Brett Forester and Annette Francis
Indigenous Services minister Marc Miller has “agreed” to “Polish the Chain” with those stopping trains just off Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, according to an email forwarded to APTN News.
At 12:15 a.m. on Thursday, Miller sent the missive to Kanenhariyo, also known as Seth LeFort, that asked him to “discontinue the protest and barricade of the train tracks as soon as practicable.”
“As you well know, this is a highly volatile situation and the safety of all involved is of utmost importance to me. I hope you will agree to this request and that we can meet in a the [sic] spirit of peace and cooperation that should guide our relationship,” said the minister from his personal parliamentary email account.
Part of the email is in Kanien’kéha, or Mohawk.
Miller asked to meet at a location of the Mohawks’ choosing on Saturday for talks that would follow “the principles of the Silver Chain Covenant.”
The Covenant Chain symbolizes the complex nation-to-nation agreements established between the Haudenosaunee – known in English as the Iroquois or Six Nations confederacy – and Europeans. It dates back to the earliest days of colonization.
The people near the train tracks held a meeting this morning to discuss their next steps.
They weren’t speaking to media.
Tyendinaga chief Donald Maracle was cc’d on the email and so was RoseAnne Archibald, Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
APTN reached out to Maracle but did not hear back. Archibald said she’s working on a statement.
Tyendinaga Mohawk Council issued a statement on Tuesday that expressed “extreme disappoint” about what transpired between RCMP and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their allies.
“We are both saddened and frustrated in the ‘Era of Truth and Reconciliation’ and nearly thirty years after the Oka Crisis, the Ipperwash Inquiry, and all of the supposed lessons learned, that military-style interventions are still deemed acceptable approaches when it comes to complex First Nations matter.”
The statement confirmed what Maracle told APTN on Sunday: that the band did not prompt or condone the demonstrations, and has no control over the actions of community members.
Maracle forwarded APTN some emails he received from the public. They demonstrated the blowback – some of it harsh – that he received because of the demonstration.
“Maybe you lazy f**ks should get jobs and quit relying on govt handouts my ancestors where caveman and you are occupying our land,” said one person.
“You’ve become used to living off handoffs you can’t even take care of your own lands. Time to cut all of you off Canadians are tired of all of you,” the individual said after Maracle responded.
“Good thing you got your Trudeau,” the man added.
“You clowns got excuse for everything. Only people in world to lose in war and think they still owed everything. Living on hard working people’s handouts,” said another.
Still others criticized the reasons for the demonstrations, expressed frustration at the inconvenience, and demanded the band step in.
“How disgusting that so many innocents are seriously inconvenienced because you, and your management, cannot control the extremists in your band. I wish that CNR take legal action and sues your band to recover all its costs plus penalties,” emailed yet another disgruntled citizen.
Service disruptions continue
Another injunction is being sought to end a rail blockade near Winnipeg. Demonstrators are also blocking tracks on Listuguj Mi’gmaq territory in Quebec.
VIA Rail issued another update on Wednesday.
The company said 12, 256 trains were cancelled and at least 42,100 passengers affected. Thirty passengers were impacted due to a blockade near New Hazelton B.C., where hereditary Gitxsan chiefs – whose territory neighbours Wet’suwet’en – were present.
“A significant number of freight trains are stationed on the network since the beginning of the blockades and service resumption will take time. Once the blockades are lifted, VIA Rail will be resuming service on a schedule that will need to be finalized in collaboration with the infrastructure owner.”
The infrastructure owner at the Tyendinaga site – which is partway between Ottawa and Toronto, a major industrial corridor – is Canadian National (CN) Rail.
The stoppages are severely impacting CN’s supply chain, and damaging Canada’s reputation as a supply chain partner, the company said.
The company was running out of space to park freight trains across its network. While the New Hazelton stoppages aren’t impacting passenger travel too much, they are restricting freight trains from accessing ports in Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
The Tyendinaga action restricts the east-west flow of goods, the flow of goods into the United States, and affects ports in Montreal and Halifax.
CN has injunctions to end the demonstrations, but these have not been enforced.
A solidarity action on Kahnawake Mohawk Territory shows no sign of abating. People there are occupying Canadian Pacific (CP) tracks and preventing a commuter train from traveling into Montreal.
One of the Mohawks taking part said people have still been able to get to work.
Tekarontake told the Canadian Press on Wednesday that Canada will have to “come to its senses” for the action to end.
In response, the Bloc Québécois lashed out at the Liberal government and demanded they step in.
“Since Monday morning, the train has not operated on the Candiac line; rail traffic is paralyzed. Three-thousand workers in my riding are taken hostage. Public transport, which should be encouraged, is under attack and the emergency measures put in place by Exo cannot last indefinitely. Our people are living in hell and Ottawa is doing absolutely nothing,” said Bloc leader Alain Therrien in a release.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer blasted the demonstrations and demanded Trudeau step in.
“These activists are trampling over the rights of commuters to get to work or pick up their kids. They are trampling over the rights of small businesses receiving shipments on time. They are trampling on the rights of energy workers by preventing them from doing an honest day’s work. These illegal blockades must stop,” he said in statement.
Trudeau said Wednesday that Canadian law must be respected, and that he planned to bring it up with his cabinet, which Miller is a member of.
It’s not clear whether the Saturday meeting will take place.
– With files from the Canadian Press