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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

VIDEO: Co-habitating with bears

Maple Ridge is home to a large bear population, and there are tips available to help avoid conflict

TIME IS RUNNING OUT: Readers invited to share wildlife photographs

Aim, snap, shoot, and share your pictures of wildlife in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to win!

LETTER: All Washington plate owners can’t be Canadian residents

A Maple Ridge man questions presence of U.S. vehicles in the Canada, despite closed borders

Residential real estate market rebounding well: long-time realtor

House prices, sales, and listings in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are moving on an upward trajectory

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are prepared for high Fraser River levels

Peak numbers are expected to be below trigger levels for both cities

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

Friends, family remember victim of Langley possible triple-homicide fire at memorial

Memorial held for one the of three found dead at a house fire in Langley Meadows last month

Fraser Valley Bandits, CEBL bringing pro sports back later this month

Abbotsford-based basketball team kicks off CEBL Summer Series on July 26

Family and friends mark birthday of teen who died after being discovered in Langley park

Carson Crimeni suffered an apparent drug overdose, his final moments broadcast on social media

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Semi and BMW collide on South Surrey highway

At least one person to hospital, both vehicles sustained significant damage

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Most Read