Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, regarding infrastructure disruptions caused by blockades across the country.
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for patience and warned against the use of force to resolve the ongoing rail blockades by Indigenous-rights protesters during an address to Parliament Tuesday.
Describing it a critical moment for our country and for our future, Mr. Trudeau acknowledged the frustrations caused by the disruptions, but cautioned against extreme viewpoints.
Those who would want us to act in haste, who want us to boil this down to slogans and ignore the complexities, who think that using force is helpful it is not. Patience may be in short supply and that makes it more valuable than ever, he said in a speech to the House of Commons.
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The Prime Minister delivered his address shortly after First Nations leaders held a news conference in Ottawa to appeal for calm and further talks.
During his speech, Mr. Trudeau said his government remains open to discussions with First Nations to address their concerns.
To the Wetsuweten and Mohawk nations and Indigenous leaders across the country: We are listening, he said. “We are not asking that you stop standing up for your communities, your rights and for what you believe. We only ask that you be willing to work with the federal government as a partner in finding solutions.
Mr. Trudeau compared the strong public sentiments to the issue with global populism, as he urged Canadians to consider opposing points of view rather than only listening to people with whom they already agree.
The need for reasonable, reasoned debate in this place is at the centre of what we have to continue to move forward with as a country,” he said.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer sharply dismissed the Prime Ministers speech, saying it failed to denounce the actions of radical activists as illegal and failed to offer a plan of action.
The Prime ministers statement was a complete abdication of responsibility and of leadership, Mr. Scheer told the House of Commons, describing Mr. Trudeaus speech as a word salad.
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Earlier Tuesday, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who joined other First Nations leaders in Ottawa, also urged calm.
We are calling for creativity in constructive dialogue, Mr. Bellegarde said.
Our people are taking action because they want to see action. When they see positive action by the key players, when they see a commitment to real dialogue to address this difficult situation, people will respond in a positive way.
Mr. Bellegarde also warned ignoring First Nations rights and jurisdiction creates conflict and court cases while peace and prosperity result when rights are respected.
For his part, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet asked the Prime Minister in the Commons why it took 12 days for his government to get involved. On Monday, Mr. Trudeau convened an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers to discuss the anti-pipeline blockades and its impacts, including on the Canadian economy.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the situation a serious crisis and pointed to deep and historical frustration and injustice that plays into the situation.
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Via Rail announced Tuesday it will resume running passenger trains between Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, but most of its routes remain suspended amid rail blockades that have halted much of Canadas rail freight. Canadas passenger rail service said it will restart eight trains between Ottawa and Quebec City on Thursday, after getting the go-ahead from track owner Canadian National Railway Co., which has suspended freight trains on its network east of Toronto due to the blockades. Via last week cancelled its service nation-wide, with the exception of two routes in the north of Manitoba and Ontario.
We remain hopeful for an end to the situation as soon as possible and encourage all relevant parties to continue their efforts towards a peaceful resolution, said Marie-Anna Murat, a Via spokeswoman.
Several groups of protesters have blocked railways across Canada, in support of Wetsuweten hereditary chiefs opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in B.C.
The disruptions, which began in the first week of February, are raising fears of shortages of critical commodities, including propane for home heating and chemicals for water treatment.
Brad Cicero, a spokesman for Porter Airlines, said the carrier based at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has seen increased demand for seats amid the halt to Vias passenger routes. Its higher than normal for this time of year, Mr. Cicero said. Weve certainly seen that over the course of the disruption.
He said he is unaware of any concerns about supplies of jet fuel and de-icing chemicals, which are trucked to the airport on the Toronto Islands.
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Rohit Bhardwaj, chief financial officer of ChemTrade Logistics Inc., said the maker of chemicals for water treatment and industrial uses is very close to being forced to close its factories, which require raw materials delivered by train. The chemicals come to our plants by rail and then we produce the water treatment chemicals and typically ship that by truck. But the problem is if you dont get the raw materials coming in then we are unable to produce those chemicals, Mr. Bhardwaj said. Trucks are not a viable option. It has to be rail.