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BONOKOSKI: Major rail lines blocked over protest 4,000 kilometres away

An enforcement officer reads an injunction to Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters at a rail blockade, near Belleville, on Feb. 11, 2020. (The Canadian Press)

Mark Bonokoski - Toronto SUN - Publishing date: Feb 12, 2020

A big, honkin’ dump truck with a massive snow-plow blade is still blocking the main CNR tracks at the midway mark between Toronto and Montreal, manned by protesters from the nearby Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

Not wanting guilt by association, Tyendinaga Chief R. Don Maracle put out a statement wiping his hands of the entire nasty business, clearly stating the protest was not sanctioned by his elected band council but was the work of the usual suspects on his reserve.

The rail line, which is the conduit for the movement of millions of dollars in daily exports, as well as thousands of Via Rail passengers heading to Montreal or the nation’s capital, is not on Tyendinaga land, but it’s close.

A few days ago, the OPP’s liaison team showed up at the blockade bearing gifts — maple syrup, apparently — but also bearing a superior court injunction ordering our First Nations brothers and sisters to pack it up, get that big honkin’ dump truck away from the tracks, and allow the trains and its millions of dollars in commerce to roll once again.

The OPP was essentially told to hit the road, and so off they went.

Protest frontman Andrew Brant said the injunction doesn’t bother his fellow activists a whit, and that the protest will continue until the RCMP in far-off northwestern B.C. stop arresting protesters up there.

“The (injunction) doesn’t mean anything; it’s just a piece of paper. To us, that is not our government, that’s not our law,” said Brant. “So when they serve it to us, it’s just a piece of paper.”

There were other blockades, of course, as well as the overnight occupation of the federal justice building in Ottawa.

The response of the RCMP was the same as the OPP.

And that was to do nothing.

Enforcing the rule of law? Another day, maybe.

Perhaps it’d be better to call on U.S. billionaire Bill Gates to raise some hell, seeing as how he’s CNR’s largest shareholder.

For those still not yet clued in, the blockades are not in solidarity with any issue in Ontario, but with demonstrators a distant 4,000 km away in northwest B.C.

They’re protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory, even though it has the approval of every chief along the pipeline’s path.

All 20 elected band councils along the pipeline’s 647-km route, including the Wet’suwet’en council, have signed benefits agreements with the $40-billion Coastal GasLink project.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, however, aren’t buying in.

They say its council, established by the Indian Act, has the only authority over the entire 22,000-square-km area of Wet’suwet’en land because it has never signed a treaty ceding their traditional territories.

Back at Tyendinaga, meanwhile, the Mohawk protesters say they are going nowhere until the RCMP get out of Wet’suwet’en where they’ve made numerous arrests of protesters who have been blocking access to the pipeline’s construction site.

The Tyendinaga crew now have a food trailer at the blockade site, as well as a porta-potty and a stack of wooden pallets to keep the fire going.

So they are settling in for the long haul.

The police won’t move in, of course.

The OPP is gun shy, and learned its lessons at ugly standoffs such as Ipperwash and Caledonia, and witnessing the bloody confrontation in Oka.

These are the reasons, but no police authority has ever challenged me on my oft-stated assertion as they again passively sit back and do nothing.

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