Vancouver rail blockade ends after injunction served to protesters
Published Saturday, February 15, 2020 12:19PM PST Last Updated Sunday, February 16, 2020 10:24AM PST
VANCOUVER -- Protesters blocked a rail line in East Vancouver Saturday in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline in their traditional territory in northern B.C.
The protesters, who describe themselves as urban Indigenous sovereigntists, say their action is in "direct response" to other Indigenous protesters who have also blocked rail lines in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
The group stayed on the tracks all day starting at around 11:30 a.m., but left in the evening. Vancouver police said officers were on scene to support an injunction the Canadian National Police Service was granted by the Supreme Court.
One of the activist groups involved, UBC350, tweeted that after the injunction was served, organizers decided to end the blockade.
The group stayed on the tracks all day starting at around 11:30 a.m., but left in the evening. Vancouver police said officers were on scene to support an injunction the Canadian Nationa Police Service was granted by the Supreme Court.
“From east to west, we’re standing in solidarity. They’re in the snow, we’re in the rain,” said Frank Joseph at the blockade Saturday. “It doesn’t matter the weather because we’re weathering any storm this government throws at us.”
The protesters blocked the rail line on Renfrew Street between Hebb Avenue and Grandview Highway. SkyTrain was not affected.
In a tweet, Amtrak said it had cancelled train 516 to Vancouver. The train returned to Bellingham where passengers were loaded onto busses to complete the journey, the U.S. passenger rail service said.
An evening southbound train on the same route was also cancelled.
On Sunday, Amtrak spokesperson Jason Abrams said Trains 516 and 519 are cancelled with alternate bus service, while train 518 is running as scheduled. Normal service is expected to resume tomorrow, Abrams said.
Members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk have been blockading rail lines near Belleville, Ont., for 10 days, halting both passenger and rail service across Eastern Canada.
“Blockading rail lines is an economic disruption,” said Natalie Knight, one of the organizers in Vancouver. “We have been humbled and grateful for all of the economic disruptions across this so-called country of Canada.”
Members of the Gitxan Nation have also been blockading a rail line in northern B.C. On Feb. 13, B.C. Premier John Horgan agreed to meet with Indigenous leaders to discuss the impasse over the construction of the pipeline through their traditional territories.
“It’s not Canada’s territory. It’s Wet’suwet’en territory,” said Joseph as he stood on the tracks in Vancouver. “They’ve never given it up. It’s exactly what we’re doing here. Are they giving it up? No. We just came here. We’re here.”
Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.
The conflict led to a tense standoff and multiple arrests in January 2019, and again this year, as RCMP moved to enforce court injunctions that prevent Wet'suwet'en members and their supporters from blocking access to Coastal GasLink worksites in an area near Houston, B.C.
With files from CTV News' Melanie Nagy and The Canadian Press.