Ottawa: Two days after police cleared an indigenous blockade of a key Canadian rail artery east of Toronto, protesters were back Wednesday lighting fires on tracks and throwing rocks at passing trains.
”It is extremely concerning to see people endangering their lives and the lives of others by trying to interfere with the trains, but we’re working hard to resolve this,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In parliament he reiterated: ”The blockades must come down and stay down.”
Meanwhile, new protests have popped up across the country since Monday, briefly disrupting commuter trains in Toronto as government and federal police offices, as well as a museum in Manitoba, were vandalised.
And in Quebec, Premier Francois Legault said Mohawks in the Kahnawake community south of Montreal had armed themselves with assault rifles — which a Mohawk leader denied.
Protesters had mounted a crippling 18-day blockade on a Canadian National Railway line near Belleville, Ontario and elsewhere on 6 February, in support of a small group of indigenous chiefs fighting construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.
The disruptions to rail traffic — the backbone of Canada’s transportation system, moving more than Can$250 billion (USD 190 billion) in goods annually — led to supply shortages and job layoffs.
Police moved in on Monday to clear the blockades after the government’s attempts to establish a dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en traditional hereditary chiefs — who are at the center of the pipeline row — went unanswered.
But the demonstrations have now mushroomed into a broader fight for indigenous rights.
”We will not allow your voices to be criminalised or marginalised,” a protestor on the steps of the British Columbia legislature in Victoria told a crowd.
Televised images, meanwhile, showed defiant Mohawk members throwing burning tires near their dismantled protest camp in Tyendinaga, Ontario.
A few kilometres away, others poured gasoline on train tracks, and threw rocks, wooden planks and debris at passing trains.