Members of the Gitxsan Nation resurrect their blockade of the main CN rail line in New Hazelton Feb. 24. The supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory dismantled a previous blockade Feb. 13. Randall Shoop photo

Conservative MP questions whether rail blockades constitute terrorism

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett travelled to B.C. to meet Indigenous leaders

A Conservative MP is questioning whether rail blockades in Quebec and Ontario constitute acts of terrorism, which could allow the RCMP to intervene.

Doug Shipley put that question to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Thursday morning during testimony at the House of Commons public safety and national security committee.

The meeting happened as federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett travelled to B.C. to meet Indigenous leaders at the centre of the dispute that’s led to the blockades, and protesters gathered on a bridge in Kingston, Ont., that passes over a key rail line.

Shipley said he was asking on behalf of a constituent who sent him an email after a handful of protesters lit fires near and on railway tracks — actions that were denounced Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“They asked me if I knew the definition of terrorist activity according to the Criminal Code … This resident wanted to know if the current illegal blockades that are happening across Canada are being deemed as a terrorist activity?” Shipley asked.

Blair replied: “No they’re not.”

Shipley pressed Blair, leading to a pointed exchange at the committee table.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en herreditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

“I agree definitely with proper civil demonstrations. I’m all for that. But when we’re seeing certain things like I saw yesterday with burning goods on rail lines across Canada, I thought that may have crossed a line … what’s crossing a line, Minister?” said Shipley.

“As the minister I have a responsibility to leave it to the police of jurisdiction in the exercise of their discretion to determine and investigate criminal activity. So I avoid pronouncements of and defining that activity,” Blair replied.

“It’s very appropriate that I be careful in doing that because I do not want to interfere with the operational independence of both the police and our prosecutors. But at the same time that was terribly unsafe, deeply concerning. I have confidence in the police to deal with it appropriately.”

A meeting among the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the federal government and the British Columbia government is set to take place later Thursday.

Wet’suwet’en chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction calling for the removal of any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use.

On Feb. 6, the RCMP moved in to Wet’suwet’en territory to enforce the injunction. Hours later, outside of Belleville, Ont., east of Toronto, protesters started holding up railway traffic in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The blockades have spread elsewhere in Ontario and to Quebec, and blocked train travel between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified that the Mounties have discretion on how to enforce an injunction.

“Mostly about the timing, and the intensity,” she said. “So we can decide when and how we will enforce, even though the injunction is in place.”

Lucki testified that the RCMP is committed to finding a peaceful solution.

“Of course, enforcement is the last option. It’s about dialogue and trying to find a peaceful resolution to the blockades,” she said.

The Ontario Provincial Police took down major Ontario blockade earlier this week. But Thursday, about 20 demonstrators gathered near train tracks in Kingston, Ont., farther east along the same line.

Local police said the group gathered on the Canadian National Railway Co. train overpass around 8 a.m. Eastern time.

Const. Ash Gutheinz said train traffic had not been affected and officers were monitoring the situation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkIndigenousPipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

13 productions shooting in Maple Ridge this month alone

Maple Ridge was one of the first Lower Mainland municipalities to welcome back film crews

ON COOKING: Chef Dez offers help in the kitchen during a pandemic

COVID-19 has more people at home and spending time in the kitchen

NETWORKING: Cultural competency is crtical in Maple Ridge, too

VIDEO: In response to Black Lives Matter, the CN Network conducted a number of local interview

Flames will start new season based in Abbotsford

Junior B team could not find ice in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows

LETTER: Glad to say goodbye to CERB for local drug users

Reader feels COVID subsidy contributed to more overdose deaths among Maple Ridge homeless

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Police investigating shooting in North Delta

Police say occupants of two vehicles exchanged gunfire near 120th Street and 82nd Avenue

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

TransLink CEO asks riders not to enforce mask rules after Surrey bus punch-up

A fight broke out on a bus at 96 Avenue and Scott Road involving a man who refused to wear a mask

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

Most Read