Demonstrators are once again setting up a new rail blockade in northern B.C. less than two weeks after the previous one was dismantled.
Gitx’san Nation Hereditary Chief Spookw said there are about 30 to 40 people at the railway site near New Hazelton, north of Smithers, B.C., as of Monday mid-afternoon but expects the numbers to grow.
“We are back on the railway tracks where we were,” Spookw said. “People are happy to be back, happy to get their voices heard.”
A spokesperson with CN Rail said they are aware of the protest and monitoring it closely.
Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project had been blocking the CN Rail tracks and halting transport between Prince George and Prince Rupert for several days earlier this month.
That blockade was taken down on Feb. 13 after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan agreed to set up a meeting between high level officials and hereditary chiefs.
“We had put things on pause so that dialogue could take place ,” Spookw said. “But the dialogue has stalled and is going far too slow for our liking.”
Blockades and protests intensified Monday across the province as an anticipated meeting between federal leaders and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline through their territory has yet to materialize.
Hundreds gathered outside the legislature, while others blocked a road leading to the Port of Vancouver and tracks carrying the Lower Mainland public transit train, the West Coast Express.
The tipping point, Spookw said, is the RCMP “dragging their feet” leaving Wet’suwet’en territory over the weekend and the arrests of demonstrators at a Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory camp next to a railway crossing in Ontario Monday morning.
Last week, Trudeau said the barricades must come down.
“We wanted to show our solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and also with the Mohawks,” he said.
“Divided, we are weak. But when we stand together, we’re strong.”
The chiefs have called for the removal of an RCMP mobile unit, the end of foot patrols and the removal of Coastal GasLink workers from their traditional territory as conditions for meeting with the federal government.
Janelle Shoihet, a spokesperson with the RCMP, said the mobile unit has been temporarily closed since Friday and discussions are underway.
“Out of respect for the discussions and the trust being sought by all, we don’t wish to speak about any of the specifics at this time,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
CN police have jurisdiction on the railway in the New Hazelton area, Shoihet added.