As It Happens

Nationwide rail blockades could go 'from an inconvenience to a real harm,' says CEO

Murray Mullen, CEO of the Mullen Group, is worried about the impact anti-pipeline protests will have on the economy, referring to Wet'suwet'en solidarity blockades as a form of "eco-terrorism."

Murray Mullen of Mullen Group calls Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs a 'small interest group'

An enforcement officer reads a court injunction to members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory on Feb. 11 as they block train in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Prominent Canadian industry leaders are decrying the transportation disruptions of anti-pipeline demonstrations, ringing the alarm about longstanding impacts on the economy. 

Murray Mullen, CEO of the Mullen Group, has gone so far as to refer to the Wet'suwet'en solidarity blockades a form of eco-terrorism in an interview with the Financial Post, questioning the motives of some protesters. 

The Mullen Group does trucking for the oil patch in both Canada and the United States.

Mullen defended his position on As It Happens in an interview with host Carol Off.  Here is an excerpt from their conversation.

What would you do if your rights were trampled on? Would you not protest?

I can't put myself in their shoes, to be honest with you. But this is a struggle that has been going on, as they said, for 500 years. So how do we resolve it? Are we going to do it for another 500 years?

I can tell you from my perspective … it's going to inconvenience and cause a lot of challenges in the supply chain for a lot of Canadians.

So the inconvenience — what's the price for that, in business terms?

It's going to be a tremendous inconvenience to anybody that relies upon the rail. And then it's going to turn from an inconvenience to a real harm if we don't get our heads around this and get this resolved relatively quickly, which I think is a federal government issue.

This is much bigger than pipelines. This is about the movement. This is about our lands. This is about something that's been going on for a long time.

But if you have rail traffic — in Eastern Canada, particularly — going to be blockaded, you're going to find that it's going to really impact the supply chain. You're not going to be able to move things to people that need it every day. We rely upon it as society. There's a lot of product that just cannot move other than rail. 

Closed rail tracks are seen in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario on Wednesday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

[Conservative Leader] Andrew Scheer says that the RCMP should be sent in to sort this out, to shut down these protests. ... What do you say?

I wish we could do it through consultation. … I think every Canadian would say, "Can we not resolve this?" But you're not going to resolve the issue, in my view, through blockades. 

I mean, what else do you do at this point, when when no one is listening to you, when you're sending in the RCMP to break up a barricade instead of sitting down and talking to people? What else can you do at that point except protest?

Well, I don't have the answer to that, but is it OK for small interest groups to hold the whole country hostage after the rule of law has been applied?

You call this "small interest groups" that are doing this?

The hereditary chiefs is a very small interest group. 

Two women hug during the blockade of the CN and VIA train tracks in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

This has gone beyond hereditary chiefs. These are different groups of Indigenous people in different movements across the country. This is a general call for people to rally and support the Wet'suwet'en.

So, how many people? Let's break it down. Is it everybody, or is it some? Because you cannot say it's everyone if most of the ones that were impacted by this have all signed on and said, "You know, this makes good sense ...  it's opportunity, it's a way for us to get ahead."

So, yes, there's always going to be special interest groups that tie in to any movement. But is it fair to say that every First Nations person in this country is against every development? That is not fact.

Murray Mullen is the CEO of the Mullen Group, a company that does trucking for the oil patch in Canada and the U.S. (Submitted by Murray Mullen)

We talked to a woman who does support the Coastal GasLink, but she also said that she wants to see that the hereditary chiefs are respected, have them listened to, have them sit down with them.

I am hopeful, although I wouldn't be optimistic, that you can sit down and say, "Well, what is it?" 

In my view, there won't be a solution other than, "No, this is my land. You can't come across it." 

Well, what about the other folks that are on the land that are First Nations that want those jobs? 

You've said elsewhere that the blockade you regard as a new form of eco-terrorism. What do you mean by that?

I mean they're going to be able to hold the country hostage because they don't get their way. 

In a democracy, the majority … gets to set the policy. We'll never get 100 per cent of the country to agree on any issue, but you still have to move the country ahead, and that's what makes democracy work.

Terrorism, those are extremists who use violence to achieve their goals. Do you regard them in that light?

No, I've said there are groups that will do that. And we've seen that across many, many countries. 

Where have you seen violence in the Canadian [movement]?

We'll find out. I think if the RCMP go in, will that lead to something?

That's what happens in these situations if you can't sit down and negotiate. 

Just to point out, the police have gone in. There hasn't been violence. In the Idle No More movement, police went in. There was no violence. In all those cases, they were strong, but they were non-violent protests. So I just want to know where the evidence is that they are potentially violent?

When you take a look around the world, things can happen when you get these movements. I'm not saying they're going to do it — I'm saying it could happen. 

There are not just First Nations people that are protesting today. Protests gather lots of people that really have their own axe to grind and they, you know, use this as their platform. 

Written by Sarah Claydon. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.