Montreal

'It concerns all provinces': Quebec premier calls on Ottawa to step in to end anti-pipeline protests

François Legault says his government is doing what it can to put a stop to the anti-pipeline protests that have brought key railways to a standstill — including the Canadian Pacific line to Montreal. 

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau says it's up to provinces to enforce court injunctions

Because the issue affects the transportation of goods and people across Canada, Quebec Premier François Legault, centre, says Ottawa must respond. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

François Legault says his government is doing what it can to put a stop to the anti-pipeline protests that have brought key railways to a standstill — including the Canadian Pacific line to Montreal.

"I am confident that we will be able to settle the problem rapidly," Quebec's premier told reporters Tuesday.

"But we need also the federal government to be involved because it doesn't only concern Quebec. It concerns all provinces."

On Montreal's South Shore, Kahnawake Mohawks are blocking the CP tracks that run through their territory in a show solidarity with protesters preventing access to a pipeline construction site on traditional Wet'suwet'en land in northern British Columbia.

Other First Nations have taken similar action, including near Belleville, Ont., and New Hazelton, B.C.

Near Belleville, Tyendinaga Mohawks have set up a camp close enough to the CN-owned tracks to prompt the shutdown of passenger and freight traffic since Thursday.  Thousands of passengers travelling between Montreal and Toronto have had to change their travel plans, and essential goods such as propane aren't being shipped to Quebec.

Deliveries of foods, grain, de-icing fluid for airports and construction materials have stopped, with those goods stuck in transit along with natural resources such as lumber, aluminum and coal.

A lawn chair sits atop snow that's been plowed onto the CP Rail tracks that run through Kahnawake, on Montreal's South Shore. The flag of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, Confederacy is in the foreground. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

In a case like this, the federal government is responsible because "we're talking about transport here," said Legault.

He said the province has discussed the matter with Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton.

As far as South Shore commuters go, buses can continue to be used to transport rail passengers temporarily, he said. 

But "it must stop," the premier said. "It can't last a long time."

Asked if he would send the Sûreté du Québec into Kahnawake to clear the tracks, Legault said the Mohawk Peacekeepers are managing the situation.

Federal government 'very concerned': Garneau

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says it is up to provincial authorities to act on removal orders, and not up to Ottawa to enforce court injunctions.

He said the federal Liberal government is "very concerned" about the demonstrations as they are blocking key transportation routes.

Garneau said the continuing disruptions will undoubtedly damage the economy as CN moves tens of billions of dollars' worth of goods over those tracks each year. There's also a risk to public safety, he said, and it's illegal as the demonstration infringes on the Railway Safety Act.

"Hopefully we'll resolve it as quickly as possible," Garneau said. "It's dangerous to block the rails, so we're very concerned about it from that point of view."

With files from CBC's Cathy Senay

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