The ongoing Indigenous blockades bruises Canada’s image and is now causing serious damage in the form of layoffs, shortages and investor nervousness.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still appears to have no grasp of what’s happened, much less how it should be resolved.
These road and railway blockades are not about protests or rights, but about lawlessness. This crisis is about leaderless drift, not just federally, but also among those who lead Canada’s 632 First Nations.
People simply protesting, and not causing property damage or disruption, are no problem and should be left alone. But those who are breaking the law by blocking roads or railways must be arrested or isolated until they desist and withdraw.
It’s also important to distinguish between the crisis in the Western Canada and the one in the east.
In British Columbia, the blockade over a proposed pipeline is not a national issue, but a local squabble between 20 Indigenous bands that have approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, and five hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation who claim jurisdiction over all 20 bands and their lands, which constitutes an area the size of Israel. There is absolutely no legal or constitutional basis for their audacious jurisdictional assertion. And there is absolutely no social or local political basis for them obstructing the 20 bands that approved the pipeline.
Instead of standing down, the RCMP should secure the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route, so it can be completed, as authorized by courts. This should be done in collaboration with personnel drawn from the 20 First Nations that want the project completed, in order to give it more legitimacy.
The leaders who broke the law in the first place should face arrests, prosecutions and fines. But going forward, the 20 First Nations and the Wet’suwet’en should submit to arbitration to resolve their internal jurisdictional dispute, so this squabbling doesn’t recur.
The disruption in the east, on the other hand, involves blockages of railway lines near Belleville, Ont., and Montreal, which has caused widespread economic damage in the form of supply stoppages and hundreds of layoffs. That the federal government has not laid down the law already concerning the sabotage of a system that crosses provincial boundaries constitutes a total dereliction of duty.
Quebec Premier François Legault spoke with Ontario Premier Doug Ford this week and said in an interview that, “It’s up to Justin Trudeau to solve the problem. This is creating many inconveniences in Quebec and in Ontario. It does not concern Quebec, it does not concern Ontario, it concerns the federal government. It’s up to them to find the solution. It’s not our responsibility, Doug or myself, but we are suffering a lot.”
He’s right. The prime minister is missing in action — as usual.
The prime minister is missing in action — as usual
The blockades in the east are not about a pipeline, but involve Indigenous radicals, mostly Mohawks, and a few environmental extremists. Both blockades are billed as actions taken in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en, but this is bunk. Both are simply the intersection of criminal behaviour and opportunism.
Interestingly, the Tyendinaga Mohawks blocking the CN mainline in Belleville are not on their traditional territory (it’s Huron territory). They immigrated there in 1793 after they were expelled from the United States due to their support for the British during the American Revoluton. They were given a land grant, but some lands have been clawed back over the years and this has yet to be resolved.
But their grievance is unrelated to the issue in B.C. and those involved are holding Canada hostage without legal justification. And they will do so again and again. The same applies to the Kahnawake Mohawks, who are also obstructing rail traffic and are also in a legal battle over land.
It’s all complicated, but it’s also simple at the same time. Illegal is illegal and justice must be swift. As for band squabbles, they should be confined to the bands themselves, along with courts or arbitrators.
Until then, Canadians have neither peace, order or good government.