our province and country."
But with more protestors across the country standing in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en, Leah Gazan, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, said the government and the RCMP need to back down.
"I think people are sending a very clear message, that they do not like what they are seeing on Wet'suwet'en territory," Gazan told CTV News.
"I think (the RCMP) need to make space for a peaceful solution, and get off Wet'suwet'en territory so they can figure this out themselves. That's the message land and water defenders are sending across the country, and I hope the prime minister is hearing this."
A lone protester stands on the rail tracks near Winnipeg, Man., as a part of a train track blockade protesting RCMP actions in the Wet'suwet'en First Nation territory. (Source: Glenn Pismenny/ CTV News Winnipeg)
Gazan said she believes the number of protests across the country shows that Canadians are fighting for fundamental human rights, and are concerned about the climate change.
-with files from CTV's Touria Izri