Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia (All times Eastern):
11:15 p.m. ET
A spokesman for Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the talks would continue late into Friday night and there may be no comment from those involved in the discussions until Saturday morning.
10:51 PM ET
The federal and B.C. Indigenous relations ministers continued talks into Friday night with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs whose opposition to a pipeline project in northern B.C. has sparked solidarity protests across the country.
5:35 p.m. ET
The RCMP says it’s aware of an offer from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake in Quebec to send its Peacekeepers to patrol Wet’suwet’en traditional territory in northern B.C.
However, Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says any decisions around police service delivery would need to include the provincial and federal governments and the impacted parties.
She says a number of areas would need to be examined including provincial and federal legislation, policing standards, authorities and costs.
Shoihet says the RCMP has been fully engaged in discussions with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs around its presence in the territory and the future of its community industry safety office.
She says it remains committed to continuing those discussions as it looks at short-term and long-term solutions.
The RCMP’s presence in Wet’suwet’en territory has been a source of tension but the Mounties already agreed to end patrols along a critical roadway while discussions between the hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments unfold in Smithers, B.C.
5:11 p.m. ET
Via Rail says most of its services will be progressively back in operation, including routes between Toronto and Montreal and Toronto and Ottawa as of Tuesday.
Furthermore, it says a train will run from Toronto to Vancouver on Wednesday and return in the opposite direction two days later, on March 6.
The company adds that all current reservations on those segments will be protected and further departures will be announced in the coming days.
Blockades across the country, especially in eastern Ontario, have impacted the passenger rail company’s service over the past few weeks.
4:55 p.m. ET
The general manager of an eastern Quebec rail line says he fears for the survival of his business if authorities can’t negotiate an end to a rail blockade in Listuguj, in Quebec’s Gaspe region.
Luc Levesque says the Societe du chemin de fer de la Gaspesie had to lay off half its 30 employees last week and is at risk of losing major contracts with clients.
Members of the Listuguj Mi’kmaq First Nation have refused to dismantle the barricade, in defiance of a court injunction issued earlier this week.
The Mi’kmaq government in the area has said that while its band council is not involved in the protest, it has no intention of forcefully removing peaceful protesters from the rail line.
2:27 p.m. ET
B.C. Premier John Horgan says he has no plans to go to Smithers in the near future to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a pipeline project.
A meeting is underway with the federal and provincial Indigenous relations ministers but the chiefs have invited the premier and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join them at the table.
Horgan says he’s been told the talks have been co-operative, cordial and respectful and he is hopeful a peaceful resolution and a way forward can be reached.
He says the Coastal GasLink pipeline has lawfully issued permits in place and has been endorsed by 20 elected band councils along the route.
But he adds the dispute is not only about a pipeline when it comes to the Wet’suwet’en, it’s about a range of governance issues that his government has been working to help solve.
2:12 p.m. ET
Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who is acting as a liaison in a meeting between hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs and the B.C. and federal Indigenous relations ministers, says in a phone interview that Trudeau and Horgan have “explicitly not” ruled out a meeting with the chiefs.
The chiefs’ original invitation was to Trudeau and Horgan but Cullen says the chiefs also understand that Ottawa and Victoria have their protocols and in order to get to that meeting, today’s meeting in Smithers, B.C., is required.
He says if progress can be made, then he thinks both Premier John Horgan and the prime minister have left the door open for a meeting at a future date.
Cullen adds that there are issues that overlap between the jurisdictions and he always believed any resolution of the impasse was going to involve the federal government.
2:01 p.m. ET
Conservative MPs raised concerns today about the economic impacts that the protest barricades have had in blocking deliveries of goods shipped by rail over the last three weeks.
During question period, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre says the repercussions of the suspended rail service and shipments have amounted to a “war on working people” and demanded to know how government would fight back.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau told a Commons committee Thursday that Ottawa is trying to analyze the economic impacts to the economy of the rail and road disruptions, but said it is a complex calculation that could take up to six months to fully determine.
He wouldn’t estimate a figure, but he did say the financial implications will likely be higher than most Canadians might think, as a total of $300 billion worth of goods moves by train every year in the country.
Quebec City Conservative MP Gerard Deltell is also highlighting concerns voiced by provincial officials about propane shortages in Quebec.
1:40 p.m. ET
Nathan Cullen, a former NDP MP who is acting as a liaison between the B.C. and federal governments and the chiefs, says outside a meeting in Smithers, B.C., that the amount of work being done is substantial but the parties are unlikely to reach a broad resolution today.
He says there’s no such thing as a “quick fix” to the issue and it’s important to the chiefs and to Canada and B.C. that even if only interim steps are reached, that they’re durable.
Cullen also says the establishment or re-establishment of trust is important, after conversations and relationships have been broken in the past, in order to secure solutions.
He says it was always going to take the chiefs and governments sitting down at a negotiating table to solve the issues, and a solution wasn’t going to be reached at a blockade or a protest.
Cullen says he’s hopeful that what comes out of Friday’s meeting is something that can be built upon, but for those who are expecting a full and final resolution after a day and a half of talks, that’s a very high expectation to have.
He also says he isn’t aware of an offer from a Mohawk council in Quebec to send its Peacekeepers to patrol the Wet’suwet’en traditional territory and it isn’t something that’s being discussed at the meeting.
12:30 p.m. ET
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is proposing that its Peacekeepers head up a temporary Indigenous police force to patrol Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia.
Grand Chief Joseph Norton says the measure would allow the RCMP to withdraw from the area as hereditary chiefs and government representatives work to negotiate an end to a pipeline dispute.
Before the meeting began, the RCMP agreed to a condition proposed by the Wet’suwet’en chiefs to end patrols along a critical roadway while the negotiations unfold.
The hereditary chiefs have demanded the RCMP leave their traditional land entirely, but Norton says police services are still needed, and his community’s chief Peacekeeper has offered to work with other Indigenous police chiefs to gather the officers required.
11:30 a.m. ET
The federal and B.C. Indigenous relations ministers have resumed talks with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs whose opposition to a pipeline project in northern B.C. has sparked solidarity protests across the country.
Carolyn Bennett and her B.C. counterpart Scott Fraser began the long-sought discussions yesterday afternoon and returned to the Wet’suwet’en office this morning.
The hereditary chiefs have said the meeting is a first step and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan to join them at the table, and Bennett appeared to leave the door open to that possibility in the future.
Bennett says she would want any meeting with the prime minister and the premier to be a good one, and therefore she and Fraser have to do the hard work they were delegated to accomplish.
Fraser says he had 25 hours of initial conversations with the chiefs several weeks ago and the province has been working closely with them, so they have a relationship already.
The talks were expected to wrap up Friday, but the ministers say they’re open to all options and might remain in Smithers over the weekend.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2020.
The Canadian Press