By Ian Krietzberg
Nation & World Editor
Facing the construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia, members of indigenous groups and their allies have begun blockading Canadian railways to prevent construction, resulting in the suspension of passenger and commercial rails across much of the country, according to CNN.
Near Belleville, activists with the Tyendinaga Mohawk group have placed vehicles not on the tracks, but near enough that trains cannot safely pass, according to CNN.
The demonstration has been ongoing for 7 days now, with the Mohawks saying that they will continue until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) leave Wet’suwet’en territory, according to CBC News.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged demonstrators to cease their blockades, he does not yet intend to pursue any legitimate forms of legal action, according to Global News.
“‘We are not a country where politicians can order the police to do something, we are a country that has confidence in its police forces and allows them to do their work in scope of these blockade,’” he said to reporters in Germany, according to Global News.
But as the demonstrations show little sign of stopping, concerns surrounding the Canadian economy, layoffs and potential hunger are growing very real, with Tyendinaga Mohawk Police Chief Jason Brant delivering a personal message to his community, according to CBC News.
“It has filtered down to the working people,” Brant said. “There are now single mothers quickly becoming penniless who can’t afford food for their kids.”
Though the company that is building the multi-billion dollar pipeline promised million-dollar contracts to Mohawk businesses, a different branch of Mohawk leadership — the hereditary chiefs — say that construction of the pipeline would alter their traditional lands, according to The New York Times.
In the early days of the demonstrations, police tried to remove the protestors, but this only incited a nation-wide response, escalating what might have been a far less significant issue, according to The New York Times.
“Ever since colonization, the aim has been to dispossess our people from our lands. To impoverish us. To assimilate us. To eliminate us,” said Dr. Karla Tait, a member of the protests, according to The Guardian. “We know that our self-determination, our sovereignty, our very identity, is based on us having control over our lands.”