Manitoba

Blockades arise from lack of meaningful dialogue with First Nations: SCO Grand Chief

Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization say the true blockade in Canada is against Indigenous economies, calling the actions of the Federal government and RCMP on Wet'suwet'en territory the epitome of oppression.

SCO says infrastructure projects need to be run on 'a genuine partnership basis'

Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization held a press conference this morning where they called the actions of the federal government and RCMP toward Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters the epitome of oppression of First Nations people. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization say the true blockade in Canada is against Indigenous economies, calling the actions of the federal government and RCMP on Wet'suwet'en territory the epitome of oppression.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said that railway blockades throughout the country are a symptom of Canada's inability to meaningfully engage with First Nations.

"I think that when people who are at the margins of society and have no other alternative, then they have to find a way to be heard," he said. 

"What do you do when you're in the jails? What do you do when you're in poverty and all of the different socio-economic indicators that we were at? We didn't decide to be there."

Railway blockades began after the RCMP, which acts as the provincial police service in B.C., moved in to enforce a court injunction earlier this month after the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters blocked construction of the $6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project

Could happen in Manitoba

Daniels said the same type of action could happen in Manitoba, pointing out that SCO has planned four temporary road blockades for March 20: one at the U.S. border near Emerson, one on the Ontario border along Highway 1, another on the Saskatchewan border and another on a northern road.

Those blockades were planned before the Wet'suwet'en solidarity protests that began more than two weeks ago.

The organization previously organized round dances last year during the Manitoba election to slow traffic near the Manitoba-Ontario border, the Canada-U.S. border and along the Saskatchewan border. 

Overall, Daniels said the Wet'suwet'en matter shows that First Nations need greater control over infrastructure projects in their lands, and that SCO "will join the cause if we have to." 

"If infrastructure projects in our lands are going to happen, they need to happen on a genuine partnership basis," he said. 

"We need control of our own infrastructure — all infrastructure projects should be shared with First Nations in ownership not simply as jobs not simply as monitoring the environment."

Speaking to media this afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the situation "unacceptable and untenable," and said the barricades must come down.

He said his government has engaged directly with Indigenous leaders and premiers with the aim of finding a "peaceful and lasting resolution" to the crisis.

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