TORONTO (AP) — Canadian police moved on Monday to clear an indigenous rail blockade in Ontario that has crippled freight and passenger rail traffic in most of eastern Canada for nearly three weeks.
Ontario Provincial Police arrested some protesters on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ontario, east of Toronto.
OPP spokesman Bill Dickson said the protesters have pulled back from the rail tracks. A second encampment set up by the protesters nearby remains in place, Dickson said. Tires were seen burning in that location Monday morning. Protesters left a barricade on Quebec on the weekend.
Demonstrators have set up blockades in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.
Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation oppose the work on their traditional territory, despite support from its elected council.
“The impact of these rail disruptions is untenable. It can’t continue,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the indigenous barricades had to come down. Trudeau also called the situation unacceptable and said every attempt at dialogue had been made over the last two weeks.
Via Rail, Canada’s passenger train service, said last week it was temporarily laying off 1,000 employees due to the continued halt in service on CN Rail’s tracks in eastern Canada caused by the blockades. CN Rail also announced 450 temporary layoffs.
The crisis is daily stranding goods worth an estimated 425 million Canadian dollars ($340 million), according to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade group.
Trudeau has made reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations a priority for his government, but the blockades threatened to risk public support and have led to backlogs at Canada’s three biggest ports.