Mohawk protesters halt rail traffic near Belleville, Ont.
Via Rail cancels dozens of trains between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa
Via Rail cancelled 28 trains between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto on Friday, after protesters blocked a railway in support of the We'tsuwet'en First Nation in B.C., and its standoff with the RCMP.
Members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory have said they'll stop train traffic until the Mounties leave We'tsuwet'en territory, where a court order recently cleared the way for work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
"Our trains are prepared to leave on schedule should we achieve line clearance," wrote Via spokesperson Karl-Philip Marchand Giguere.
"As the situation progresses, more trains might be cancelled."
The railway was blocked near Belleville, Ont., roughly halfway between Toronto and Ottawa, on Thursday evening. Photos from the scene show a dump truck parked next to the rail line. The words "RCMP get out" are scrawled on a piece of plywood.
"[We'tsuwet'en] never had a treaty with Canada. Canada can't claim it's their land unless they have a purchase receipt with the Crown," the protesters said in a statement.
"Our position is they are our brethren. We have a relationship with them, and we support them in protecting their territory."
The protest is also affecting freight trains.
Ontario Provincial Police say they are aware of the situation, but did not offer more details.
The $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline has been approved by the province, and 20 First Nations band councils signed agreements in support of it, including five of the six band councils in the Wet'suwet'en nation.
However, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say those councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act.
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The hereditary chiefs — who are the leaders of the nation's governance system in place before the imposition of the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation's traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.
Opponents of the pipeline point out that B.C. has passed legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says "Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories."
With files from Jorge Barrera and The Canadian Press