Indigenous

Day ends quietly as Mohawk rail protests expand, trains remain stopped

Pauline Maracle skipped work to serve as the main cook for the now seven-day Tyendinaga Mohawk demonstration that has shut down passenger and freight traffic through one of Canada’s busiest rail corridors. 

Tyendinaga Mohawk police chief issues plea to end demonstration

Two Mohawk demonstrators walk over a highway overpass that overlooks a second camp set up next to CN Rail tracks on Wednesday, near Belleville, Ont. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Pauline Maracle skipped work to serve as the main cook for the now seven-day Tyendinaga Mohawk demonstration that has shut down passenger and freight traffic on one of Canada's busiest rail corridors. 

Maracle has been co-ordinating meals, ensuring vegetables are chopped and stews are prepared in kitchens throughout the community to feed the demonstrators who have now set up two camps along CN Rail lines in southern Ontario.

"This particular movement going across the nation around is so very important for the next generation," Maracle told CBC News at the second camp, near Belleville, Ont., and a few kilometres east of the main demonstration site. 

"At the end of the day, it's the people for the people."

The Mohawks set up the second camp early Wednesday ahead of an expected Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) raid that never came. 

The OPP told the demonstrators Tuesday that they would enforce a court order to clear the area. That was interpreted as a warning and the camp swelled with people who dug in and prepared for a raid. 

The Mohawk warrior flag flaps from the back of a dump truck, with snowplow shovel attached, facing the tracks that have remained empty for seven days. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The first site was set up along the tracks last Thursday. The Mohawks have not placed any obstructions across the tracks, but are too close for trains to pass safely. The railway runs along the edge of the Tyendinaga reserve, but is within its claimed territory. 

The demonstration was launched in response to the now-concluded RCMP raids in B.C. against camps built by Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters to block construction of the $6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. 

The Mohawks said they would continue their demonstration until the RCMP left Wet'suwet'en territory. The RCMP maintains a presence there to ensure a court injunction is followed. 

"We were bullied for so long, the bullies don't scare us anymore, and their tactics don't work anymore" demonstrator Willie Fisher said at the second Mohawk camp, which sits under a highway overpass. 

Fisher said he suspected a trick when a request, delivered Wednesday through the OPP, said rail workers needed to replace a battery on one of the level crossings. 

"They want to come and fix the arm bell on the rail line for some reason, but nobody touched it so why do you have to fix it?" said Fisher. 

He alleged "they want the two- or three-second shot [on camera] where it shows somebody stopping the worker from touching the bell … they are testing the waters."

It was unclear whether the workers would be allowed through.

Via Rail said Wednesday that it had been forced to cancel is Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes until Friday. The passenger rail service said that 256 trains had been cancelled, impacted 42,100 passengers.

Willie Fisher, from Tyendinaga, said Indigenous people can't be bullied anymore. (Jorge Barrera/CBC)

Rail blockades have also sprung up in Manitoba, New Hazelton, B.C., and Kahnawake, a Mohawk community just south of Montreal.  

Earlier in the day Wednesday, Tyendinaga Mohawk Police Chief Jason Brant delivered a personal plea to his community members to end their demonstration. 

Brant said that the demonstration had led to the layoffs of hundreds of people who now can't pay their bills. 

"It has filtered down to the working people, people living paycheck to paycheck are now the ones being affected," said Brant. 

"There are now single mothers quickly becoming penniless who can't afford food for their kids...As First Nation people with generations of having nothing  I ask you to feel for them, we are chained to them."  

As night settled over the two camps, barrel fires continued to burn, while the OPP maintained a two cruiser presence up the road, on the other side of the tracks.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Police Chief Jason Brant reads out a plea to community members to end demonstration. (Jorge Barrera/CBC News)

About the Author

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.