Politics·Updated

Trudeau's meeting with Indigenous leaders changed venues after First Nations pipeline protest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's opening remarks to Indigenous leaders attending an annual forum in Ottawa today were delayed after anti-pipeline protesters breached security at the venue to stage a sit-in.

Trudeau addressed Indigenous forum in Ottawa as First Nations protesters marched through city

Protesters voice their opposition against pipelines during a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday. Dozens of rallies are planned in British Columbia, across Canada and as far away as Europe to support pipeline protesters arrested in northwestern B.C. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's opening remarks to Indigenous leaders attending an annual forum in Ottawa today were delayed after anti-pipeline protesters breached security at the venue to stage a sit-in.

The delay occurred after hundreds of Indigenous protesters marched from Parliament Hill to the forum's venue at Ottawa's old City Hall on Sussex Drive and entered the building.

Trudeau was diverted from the venue by police and never came into contact with the demonstrators.

The marchers were  protesting the actions of RCMP officers in northern British Columbia. Mounties there have arrested 14 people to enforce a court injunction allowing Coastal GasLink access to a pipeline project near Houston, B.C.

Trudeau eventually appeared at the Modern Treaty and Self-Governing First Nations Forum this afternoon, after the event was moved to another location.

In his remarks, he told Indigenous leaders that a great deal of work remains to be done to fix the relationship between the federal government and First Nations.

"To be perfectly frank, there's a lot of work ahead of us," Trudeau said. "I don't want to dwell on the past, but you know, and I know, that previous governments and institutions spent years ignoring your communities and your concerns."

Protesting a pipeline

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where the LNG Canada facility is scheduled for construction.

Indigenous protesters had blocked a road and were preventing workers from passing road checkpoints unless they could prove they had consent from hereditary leaders.

TransCanada has said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to LNG Canada's $40 billion liquefied natural gas project. But the hereditary leaders say those agreements don't apply to traditional territories.

Indigenous protesters take up positions in Ottawa's Old City Hall to protest the RCMP's actions in removing protesters arrested in B.C. (CBC/Tom Parry)

The B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement police enforcement of the injunction "is an operational matter for the RCMP and is entirely at arms-length from government.

"We recognize the right for people to engage in peaceful protest. In any situation such as this, we hope all parties find a safe and mutually respectful resolution."

The pipeline project is within B.C.'s borders and the federal government is playing a minimal role in the project. The RCMP serve as a provincial police force in B.C.

Behind closed doors

Trudeau did not address the protests in his remarks, instead focusing on areas where he felt his government had made progress in its reconciliation efforts since the 2015 election.

He mentioned policy decisions to end loans as a means of funding Indigenous participation in treaty negotiations and said he intended to work with First Nations leaders to come up with an alternative way to strengthen the treaty negotiation process.

Trudeau also mentioned legislation his government intends to introduce later this year to protect and preserve Indigenous languages.

The business end of the meeting, where Indigenous leaders left their prepared remarks behind and engaged directly with the prime minister, was held behind closed doors.

Indigenous protesters marched on Parliament Hill and occupied a venue where a meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indigenous leaders was to be held 0:42