Indigenous

Mohawks prepare to enter 6th day of railway shutdown in support of Wet'suwet'en

The people staging a demonstration in support of Wet'suwet'en pipeline opponents that has led to a five-day shutdown of passenger and freight rail traffic through eastern Ontario say they won't back down in the face of possible police action.

Rail service between Toronto and Montreal disrupted since Thursday

Tyendinaga Mohawk member Jacob Morris says the injunction, which was issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Saturday at the request of CN, won’t change the goal of demonstration. (CBC News)

The people staging a demonstration in support of Wet'suwet'en pipeline opponents that has led to a five-day shutdown of passenger and freight rail traffic through eastern Ontario say they won't back down in the face of possible police action.

Tyendinaga Mohawk members say they won't end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the territory of the Wet'suwet'en. 

RCMP began enforcing an court order against those blocking construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Northern B.C. last Thursday. 

Tyendinaga Mohawk member Jacob Morris said a court injunction that forbids any continued interference with the rail line under the threat of arrest, which was issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday at the request of CN, won't change the goal of demonstration.

"It's a piece of paper in our eyes, another tree cut down so you can hand it to us," said Morris. 

"I'm not worried one bit."

Via Rail has said at least 92 trains have been cancelled since the demonstration began, affecting over 16,000 passengers on one of Canada's busiest rail corridors connecting Toronto to Montreal. CN said dozens of freight trains have been stopped, stalling shipments of everything from propane to feedstock for factories.

The CN-owned rail tracks run just outside the reserve boundaries of Tyendinaga, but are within a land claim area that stretches up to Highway 2 just north of the crossing.

A makeshift camp has sprung up along the rail tracks that now includes a porta-potty, green canvas tents and a barrel fire. The three-track crossing is about 250 kilometres west of Ottawa. 

The purple Haudenosaunee flag is attached to a dump truck, fitted with a snowplow shovel, that is parked near but not on the rail lines. (CBC News)

The demonstrators have not put any obstacles across the tracks. A dump truck with a snowplow shovel attached is parked facing the tracks. However, their proximity to the rails has led to the shutdown of train traffic since Thursday. 

Tyendinaga Mohawk Police Chief Jason Brant approached the demonstration camp Monday afternoon with a message that a sheriff from the court would arrive Tuesday morning to read the injunction to everyone there.

Demonstrations have flared across the country since the RCMP began enforcing the injunction on Wet'suwet'en territiory. Rail blockades have sprung up in B.C. near New Hazelton, B.C, and in Kahnawake, just south of Montreal, along with Toronto.

On Monday, demonstrators from Tyendinaga watched events unfolding in British Columbia over Twitter and Facebook as the RCMP conducted another operation against the Wet'suwet'en's Unist'ot'en camp, and spoke with one of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs by phone. 

Andrew Brant from Tyendinaga says the Mohawk are returning the support shown by First Nations in B.C. during the 1990 Oka crisis. (CBC News)

Andrew Brant from Tyendinaga said the Mohawk are returning the support shown by First Nations in B.C. during the 1990 Oka crisis when Mohawks of Kanesatake, Que., faced the Canadian military over the expansion of a golf course.

"They stood with us when there was Oka, so we are going to stand with them now," said Brant. 

"We've gotten driven out of so many places, this is all we have left. We can understand what they are going through."

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.