The rail blockade is coming down in Kahnawake, nearly a month after it was erected in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia.
Since Feb. 8, the encampment had blocked both freight and commuter trains on the Canadian Pacific Railway line that goes through the Mohawk territory south of Montreal.
The announcement was made Thursday afternoon after supporters marched through the streets with a banner that read: “Protect our future. No more pipelines.”
Roxann Whitebean, a filmmaker who lives in Kahnawake, said the decision to take down the blockade should be seen as a message of “good faith to all of Canada.”
“Depending on how Canada moves forward, we are ready to react and we will ensure that our rights and lands will no longer be violated. We will not back down until these standards are met,” she said.
She said the encampment will be relocated to a green space near the Mercier Bridge, a heavily trafficked connection between Montreal and the city’s South Shore.
“We want the fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge, to show that we are here to stay for as long as the Wet’suwet’en need us,” said Whitebean.
“We will be closely monitoring the situation in Wet’suwet’en as well other Indigenous communities.”
Another barricade remains in place in Listuguj, Que., where Mi’kmaq activists have blockaded a rail line that connects the Gaspé Peninsula with New Brunswick.
Other blockades across Canada have since come down.
Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in an ongoing dispute over a pipeline that would run through traditional land.
Quebec Premier François Legault’s government had expressed growing impatience with the Kahnawake blockade, arguing it was hurting the province’s economy.
In a statement on its website, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake said the blockade was a “sincere and peaceful expression of support” for Wet’suwet’en chiefs.
“Even in 2020 it seems that it takes a crisis for governments to truly engage,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton.
“We have been advocating for meaningful dialogue in the interest of peace and safety for all people.”